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Fiber: The Hidden Cause of Hemorrhoid Pain?

Find out the real role fiber plays in preventing hemorrhoids.
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Fiber improves elimination and helps the digestive tract. Have you heard these words from your doctor? If you are suffering from hemorrhoids, an increase in fiber is one of the first steps that your doctor will recommend.

But, what if your doctor is wrong? What if fiber doesn't help relieve hemorrhoids at all- or worse, can cause them?

It turns out, the link between fiber and hemorrhoids are more complicated than the medical industry claims, and will have you questioning every piece of past advice you have heard about treating hemorrhoids.

What are Hemorrhoids?

If you suffer from hemorrhoids, you probably know how they feel, but you might not know how they form.

According to HarvardMedicalSchool, hemorrhoids are pillow-like veins that line the rectum and anus. A hemorrhoid is simply an inflamed vein. Extreme hemorrhoids are distended veins, typically cased by excessive straining and pressure on the area. Adults over the age of 20 and under the age of 64 are at highest risk for hemorrhoids.

Prolonged sitting, pregnancy, and constipation can all lead to cases of hemorrhoids in varying degrees.

Causes of Hemorrhoids

The Mayo Clinic states that hemorrhoids are caused by a variety of issues. Pregnancy, straining during bowel movements, constipation, sitting for long periods (typically on the toilet), obesity, and chronic diarrhea can all lead to hemorrhoids. Age, can also be a factor, as the veins in the rectum stretch and weaken with aging. 

The Standard Medical Treatment for Hemorrhoids

The Mayo Clinic states that there are four common levels of treatment for hemorrhoids. First, most medical professionals will start with a diet and lifestyle change. Next, they will try topical creams and ointment to relive pressure and pain.

If that doesn’t work, then they will proceed to an in-office procedure; which typically encompasses blood clot incisions, rubber band litigation, injection, and coagulation. If that still does not solve the issue, then the doctor will proceed to surgical removal of the hemorrhoids.

The Link Between Hemorrhoids and Constipation

Most medical professionals agree that constipation can lead to aggravated hemorrhoids. Constipation is caused by a variety of factors according to Web MD, and may stem from issues such as not enough activity, a poor-quality diet, a low liquid intake, and the overabundance of dairy consumption. Eliminating constipation can help reduce the pain and engorgement of hemorrhoids.

The Standard Treatments for Constipation

The standard treatment for constipation is simple. Most medical professionals prescribe a combination of approaches that are stated to reduce constipation. Most medical professionals will prescribe a treatment method as follows:

Doctor-Prescribed Constipation Treatments

Increase fiber intake

Increase water consumption
Reduce dairy consumption
Supplementing with laxatives
Enemas and suppositories 

However, the recommendation of increasing fiber to reduce constipation and hemorrhoids is not based in science.

The Shocking Truth about Curing Constipation and Hemorrhoids

Although medical professionals have been prescribing additional fiber intake as a cure for constipation and hemorrhoids, the truth is, fiber does not help cure constipation, and in fact, might even lead to greater constipation.

According to studies published in the Rome II: The Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders textbook, fiber doesn’t actually aid in cleaning the colon at all. In fact, fiber can actually delay the transit time between eating and elimination. According to the textbook, fiber is one of the leading causes of chronic constipation, Chron’s disease, diverticulosis, and hemorrhoids.

So, that daily intake of fiber cereal you eat for breakfast may actually be causing your hemorrhoid pain.

Is Fiber Causing Your Hemorrhoid Pain?

Another study by the American College of Gastroenterology Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Task Force published in September, 2012 showed that fiber had no effect on the improvement of constipation. In fact, quite the opposite was true. In their trials, there was “no improvement in stool frequency or consistency” when the results were compared with the placebo group. In this study, subjects all suffered from a variety of constipation-related symptoms and hemorrhoids. Subjects passed stool less frequently than once every three days for at least three months (the clinical definition for chronic constipation).The participants were tracked for six months and were all on high-fiber diets with added fiber supplements.

In the first two weeks, participants were placed on a low-fiber diet consisting mainly of vegetable soup and fruit along with protein. For the next 6 months, participants continued to eat a low-fiber diet. 

The researchers found that after the 6-month period, all 41 of the participants who ate a low-fiber diet completely eliminated their constipation problems. The oddest thing about the study is that participants on a reduced fiber diet saw less constipation improvement than those in the high-fiber control group. 

Constipated Participants After 6 Months
High Fiber Diet: 6
Reduced Fiber Diet: 12
No Fiber Diet: 0

 A follow-up study published in the May, 2013 issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology, showed that a low-fiber diet and an increased liquid intake helped reduce constipation symptoms and other associated symptoms including hemorrhoids. This study was much larger, and 9,373 adults participated in the study.

The subjects in this study varied in age, gender and race. Results showed that by increasing liquid intake and not increasing fiber intake at all, the rate of constipation in women was lowered from 13 percent to 8 percent, and the rate of constipation among men was reduced from 8 percent to 3 percent. 

How is this data possible?

The results of this study go against everything the medical industry has taught about constipation and hemorrhoids for the past 50 years or more. So why is there such a large disconnect between this study and previous assumptions? 

The researchers of this study speculate that this disconnect is due to the misinformation about fiber. If you think of constipation as a traffic jam, adding additional fiber to the diet is simply adding additional cars to the jam. Most fiber is known for its “bulk-forming” properties, which makes it easy to believe that adding fiber will only cause a bigger build-up of hard-to-pass stool that can lead to hemorrhoid issues. 

However, as a 2011 study published in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine points out, constipation and hemorrhoids can be caused by a variety of issues, using a one-size-fits-all treatment method for every case is unwise. (http://www.jabfm.org/content/24/4/436.full). Each case should be looked at individually.

Treating Hemorrhoids Naturally

With this new insight in mind, treating hemorrhoids becomes easier. Although even the healthiest person alive may still suffer from occasional hemorrhoids, you can use these methods to reduce your chances of getting hemorrhoids and make dealing with hemorrhoids easier than ever.

Preventing hemorrhoid flare-ups
Drink plenty of liquids and eat liquid-rich foods (drink to thirst and fill your diet with soups and fresh fruits and vegetables, which are full of water)
Cut back on fiber intake
Exercise at least 10-20 minutes each day

Soothing hemorrhoid flare-ups

Take hemorrhoid supplements (supplements with horse chestnut, bilberry, and butchers broom will help reduce inflammation, improve capillary tone, and improve circulation)
Take a daily probiotic to aid elimination and soften the stool naturally (this study shows how probiotics can help ease constipation (http://www.nutritionj.com/content/10/1/19))
Use soothing creams containing witch hazel and aloe vera to relieve burning and inflammation on-site 

 

Sources


http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Hemorrhoids_and_what_to_do_about_them.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hemorrhoids/DS00096/DSECTION=causes

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hemorrhoids/DS00096/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

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