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Hemorrhoids are a pain in the A$$! Dealing with hemorrhoids after birthing my first child was more painful than the labour itself, and this is not an exaggeration. The reason I’m oversharing here – this issue is often overlooked, and we ignore the problem out of embarrassment. However, over time hemorrhoids can become a serious problem and significantly affect a person’s quality of life. Therefore, it’s important to address the issue head-on.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectum; they can either be inside the rectum or outside. Internal hemorrhoids are usually painless, but can cause bleeding when passing stool. Not only is it unsettling to see blood in the toilet, but the regular loss of blood could contribute to low iron. External hemorrhoids, meaning swollen veins outside the anus, are painful, particularly when passing hard stool. Once you have hemorrhoids, they can be difficult to get rid of, therefore it’s best to avoid them altogether.
So what causes hemorrhoids?
Causes of Hemorrhoids
- Constipation: Straining to pass stool is one of the most common causes of hemorrhoids. Constipation has many causes, including lack of water and lack of fibre.
- Pregnancy: The pressure of a growing baby on your pelvic floor, combined with constipation due to lack of water, or a slower digestive system, all contribute to hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids can further be aggravated by labour, as pushing the baby through the birth canal puts further pressure on the pelvic floor and the blood vessels surrounding the anus.
- Poor Circulation: Sitting or standing for long periods. This is usually in conjunction with other causes, such as pregnancy, or constipation, or all three.
- Crohn’s Disease: This is a form of Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which includes abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal disruptions. Hemorrhoids are a secondary issue for people suffering from Crohn’s.
Diet for Hemorrhoids
The first step to be rid of hemorrhoids is to address the root cause. The most common cause is constipation, so it makes sense that any foods which combat constipation, will also help with hemorrhoids.
- Drink water: Water is the best stool softener; it promotes bowel function, and water cleanses out the colon.
- Eat fibre-rich foods: You should never eat a snack or meal that doesn’t contain lots of fibre, so eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, flax seeds or chia seeds.
- Add flax or chia seeds: Mix 1 tbsp of flax or chia seeds with a glass of water. This is particularly effective if you are pregnant. If you have diverticulitis, you may want to grind the flax or chia seeds before consuming them.
- Avoid spicy foods: Trust me; not a good idea, as the spiciness will irritate the sensitive hemorrhoid area.
- Avoid coffee: Again, just trust me on this one. The coffee can promote too many bowel movements, which will again over-irritate the hemorrhoids.
Herbs for Hemorrhoids (only if not pregnant!)
- Senna: Muscle contraction is what moves stool through the colon. The herb Senna gently contracts the bowels, so stool passes easily and painlessly. Senna can be consumed in tea form; a cup taken before bed should allow for a comfortable bowel movement in the morning. However, senna should not be taken while pregnant because it can have the same contraction effect on the uterus. Senna tea should also only be taken on a short-term basis, eg for 1-2 weeks.
- Aloe Vera Whole Leaf Extract: This is another gentle laxative, which again is not suitable for pregnant women for the same reason as Senna.
External Treatment for Hemorrhoids
- 1 tbsp witch hazel
- 1-2 drops lavender essential oil
Soak a cotton ball in the witch hazel and oil, and apply to the affected area. This should only be used for external hemorrhoids. Witch hazel has astringent properties that reduce swelling. Lavender has anti-inflammatory, analgesic and skin vulnerary (wound-healing) properties.
Acupuncture for Hemorrhoids
Research has proven that acupuncture can reduce the inflammation contributing to painful hemorrhoids. Be assured, the acupuncture needles are not placed near the affected area. The acupuncture points for hemorrhoids are primarily on the arms and legs.
Although we don’t like to talk about it, it is estimated that 50% of people suffer from hemorrhoids. So let’s get rid of the stigma around hemorrhoids, or for that matter, any issues that deal with our internal plumbing. Excreting waste is vital to health and we should give it the attention it deserves.
As the busy mother of three young children, Certified Nutritionist Kirsten Colella is ensuring a healthy digestion and healthy pain-free bowel functions. Kirsten is always trying out new recipes, including those with fibre for a healthy colon. You can find Kirsten’s delicious recipes, colourful food pics and fibre-rich healthy food ideas on our Instagram page at @essentialbalanceholistic