How to Deal With Your Pain in the Butt!
The Natural Treatment of Hemorrhoids
Often called 'piles' and very rarely discussed, hemorrhoids are more common than you think -in both men and women! There are many reasons hemorrhoids develop and the risk of getting them increases with age. About half of all people will have hemorrhoids by age 50.
Hemorrhoidal cushions are part of the body’s natural anatomy in the anal canal. You won't appreciate them when they are inflamed but they serve a very important purpose – to help keep stool in and control continence. A hemorrhoid is created when the veins or blood vessels in and around your anus and lower rectum become swollen and irritated. This happens when there is extra pressure on these veins. In addition, the connective tissues lining your anal canal weaken with age, allowing these blood vessels to bulge more easily when irritated or stressed. Hemorrhoids can be either inside your anus (internal) or under the skin around your anus (external). Internal hemorrhoids are usually painless, but tend to bleed. External hemorrhoids can be itchy and painful and sometimes crack and bleed.
Aside from aging, a number of reasons can make you more likely to develop hemorrhoids:
Having a Family History – but as indicated earlier – it is not something everyone talks about.
Constipation – Straining to have a bowel movement can put excessive pressure on the rectum and anus, resulting in swelling of these veins.
Sitting too much – On average we spend way too much time sitting around (working, watching TV, playing on the computer) which can lead to significant swelling in areas of your bottom.
Too much toilet time – As Grandma used to say 'poop or get off the pot!” In this age of multitasking many use their toilet time to catch up on the news feed or read, remaining in the 'throne room' longer than necessary. Excessive time in this position promotes swelling around the anus and rectum, and eventually hemorrhoids.
Waiting too long before going to the bathroom. The longer you wait the more water is reabsorbed into the colon, making your stool harder to pass.
Being overweight – Added weight puts undue pressure on not only your circulatory system and joints, but also your rear end.
Pregnancy – Not only is a pregnant woman carrying extra weight, she is also often struggling with constipation.
We can only control some of these factors so… how do you know if you have hemorrhoids?
The main symptoms of hemorrhoids are:
-Painless bleeding during bowel movements — you might notice small amounts of bright red blood on your toilet tissue or in the toilet.
-Itching or irritation in your anal region.
-Pain or discomfort – especially during bowel movements.
-Swelling around your anus.
Whatever the cause, prevention is based on being able to pass stool regularly without straining. To do this you need a healthy diet that maintains regular intestinal activity and foods that 'move you' intestinally. The “ideal diet” is a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Ensure you choose high fibre foods (women need at least 25 grams of fibre per day while men need 38 grams daily).
Bulk-forming laxatives, such as psyllium, flaxseed, and barley, swell in the intestines, softening the stool and making it easier to pass but you must take them with enough water or they may cause bloating and abdominal pain. To keep your gut healthy it’s a good idea to take a probiotic. On average, probiotics slow “gut transit time”, increase the number of weekly bowel movements, and help soften stools making them easier to pass. More research is needed to know which strains are the most beneficial.
Whenever possible try to avoid spicy foods, ample meals, or foods that you know irritate your colon. Don’t forget to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day. When your body is properly hydrated more water remains in the colon to keep your stool soft and easy to pass.
Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, prevents constipation, reduces the amount of sitting time and increases your energy level. Give 'Bottoms Up' a new meaning and make it your slogan to move! Exercise and diet are critical for your overall health. Making them both part of your lifestyle can have a dramatic effect in how you look and feel.
Once these little 'bundles of pain' have developed, there are a few things you can do to relieve some of the discomfort.
-Soak in a warm bath (sitz bath) for 10 -15 minutes. Avoid very hot baths because they increase blood flow and aggravate the swelling of hemorrhoids.
-Wash the affected area very gently with moist unscented towelettes. Never rub hard as this can further irritate hemorrhoids.
-Avoid wearing tight clothing as they can cause frequent irritation and inflammation.
-Avoid sitting down for long periods of time. (remember 'Bottoms Up')
-Purchase a squatty potty to ease defecation.
-Use ice packs or cold compresses to help alleviate swelling and pain.
-Try over-the-counter creams, ointments, suppositories or pads designed to treat hemorrhoids and lessen pain and itching.
-Try some natural remedies:
● Pycnogenol® (French Maritime pine bark): Clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of orally and topically applied Pycnogenol® hemorrhoid cream for the management of acute hemorrhoidal episodes.
● Horse Chestnut: The main ingredient in horse chestnut has an anti-inflammatory property that can help manage the burning symptom associated with hemorrhoids.
● Witch Hazel: This plant is well known for its astringent, anti-inflammatory properties and to promote the coagulation of blood. It has been used for the treatment of symptoms of irritation and burns related to hemorrhoidal disease.
● Cypress Oil: Cypress essential oil stops excess blood flow and promotes the clotting of blood. This oil can be diluted with a carrier oil and applied to the area of concern or add a few drops to your warm bath.
Often with lifestyle modifications people are able to treat their hemorrhoids without a doctor’s visit. However, if they cause you pain and discomfort and you have been struggling with them for a while it is time to make an appointment. The nature and intensity of the hemorrhoidal disorder may need a surgical approach. A variety of techniques can be used to accomplish this and most can be done in your doctor’s office and do not require an overnight hospital stay.
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.