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Hemorrhoids and Nutrition Recommendations

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins around the anus and in the rectum (the very lowest portion of the colon) that may protrude from the anus.

The word hemorrhoid comes from hemo, which is Greek for “blood,” and rrhoos, “discharging.” They are also known as piles, from the Latin word pila, meaning “ball.” Hemorrhoids are very much like varicose veins in that they enlarge and lose their elasticity, resulting in saclike protrusions into the anal canal.

They are not tumors or growths. They can be caused, and aggravated, by sitting or standing for prolonged periods, violent coughing, lifting heavy objects (or lifting relatively light objects the wrong way), and straining at bowel movements (especially when constipated).

Other factors that can cause or contributed to the formation of hemorrhoids include obesity, lack of exercise, liver damage, food allergies, and insufficient consumption of dietary fibers.

Approximately 50 percent of all Americans have had hemorrhoids by the age of fifty. The incidence increases with age until age seventy, then begins to decrease again.

The most common symptoms of hemorrhoids include itching, burning, pain, inflammation, swelling, irritation, seepage, and bleeding. The bleeding, which is usually bright red during bowel movements, can be startling, even frightening. Although it does signal that something is amiss in the digestive system, rectal bleeding is not necessarily an indication of serious disease.

There are different type of hemorrhoids, depending on their location, severity, and the amount of pain, discomfort, and aggravation they cause.

External—These develop under the skin at the opening of the anal cavity. They may form a hard lump and cause painful swelling if a blood clot forms. When an external hemorrhoid swells, the tissue in the area becomes firm but sensitive and turns blue or purple in color. This type of hemorrhoid most often affects younger people and can be extremely painful.

Internal—Internal hemorrhoids are located inside the rectum. They are usually painless, especially if located above the anorectal line, because rectal tissues lack nerve fibers. Internal hemorrhoids do, however, tend to bleed. When they do, the blood appears bright red.

Prolapsed—A prolapsed hemorrhoid is an internal hemorrhoid that collapses and protrudes outside the anus, often accompanied by a mucous discharge and heavy bleeding. Prolapsed hemorrhoids can become thrombosed—that is, they can form clots within that prevent their receding. Thrombosed hemorrhoids can also be excruciatingly painful.

As far as is known, hemorrhoids are unique to human beings. No other creatures develop this problem. This can be taken as an indication that our dietary and nutritional habits probably play a greater role in this disorder than any other factor.

Nutrition Recommendations

Eat foods that are high in dietary fiber, such as wheat, bran, fresh fruits, and nearly all vegetables

A high-fiber diet is probably the most important consideration in the treatment of, and especially the prevention of, hemorrhoids

To help bleeding hemorrhoids, eat foods such as alfalfa, blackstrap molasses, and dark green leafy vegetables, which are rich in vitamin K

Drink plenty of liquids, especially water (preferably steam-distilled); water is the best, most natural stool softener in existence; it also helps prevent constipation

Avoid fats, animal products, coffee, alcohol, and hot spices; red meat and high-protein diets are especially hard on the lower digestive tract

Take 1 or 2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil daily; flaxseed oil helps to soften stools

If you decide to use a fiber supplement, start with a moderate amount and increase your intake gradually; if you take too much at first, this will cause painful bloating, gas, and possibly diarrhea; note: always take supplemental fiber separately from other supplements and medication

Use a peeled clove of garlic as a suppository three times a week

Aloe vera gel, applied directly on the anus, has properties similar to aspirin; it can relieve pain and soothe the burning sensation; the fresh pulp is best

Cleanse the problem area frequently with warm water

Get regular moderate exercise

Avoid strong or harsh laxatives

Avoid using rough toilet paper

If home treatments bring no relief, consult our health care provider, especially if the problem is recurring and bleeding persists for more than three days

Supplement your diet with one or more of the following nutrients—click on any link to find it at the Health Catalog Store:

Gentle Colon Cleanser—This excellent product contains many herbs and nutrients to promote digestive health

Calcium and Magnesium—Essential for blood clotting; helps prevent cancer of the colon

Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids—Aids in healing and normal blood clotting

Vitamin E—Promotes normal blood clotting and healing; use d-alpha-tocopherol form

Vitamin B-Complex—All B vitamins are vital for digestion; improved digestion results in reduced stress on the rectum

Vitamin B6—Add to B-complex to improve digestion

Vitamin B12—Add to B-complex to improve digestion

Choline—Add to B-complex to improve digestion

Inositol—Add to B-complex to improve digestion

For a more in-depth discussion of the causes of Hemorrhoids and their recommended nutritional treatment, consult Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, and James F. Balch, M.D.

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