By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
Hemorrhoids are natural cushions in the anal canal that help in stool control or continence. Continence means you are able to control when or when not to defecate. Hemorrhoids are composed of blood vessels and connective tissue. This means everybody has hemorrhoids. They only become a problem when they are swollen and this is when we take notice. For simplicity, we’ll use the term “hemorrhoids” to mean diseased hemorrhoids, also called “piles”.
Hemorrhoids maybe internal or external. Internal hemorrhoids usually present with painless rectal bleeding. Like you notice fresh blood in your stool or dripping from your anus after defecating. There may also be mucus discharge and if the hemorrhoids prolapse, they will present as a small soft mass that comes out of your anus and which you can push back in. External hemorrhoids usually are no issue but could be very painful especially if they are thrombosed. These can also bleed.
What causes hemorrhoids? There is no one cause. Hemorrhoids develop because of an interplay of many factors including the following:
1. Long-standing digestive problems (especially constipation and diarrhea and fermentation)
2. Low fiber diet – refined foods, processed foods.
3. Lack of exercise especially prolonged sitting
4. Increased intra-abdominal pressure as in prolonged straining (during defecation and/or childbirth, pregnancy, overeating, obesity).
5. Liver congestion
Thus it is not surprising that hemorrhoids usually occur in older persons although I had mine when I was still in college. Some studies show that it peaks at age 45 to 65 years.
When we know the cause of the problem, then we know how to solve it and how to prevent it.
Proper diet is still the number one solution. Start this by increasing fiber intake- the best way for this is to eat unpolished rice and root crops and a variety of vegetables especially legumes. Stay away from meat, eggs, milk and animal products – these have no fiber and will make you constipated. Stay away also or minimize white bread, cakes and other white flour products as these have minimal fiber. Eating properly will also prevent constipation and diarrhea.
What else can be done to cure and prevent hemorrhoids? Here’s a list:
1. Avoid straining to defecate. When you are eating the proper foods, you don’t have to strain when you are in the toilet – the solid waste will just flow out smoothly.
2. Drink enough water.
3. Be physically active. Sitting for a long time is not healthy. When in school or office, get up and walk, stretch.
4. Lose weight if you are overweight.
5. When you have hemorrhoids, avoid heavy lifting.
Hemorrhoids occurring during pregnancy resolve usually after delivery but the mother should take care to review her lifestyle and make the necessary changes.
Some doctors may recommend surgery to remove the hemorrhoids but they can recur if the root causes are not removed.**
“Don’t think only of your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.” Philippians 2:4