Preventative homecare measures for haemmorrhoid sufferers
Preventative care is not too dissimilar from effective homecare treatments for haemorrhoids. Measures which can be effective include:
- Warm baths / sitz baths
- Cold compresses
- Over-the-counter ointments or wipes
- Use of recommended painkillers (pain-relievers)
- Refraining from scratching the itchy area
- Wearing loose, airy / soft cotton underwear (preventing accumulation of moisture)
- Limiting lengthy bathroom use (if a bowel movement does not happen within a minute or two, it is best not to try and force one to take place)
- Refraining from ‘holding’ a bowel movement (‘holding’ the urge to have a bowel movement can stack up stool / faeces, resulting in increased pressure and straining when a movement is passed) – delaying bowel movements allows the bowel to reabsorb water from stool which contributes to constipation (later on when the stool is eventually passed).
- Helping things along with a squat position (a short bench or stack of books can be placed underneath the feet while sitting on the toilet, helping to raise the knees and make for easier bowel movements)
- Dampening toilet paper or using fragrance-free moistened wipes or cotton balls for cleaning purposes
- Trying to breathe normally while having a bowel movement (holding one’s breath in can aggravate haemorrhoid pain, discomfort and bleeding, especially if straining)
- Getting up and moving about for a few minutes every hour if prone to sitting for long periods of time.
- Making use of cushions when sitting (hard surfaces can aggravate existing haemorrhoids)
Other helpful factors include:
It is important to keep the body well hydrated consistently throughout the day, every day. This is very important, for many bodily functions, but in this instance for the excretion of stool (faeces). A well-hydrated body can pass stool a lot easier, with little strain which will help to prevent hemorrhoids and also minimise the pain experienced during a bowel movement if any are present.
Water is the best source for maintaining hydration and helps to keep stools soft enough to pass during bowel movements. Between 8 to 10 glasses of water a day should suffice. If one is highly active or resides in an area with a hot climate, a doctor may recommend a slightly higher intake of water so as not to cause dehydration which can adversely affect bowel movements (especially so if one is prone to hemorrhoids).
Fibre is an essential component of a healthy diet, and in this instance, has a direct impact on the consistency of stools. A healthy amount helps to soften stools which aids in easier passing during a bowel movement. The best sources of fibre are obtained through dietary means, but can be supplemented should enough not be able to be taken in through available foodstuffs.
A person should add more fibre to their diet gradually so as to avoid abdominal bloating and gas (flatulence) which occur if high amounts are introduced too quickly.
Fibre occurs in two forms:
- Soluble: This form dissolves in water (forming a gel-like / sticky substance), much like when oats are mixed with warm or hot water. Soluble fibre helps to soften stools and reduce the odds of irritation or constipation. At least one third of all high-fibre foods consumed should be of soluble content (a higher intake could result in diarrhoea).
- Insoluble: This form does not dissolve in water and is more commonly referred to as ‘roughage’. Insoluble fibre also helps to balance out the chemistry in the gastrointestinal tract, and to pass stools with ease.
High fibre foods to eat
- Beans (kidney, lima, black, edamame or navy)
- Nuts (almonds and pecans)
- Lentils and peas
- Grains (made with whole-grain flours, buckwheat, brown rice, rye, stone-ground cornmeal, cooked oats or barley, oat bran, wheat germ and plain popcorn)
- Fruit (berries, apples, pears, grapes, bananas, watermelon and plums)
- Dried fruits (apricots, figs and dates)
- Stewed prunes
- Vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, kale and other dark leafy greens like spinach, collards, winter squash, green peas, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, celery, bell peppers)
Foods to restrict or avoid (low in fibre content)
- Dairy products such as milk and cheese, as well as ice cream
- White breads and refined carbohydrates
- Fried foods
- Red meat
- Processed foodstuffs (convenience / pre-packaged foods and fast food)
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy foods
- Foods with a high sodium / salt content (such as crisps)
Iron supplements can also cause or aggravate constipation, as well as many other digestive system related ailments and problems. If a supplement is needed, it is best to consult a medical doctor for guidance and recommendations for use.
Regular exercise is not only good for overall optimum health, but also for those prone to haemorrhoids. Moderate aerobic exercise (or gentle cardiovascular exercise), such as brisk walking for between 20 and 30 minutes daily aids digestion and also helps to stimulate healthy bowel function. Healthier function means reduced odds of straining and constipation.
Exercises such as walking, swimming and jogging all improve overall circulation in the body. The benefit of this with regards to hemorrhoids is that it improves circulation to the rectum (delivering oxygenated blood and nutrients). This can significantly reduce inflammation, as well as the risk of a thrombosed haemorrhoid, and also help to promote healing (whereas long periods of standing or sitting places strain on the rectal veins, and results in worsened symptoms).
Some believe that Kegel exercises and yoga are also good activity options for those with existing haemorrhoids (without worsening symptoms). Kegel exercises involve the contracting of anal (sphincter) and pelvic floor muscles for several seconds at a time, repeated in sets. These exercise sets can be done several times a day and effectively strengthen these muscles which can aid in improving circulation to the anus / rectum, and thus reduce risk of haemorrhoid formation (internal, external and thrombosed). Other muscle toning exercises which work by contracting the abdominal muscles and those of the buttocks can also be beneficial for strengthening the anal / rectal muscles.
Stretching exercises involved in the practice of yoga targets the abdomen and thighs, which can also aid in improving overall circulation. Leg lifts (standing straight and raising legs, one at a time, to a 90-degree angle) increase blood flow, which can be beneficial for haemorrhoids. Forward bends which involve touching the toes also strengthen anal muscles (tightening and relaxing sphincter muscles), and may prevent future external haemorrhoid formations.
Heavy squats, in contrast, are one exercise which can place excessive pressure on the anorectal area and are best avoided if prone to hemorrhoids. Horseback riding, rowing and cycles are other exercise activities which may be best avoided as they can worsen discomfort by placing additional pressure on sensitive areas. Heavy lifting and related activities are also best avoided for similar reasons, aggravating discomfort.