Over 75 million Americans suffer from a painful condition that no one really wants to talk about –hemorrhoids. These swollen, inflamed veins and capillaries around the anus are linked to constipation, straining at the stool, pregnancy, dehydration, and certain vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. They are caused by a diet consisting of low fiber, few nutrients, and too many refined foods.
There are many products out there that look promising, and if you suffer from this debilitating condition they probably sound too good to be true. One of the most well-known is the topical cream that starts with Preparation and ends with “H," as this company’s advertisements have saturated TV and print ads for as long as most of us can remember. While a topical ointments like Preparation H may be soothing – if you have this condition you probably know that, while for some it may be a temporary solution at best – it’s not the cure for hemorrhoids. As a clinical nutritionist and technical writer for the dietary supplement industry, I can tell you that the only approach that will actually work in the long run to support the body in healing from and preventing future hemorrhoid attacks is one that addresses diet and lifestyle, and gives you the nutrients your body needs both internally and topically. Except, perhaps, in the temporary case of pregnancy and the rapid change in body chemistry and weight, hemorrhoids is not a condition I ever see in people who eat a healthy diet. This article will give you the information your doctor or the Preparation H package probably will not. This article will tell what dietary changes you need to make to solve your hemorrhoid problem.
Constipation is almost always part of the equation when talking about hemorrhoids. In order to get rid of constipation, the diet must change. Using laxatives is not a long-term solution. Drinking plenty of pure water is paramount to having healthy elimination. I recommend half a person’s body weight in ounces of water per day. Drinking small amounts throughout the day is better than drinking it all at once. It’s almost cliché these days, but I have to say it anyway: fiber is so important in a healthy diet. And I don’t mean cheerios or other refined cereals or bran products. I mean fiber from fruits and vegetables and whole grains eaten in as close to their natural state as possible. Vegetables with at least three meals or snacks each day is ideal. Eating smaller amounts of food more often, like every four hours will also help your digestive system to break down foods, help avoid obesity and liver exhaustion, and help prevent constipation. In cases where constipation is not found in hemorrhoid sufferers, chronic diarrhea caused by too many laxatives and antacids is. Either way, the body is out of balance and diet is the key.
Eating the right amounts of the right kinds of fats is a very important to proper digestion and elimination. Many people are told not to eat too many fats when experiencing hemorrhoids. This is only half true. You definitely want to eliminate the unhealthy fats, but you also must increase the healthy or nourishing fats.
Unhealthy fats are fats that cannot be digested, assimilated, or used by the body for anything other than empty calories. They can also be very damaging. Any foods that are fried in oils should be avoided. Exposure to high heat for long periods causes food enzymes and essential fatty acids to be broken down. Since these fats are basically not digestible without their enzymes, they hang around in the body clogging blood vessels and weakening circulation. Since hemorrhoids are inflamed veins and capillaries around the anus, this is probably one of the worst things to do for this condition.
Any undigested food blocking up the intestine and colon, including fats will contribute to constipation. Hydrogenated fats and oils which are found in most packaged foods like cookies, crackers, breads, chips etc…and which are probably all over your kitchen right now is one of the worst things you can put in your body. These fake food products have been chemically changed so that the shelf life is basically forever. This is great for the grocer who can have it sitting on his shelf for decades without technically going bad, but they are poison for your body. Besides clogging your digestive system and causing more inflammation in the body – where do you think these indigestible fats go after we eat them? They are probably stored in your liver, fat tissue and cardiovascular system. Yuk!
Thankfully, because the diet is pretty bland without them, we do need fats. We just need the type that the human body can digest and use as nourishment. These healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, coconut oil (yes, coconut oil just not hydrogenated coconut oil), raw almonds, nuts and seeds and their butters as well as cold pressed flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, grape seed oil and Omega 3 high EPA and DHA fish oils. These oils are high in essential fatty acids and are extremely healing and strengthening to the body. They are helpful with any kind of inflammatory conditions such as hemorrhoids. If you can work these healthy fats into at least 3 of your meals or snacks a day, and take a high quality EPA/DHA supplement you will be healthier than most Americans subsisting on a diet high in the low quality fats. Omega 3’s and Omega 9’s are not nearly as prevalent in our diets as their less healthy counterparts the Omega 6’s. Most people eating a modern diet are way too high in Omega 6’s and way to low in Omega 3’s and 9’s. I have found in my private practice that changing the ratio of Omega fatty acids in the body correlates with my clients having healthier digestion, less inflammation and much less depression and anxiety. Studies confirm these correlations as well. These healthy fats also serve to lubricate the intestines and colon and soften up stools which can directly support healthy elimination.
If you can combine these high fiber, nutrient rich fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, beans, healthy fats and plenty of water with adequate amounts of lean protein throughout the day this will go a long way toward not only getting rid of or preventing hemorrhoids but also to becoming optimally healthy. This is a general diet for good health that I have been using for years with my clients. Small amounts of lean protein, complex carbohydrate filled with high fiber and healthy fat is what your body needs every couple of hours to run smoothly. Try it and see how much better you feel.
Next time I will discuss nature’s remedies. Natural products such as herbs, vitamins and other dietary supplements that can help support your body in healing from hemorrhoids.
written by Julie Keene
© 2010 H.I.C. Digestive Health