Let’s face it; hemorrhoids can be a great source of embarrassment for many people. As a result, they aren’t always easy to discuss. The reality, however, is that they’re a widespread condition affecting 1 in 20 Americans over 50. So, if you have been diagnosed with this condition, you’re certainly not alone.
The trouble is that hemorrhoids aren’t just an embarrassing problem; they can also cause significant discomfort. The good news is that there are specific lifestyle changes that you can do to make managing hemorrhoids easier. Let’s take a closer look.
Up your fiber intake
Look at any healthy diet, and you’ll see that fiber is an essential contributor. But while this type of carbohydrate is good for your body, it can also play an integral part in managing hemorrhoids at home. Fiber is known to;
- Soften stools
- Increase bulk and
- Reduce the risk of straining.
Straining, in particular, is a quick way to aggravate an existing hemorrhoid.
Fiber can be found in various ingredients, including fruit and nuts, vegetables and whole grains. The American Heart Association suggests eating 25-30 grams of fiber-rich foods daily. Alarmingly, the average American eats just 15g per day.
As a top tip, if you’re not used to eating a fiber-rich diet, incorporate it slowly to avoid abdominal bloating and cramps. Doing so allows the natural bacteria in the gut to get used to the changes.
Jump in the tub
If you have troublesome hemorrhoids, one of the ways that you can relieve or reduce any discomfort is to take a bath – particularly a Sitz bath.
A Sitz bath is specially designed to soak the perineum. However, you don’t need to go out and buy a new tub to get the same effect. Instead, run a shallow amount of water in your regular tub and add ½ cup of Epsom salts to your bath water. Then soak the affected area for 15 minutes. Sitz baths are an excellent way to manage mild hemorrhoids in the comfort of your own home.
As a top tip, after bathing, don’t rub the affected area; otherwise, it may become inflamed. Instead, simply pat dry. If you want to, you can also use talcum powder and soft tissue to soak up any excess moisture.
Schedule bathroom breaks
One sure-fire way of managing hemorrhoids is to take regular bathroom breaks. Two key risk factors that can quickly escalate existing problems are constipation and straining. While an increase in fiber may go some way towards tackling the aspect of constipation, delaying a bathroom break when you need to go may cause stools to harden. Passing a hardened stool will cause straining, leading to further pain and discomfort. Therefore scheduling regular bathroom breaks will help.
As a further tip, you may want to practice elevation. If you can elevate your feet with a step stool when sitting on the toilet, it alters the position of the rectum. Positioning allows the stools to pass easier. An easier passage means less straining and less pressure on your hemorrhoids.
Avoid prolonged sitting
Hemorrhoids are, in effect, swollen veins. So if you sit for long periods on the affected area, it can make hemorrhoids worse. Activities include sitting at a desk, in a car or for too long on the toilet. Taking regular bathroom breaks should take care of the latter, but for the former, try taking frequent breaks from your desk or car.
Do you work from home? If so, you may want to invest in a standing desk or a sit-stand workstation. A sit-stand workstation is an ergonomic piece of furniture that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing by lowering or raising the work surface.
If you drive for a living or regularly make long trips, purchasing a good hemorrhoid pillow or cushion is a great idea. The extra padding on the cushion is designed to reduce pressure from problematic hemorrhoids, which, in turn, should reduce the pain experienced during a lengthy period of sitting.
Exercise controlled movement
Just because you have hemorrhoids doesn’t mean that you have to give up on staying healthy. On the contrary, exercise is a good way of managing hemorrhoids. While it isn’t advisable to carry out high-impact exercises like sit-ups, weightlifting or rowing, you can still exercise using controlled movement.
Exercises like yoga, pilates and swimming give you greater control over where you move and, ultimately, where you place pressure. Sirsasana (headstands), Sarvangastana (shoulder stands) and Viparita Karani (legs-against-the-wall) are all inverted poses that can alleviate pressure from problematic hemorrhoids.
Alternatively, if striking a pose isn’t your thing, water-based exercises like water aerobics can target the same muscle groups as on dry land, but the warm water has a therapeutic, soothing effect that should relieve hemorrhoid symptoms.
Seek help when you need it
The five lifestyle changes listed above may be sufficient to manage mild hemorrhoids, especially when accompanied by medicines like topical creams. But what if your hemorrhoids are worse? What should you do?
You could seek out surgery as a hemorrhoidectomy, but this process can involve prolonged healing time and a degree of post-operative pain. While most surgeries go without a hitch, patients can also risk further bleeding, infection and temporary incontinence.
On the contrary, hemorrhoid artery embolization (HAE) is a minimally invasive, non-surgical treatment that blocks blood flow to the hemorrhoid, causing it to shrink. This groundbreaking treatment can be carried out in as little as 45 minutes with little or no downtime, making it a speedy but effective treatment against problematic hemorrhoids.
To learn more about managing hemorrhoids, talk to the team at the Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy. As a vascular specialist and interventional radiologist, Dr Akinwande regularly performs HAE in his state-of-the-art clinics in St Louis, MO and Swansea, IL.
Don’t let your problem hemorrhoids govern your life. Take back control and talk to Dr A today.
Call 314-255-2204 or request an appointment online at one of 5 convenient locations, including Chicago, IL.