About half of Americans age 50 or older experience occasional hemorrhoids, but they’re rarely discussed. If you’ve had hemorrhoids, you know they are uncomfortable or even painful. But did you know they’re also very preventable?
What are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids, also called piles, are swollen veins in your lower rectum and anus. They happen when blood vessel walls stretch and the veins bulge and become irritated. Sometimes they occur internally where you don’t see or feel them. These internal hemorrhoids sometimes “prolapse” or bulge outside of your anus. Hemorrhoids can also occur externally under the skin of your anus where you can feel or see them.
3 Tips to Avoid Hemorrhoids
The result is pain, bleeding, itching and swelling. You can often avoid this discomfort with three simple life hacks:
- Improve your hydration situation. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water and not alcoholic beverages, can also help prevent hemorrhoids by keeping your stool soft. Eight to 10 glasses of water is a general guideline.
- Up the crunch in your diet. Fiber is the key to regular bowel movements. It also helps increase water retention, which creates softer stools and reduces how long feces stays in the colon. To get these benefits, eat more fruits, vegetables, beans and other high-fiber foods.
- Stop scrolling on the throne. There’s a joke that 99% of Americans say they use their cellphones in the bathroom, and the other 1% are lying. What many don’t realize is that sitting too long on the toilet can cause hemorrhoids. My advice is to not spend more than two minutes at a time sitting on the toilet. You should also avoid straining or pushing.
How to Treat Hemorrhoids
Pregnant women, people carrying extra weight, workers or athletes who lift heavy objects and those who have chronic constipation or diarrhea can also experience occasional hemorrhoids. The good news is plenty of over-the-counter lotions and suppositories can ease symptoms of itching, swelling and pain of occasional hemorrhoids. For more advanced or serious cases, treatments include removal by rubber band ligation or hemorrhoidectomy.
Blood in the Stool Could Be Something Else
It’s important to note that blood in the stool often occurs with hemorrhoids, but it’s also a key symptom of colon or rectal cancer. Because colon and rectal cancers are among the most common and most preventable cancers, it’s important to check with your provider if you have rectal bleeding.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms – especially blood in the stool – bring it up to your provider. We can help rule out anything more serious, such as colorectal cancer, while recommending procedures, over-the-counter remedies and positive lifestyle changes that work for you.