Roughly half of adults experience hemorrhoids, or inflamed veins in the rectum or anus, by age 50. Symptoms vary but may include anal pain and itching, painful bowel movements, tender bumps near the anus and bloody toilet paper after wiping. Potential causes include pregnancy, obesity, sitting for long time periods, chronic digestive problems and a diet low in fluids or fiber. Hemorrhoid flareups typically resolve on their own. Medications and dietary changes may help prevent or reduce symptoms.
Yogurt and Kefir
Yogurt and kefir, a yogurt-like beverage, provide probiotics — beneficial, or “friendly,” bacteria that promote digestive health and immune function. Probiotics may help prevent or treat hemorrhoids, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. For best results, consume yogurt or kefir containing live active cultures, such as lactobacillus or bifidus, on a routine basis. Drinking kefir may also help reduce dehydration and stimulate bowel movements.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide valuable nutrients that help strengthen your immune system and fluids that may help ease constipation. As fiber-rich foods, fruits and vegetables also add bulk to your stool and may reduce strain and pain during bowel movements. Fruits and vegetables particularly high in fiber include berries, apples, pears, avocados, artichokes, peas, broccoli, dark leafy greens, beans and winter squash.
Because whole grains contain all nutritious part of the grain, they provide more fiber, protein and micronutrients than refined grains, such as white flour. Most people do not meet their daily fiber needs, which ranges from 21 and 38 grams of fiber per day. Eating 1/4 cup of amaranth or 1 cup of pearled barley supplies 6 grams of fiber. Other fiber-rich whole-grain foods include oatmeal, 100-percent whole-grain breads and cold cereals, long-grain brown rice, wild rice and popcorn.
To prevent or reduce hemorrhoid symptoms related to a low-fluid diet, drink water or other fluids throughout each day. Drink at least 8 cups of fluid, or 64 ounces, daily, which may derive from water, milk, 100-percent fruit or vegetable juices, herbal teas or broth-based soups. Keep in mind that fruit and vegetable juices contain less fiber than whole varieties. Avoid caffeinated, alcoholic and high-sugar beverages, which may provide less hydration and, in some cases, contribute to weight gain.
What should I eat if I have hemorrhoids?
Your doctor may recommend that you eat more foods that are high in fiber. Eating foods that are high in fiber can make stools softer and easier to pass and can help treat and prevent hemorrhoids. Drinking water and other liquids, such as fruit juices and clear soups, can help the fiber in your diet work better. Ask your doctor about how much you should drink each day based on your health and activity level and where you live.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a dietary fiber intake of 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. For example, for a 2,000-calorie diet, the fiber recommendation is 28 grams per day.
The amount of fiber in a food is listed on the food’s nutrition facts label. Some fiber-rich foods are listed in the table below.
|Fiber Rich Foods|
|Food and Portion Size||Amount of Fiber|
|⅓‒¾ cup high-fiber bran, ready-to-eat cereal||9.1–14.3 grams|
|1‒1¼ cups of shredded wheat, ready-to-eat cereal||5.0–9.0 grams|
|1½ cups whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked||3.2 grams|
|1 small oat bran muffin||3.0 grams|
|1 medium pear, with skin||5.5 grams|
|1 medium apple, with skin||4.4 grams|
|½ cup of raspberries||4.0 grams|
|½ cup of stewed prunes||3.8 grams|
|½ cup of green peas, cooked||3.5–4.4 grams|
|½ cup of mixed vegetables, cooked from frozen||4.0 grams|
|½ cup of collards, cooked||3.8 grams|
|1 medium sweet potato, baked in skin||3.8 grams|
|1 medium potato, baked, with skin||3.6 grams|
|½ cup of winter squash, cooked||2.9 grams|
|½ cup navy beans, cooked||9.6 grams|
|½ cup pinto beans, cooked||7.7 grams|
|½ cup kidney beans, cooked||5.7 grams|
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.
What should I avoid eating if I have hemorrhoids?
If your hemorrhoids are caused by chronic constipation, try not to eat too many foods with little or no fiber, such as
- fast food
- ice cream
- prepared foods, such as some frozen and snack foods
- processed foods, such as hot dogs and some microwavable dinners.
Easy Ways to Prevent Hemorrhoids
Hampered by hemorrhoids? These simple strategies can help prevent hemorrhoid pain from getting in the way of your life.
1. Fill Up on Fiber
Hemorrhoids are more likely to occur in people who have infrequent bowel movements. One of the easiest, most natural ways to become more regular is by filling up on fiber either through your diet or supplements. “Adding fiber to the diet is the universal recommendation of both family doctors and gastroenterologists,” says Dr. Kussin. “It may increase gas, but this is a small price to pay for the benefits.” Aim to get 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. Great food sources of fiber include:
- Legumes, such as split peas, lentils, black beans, lima beans, and baked beans
- Whole grains, such as barley, bran flakes, oatmeal, and brown rice
- Vegetables, such as artichoke, green peas, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
- Fruits, such as raspberries, pears, apples, and bananas
2. Drink Enough Water
This hemorrhoid prevention strategy is simple and cheap, yet so few of us actually do it. Along with eating a healthy diet full of fiber, adequate hydration from water is the key to having healthy bowel movements. “Drinking enough water helps prevent constipation and therefore decreases straining,” says Richard Desi, MD, a gastroenterologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Drinking six to eight glasses of water each day doesn’t just keep your digestive system running smoothly, itbenefits your entire body.
3. Get Plenty of Exercise
According to Dr. Desi, exercise and hemorrhoids have a love-hate relationship. “Exercise helps keep the colon more regular,” he says. “However, engaging in activities that increase abdominal pressure and/or straining (such as weightlifting) can lead to the formation of hemorrhoids.” Staying active reduces your time spent sitting and putting pressure on the veins in your lower rectum. If you have a history of problematic hemorrhoids, you might want to steer clear of lifting heavy weights or other strenuous activities and opt for more moderate exercise routines such as yoga, swimming, or walking to prevent hemorrhoids from flaring.
4. Be Careful When It Comes to Laxatives
When you’re constipated, some fiber supplements, particularly psyllium capsules, have a track record of helping get you more regular, which can prevent painful hemorrhoids. As far as laxatives go, they can help as long as you choose the correct ones. “The safest laxatives are those that work with your body rather than those that stimulate or simulate normal physiological activities,” Kussin says. “Some laxatives work by stimulating intestinal contraction to move the contents along. This might increase hemorrhoid pressures and cause symptoms.” To prevent hemorrhoids or totreat hemorrhoids that are active, Kussin suggests osmotic laxatives that simply increase the amount of water in the gut and reduce constipation.
5. Don’t Fight the Urge
When you have to go, go. This is one of the simplest ways to prevent hemorrhoids. “Ignoring Mother Nature has its risks, and hemorrhoids are one of them,” Kussin says. “If you obey your body when it screams at you, the chance of problems is less. You listen to everyone else when they scream at you; why not listen to your own body, too? When you wait until you decide you have the time to move your bowels, success will be far more elusive and straining far more likely.”
6. Avoid Straining
Straining and putting more pressure on the veins in your rectum is one of the most common causes of painful or bleeding hemmorhoids. In some cases, this can happen as a result of pushing too hard when trying to have a bowel movement. Other situations can cause straining too, such as lifting heavy objects, a chronic cough, or even pregnancy. If you have issues with hemorrhoids, Kussin advises being aware of the strain you’re putting on your bowels and avoiding it as much as you can.