Everyone knows that scrolling through your phone is a great way to pass time on the toilet. However, not everyone knows it could lead to severe pain in your lower abdomen. According to Dr. Anish Sheth, a gastroenterologist at the University Medical Center of Princeton-based in New Jersey, people who read in the bathroom might be more likely to develop hemorrhoids. This is mainly because hemorrhoids, the normal vascular structures that every person has in their anal canal, might become enlarged and painful when there is increased pressure on the connective tissues that keep them in place.
Sitting on the toilet for a long period of time irritates, inflames and strains those connective tissues. The same thing can also happen if you are constipated or when you sit in the same position in a car or at a desk. Some people can even experience hemorrhoids when they lift heavier weights at the gym. When lifting heavy loads, you will contract the similar abdominal muscles as you usually do when you are defecating, which might stress the tissues around the anus.
When you do any of these things often, there is a good chance that you might experience enlarged hemorrhoids. As a matter of fact, about 75% of people will experience hemorrhoids at a certain point in their lives.
Types of Hemorrhoids
- External Hemorrhoids – these are normally located under the skin that’s found around the anus. They can form a small and hard bulge around the anus. External hemorrhoids can also cause itching, bleeding, and painful swelling.
- Internal Hemorrhoids – these are usually found in the rectum and they aren’t painful. However, they might cause bleeding which shows up in the stool.
According to Dr. Sheth, the chances of having hemorrhoids increase as one gets older. The connective tissues that line your anal canal become weaker with age thus allowing the blood vessels to bulge easily when they are stressed or irritated.
The good news is that hemorrhoids are not hard to treat. The first line of defense is trying an over-the-counter ointment, cream or suppository which contains steroid hydrocortisone. The drug helps to reduce pain, itching, and inflammation.
According to Gina Sam, director of Gastrointestinal Motility Center at Mount Sinai Hospital, if the symptoms do not clear up in about one week you should make an appointment with your doctor. You might need a prescription medication which contains a combination of lidocaine and hydrocortisone to better control the pain and swelling. If you’re still in pain, ask your physician to refer you to a proctologist or gastroenterologist. The health specialists can treat severe cases or complications such as persistent bleeding, blood clot or a prolapse, an internal hemorrhoid that usually pops out of the anus. In these scenarios, you might have to undergo a surgical or minimally invasive procedure to shrink the hemorrhoids.
According to Steven Kussin, a gastroenterologist in New York, Hemorrhoids are normal features of anatomy and we all have them. They only become a problem when they start becoming itchy, causing pain or bleeding. Fortunately, there several simple strategies that you can use to prevent hemorrhoids from interfering with your everyday life.
Here are six of the best ways to prevent hemorrhoids:
1. Fill up on Fiber
Hemorrhoids are likely to occur in individuals who experience infrequent bowel movements. One of the easiest and most natural ways that you can use to become more regular is through filling up on fibers, either through supplements or your diet. Dr. Kussin says that adding fibers to the diet is a universal recommendation of both gastroenterologists and family doctors. Even though it might increase gas, this is a very small price to pay for considering the benefits that it will offer. Always aim at getting 25-30 grams of fiber daily. Great fiber sources include:
- Legumes, such as lentils, black beans, split peas, baked beans, and lima beans.
- Whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice, barley and bran flakes.
- Vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, artichoke, and green peas.
- Fruits, such as apples, bananas, raspberries, and pears.
2. Drink Lots of Water
This hemorrhoids prevention strategy is cheap and simple, yet very few people actually do it. In addition to eating a healthy diet that’s full of fiber, getting adequate hydration from water is crucial to having healthy bowel movements. According to Richard Desi, a gastroenterologist at Mercy Medical Center based in Baltimore, drinking enough water helps to prevent constipation thus decreasing any strain. Drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily will not only keep the digestive system running smoothly but it will also benefit your entire body.
3. Get Some Exercise
According to Dr. Desi, hemorrhoids and exercise have a love-hate relationship. Exercise helps to keep the colon more regular. However, taking part in activities that will increase abdominal pressure or strain (like weight lifting) can also lead to the formation of hemorrhoids. Staying active also reduces your time that’s spent sitting and putting more pressure on the veins in the lower rectum. In case you have a history of challenging hemorrhoids, then you might have to steer clear of lifting any heavy weights or any other strenuous activities. Instead, you should opt for moderate exercise routines like yoga, walking or swimming to prevent the hemorrhoids from flaring.
4. Be Careful with Laxatives
When you are constipated, some fiber supplements especially psyllium capsules, are known to help make you more regular which can then help in preventing painful hemorrhoids. As far as the laxatives go, they can only help provided you choose the right ones. The safest laxatives are the ones that work with the body instead of those that simulate or stimulate normal physiological activities. Some laxatives usually work by stimulating the intestinal contraction to move contents along. This can increase hemorrhoid pressures and eventually cause symptoms. To prevent hemorrhoids or treat the hemorrhoids that are active, Dr. Kussin suggests the use of osmotic laxatives that will simply increase the amount of water inside the gut and ultimately reduce constipation.
5. Don’t Fight the Urge
When you have to go, just go. This is just one of the simplest ways that you can use to prevent hemorrhoids development. According to Kussin, ignoring Mother Nature has its own risks and hemorrhoids are just one of these. If you obey your body when it’s screaming at you, the chance of having any problems lessens. You normally listen to everyone else when he/she screams at you; why not listen to your body as well? The longer you leave your bowels waiting, the more strain will occur.
6. Avoid Straining
Straining and putting more pressure on veins in the rectum is among the most common causes of bleeding or painful hemorrhoids. In some circumstances, this can happen due to pushing too hard as you try to have a bowel movement. Other circumstances such as a chronic cough, lifting heavy objects or even pregnancy can also cause straining. In case you have issues with hemorrhoids, Dr. Kussin advises being aware of the strain that you are putting on the bowels and avoid it as much as you can.
Featured Image Source: Thinkstock / Manuel Faba Ortega