By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Medicine
Got hemorrhoids? While it’s not something most of us talk about, it’s a painful problem for millions of Americans. In fact, the itching and burning caused by hemorrhoids can make it difficult to sit still.
If you’ve got hemorrhoids, the veins around the anus swell and can form lumps of tissue. These lumps can become irritated and sore, and might even bleed. But you don’t have to put up with these painful protrusions. There are some simple ways to prevent and treat hemorrhoids naturally.
Cause and Effect
So what causes hemorrhoids? Pressure … pure and simple. That’s why pregnant women and obese people are more prone to the condition. An increase in abdominal pressure can trigger hemorrhoids. But the most common cause is constipation. Straining to have a bowel movement puts pressure on blood vessels in the rectum.
There are two kinds of hemorrhoids – internal and external. Frequently, the only sign that internal hemorrhoids exist is bright red blood that appears on the surface of the stool, in the toilet bowl or on toilet paper. But, if the pressure and swelling continue, the hemorrhoid may stretch and bulge through the anus to the outside of the body.
The veins around the anus can then become swollen, causing external hemorrhoids. These swollen veins bleed easily, either from straining or rubbing. Irritation from draining mucus may also cause itching in the anal area. If blood clots form in these hemorrhoids, the pain can be severe.
Get Your Fill of Fiber
The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to keep stools soft so they pass easily. Increased dietary fiber helps reduce constipation and straining by adding bulk and softening stool. It’s also important to prevent pressure by emptying bowels as soon as possible after the urge occurs.
Insoluble fiber – the kind found primarily in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – increases the bulk of stool. And it’s easier than you think to include this super fiber into your diet. Instead of white bread or pasta, opt for whole grain varieties that contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Adding at least one serving of fresh fruit or vegetables to each meal can also significantly boost your fiber intake. Foods with the most fiber include barley, beans and legumes, tomatoes, raspberries, and pears.
Many doctors also recommend fiber supplements for people with hemorrhoids. A review of seven placebo-controlled trials concluded that taking fiber supplements reduced painful symptoms and cut the risk of bleeding by 50 percent in people with hemorrhoids.
Choose a fiber supplement made from psyllium husks. This natural fiber supplement forms a gel in the colon that adds bulk to the stool and softens it. As a result, stool is easier to pass. But if you use a fiber supplement, make sure to take it with plenty of water. If you don’t, it can actually make you constipated.
Flavonoids – plant pigments rich in antioxidants – can reduce inflammation and strengthen blood vessels. These effects can benefit people with hemorrhoids.
A number of clinical trials show that flavonoids improve itching, bleeding, and other hemorrhoid symptoms in people taking 600 to 4,000 mg. of supplemental flavonoids per day. One of the most important flavonoids for people with hemorrhoids is diosmin, found in the rind of many citrus fruits.
A double-blind study of 120 patients with hemorrhoids found that diosmin improved pain, itching, swelling, discharge, and bleeding. The participants who got relief took 500 mg. of a diosmin supplement twice a day for two months. Diosmin is extremely safe and it shouldn’t interact with any prescription drugs you may be taking. But, since it can thin the blood, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before combining diosmin with aspirin or other blood-thinning medications.
One Last Thing …
If external hemorrhoids are making life uncomfortable, try applying witch hazel directly onto the affected area several times a day. Witch hazel is a strong astringent and anti-inflammatory. There is also some evidence that this herb strengthens veins. That’s why it is a primary ingredient in most over-the-counter hemorrhoid preparations.
Horse chestnut extract is another herb that can reduce the symptoms of hemorrhoids. Studies done in Europe found that horse chestnut helped increase blood flow, strengthen connective tissue, tighten up veins, decrease redness, and reduce swelling. One of horse chestnut’s compounds, Aescin, has been found to close the small pores in the walls of the veins, making them less permeable. This strengthens the vein walls and reduces leakage of fluid into the surrounding tissues.
Take 300 mg. of horse chestnut supplements containing 50 to 300 mg. of Aescin two to three times a day. But don’t expect instant results. Since horse chestnut can take up to six weeks to show improvement, horse chestnut is best for people with chronic hemorrhoids.
Research Brief …
There’s a new study out that anyone taking Plavix needs to be aware of. According to researchers at Duke University and the Veteran’s Administration, people who suffer a heart attack are twice as likely to have another one if they take Plavix together with a heartburn drug like Prilosec.
During the study of more than 8,200 patients who had suffered a heart attack or chest pain (known as unstable angina), those who took both medications doubled the chance of a second heart attack. Since some “proton pump inhibitors” like Prilosec can be bought in any drugstore, it’s important to check with your doctor before taking an over-the-counter heartburn drugs if you also take Plavix.
For a safer solution, opt for DGL (de-glycyrrhizinated licorice) tablets to relieve frequent heartburn. DGL is a highly effective alternative to antacids and acid-blocking drugs. But instead of inhibiting acid production, it supports and stimulates the stomach’s natural protective mechanisms. Take two chewable DGL tablets whenever heartburn strikes. If you are taking Plavix, it could just save your life!
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Ho PM, Maddox TM, Wang L, et al. “Risk of Adverse Outcomes Associated With Concomitant Use of Clopidogrel and Proton Pump Inhibitors Following Acute Coronary Syndrome.” Journal of the American Medical Association. 2009;301: 937-944.
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van Marle J, Aarsen PN, Lind A, et al. “Deglycyrrhizinised liquorice (DGL) and the renewal of rat stomach epithelium.” European Journal of Pharmacology. 1981;72:219-25.