Hemorrhoid Symptoms and CausesAccording to the Mayo Clinic, “hemorrhoids, also called piles, are swollen and inflamed veins in your anus and lower rectum.” They form when the lower rectum is under increased pressure, causing the veins to stretch, bulge or swell.
Hemorrhoid symptoms include painless bleeding during bowel movements, itching in the anal region, pain, discomfort, protrusions from the anus, swelling or lumps around the anal area, and leakage of feces. Hemorrhoids can be caused by the following factors:
- straining during bowel movements
- sitting for long periods of time on the toilet
- chronic diarrhea or constipation
- being over weight
- pregnancy, especially pushing during labor and delivery
- anal intercourse
Natural Treatments for PilesMedications and surgery are often used to treat hemorrhoids, but for most sufferers, piles can be treated at home with lifestyle changes. Why use alternative therapies? Because surgery can be uncomfortable and expensive if not covered by insurance; and medicines, even over-the-counter ones, often contain toxic chemicals such as parabens. See the article Ten Synthetic Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid for more on chemicals in body care products.
Instead choose effective natural hemorrhoid remedies such as:
- witch hazel – Soak a cotton pad in witch hazel and pat the affected area. Chilling the pads in the refrigerator before use will provide added relief.
- cleanliness – Keep the anal area clean with daily baths or showers. Washing the area with water is enough, as soap may aggravate the problem. The Mayo Clinic recommends gently drying the area with a hair dryer to minimize moisture, which can cause irritation.
- warm Epsom salt bath – Soak in a warm Epsom salt bath to relieve symptoms, or purchase a sitz bath at a medical supply store.
- cold compress – Apply cold compresses such as chilled cotton pads or ice packs to the anal area to reduce swelling. Make an ice pack by putting ice cubes or crush ice in a plastic bag and cover with a towel.
- baby wipes – Dry toilet paper can irritate hemorrhoids. Instead use unscented, chlorine and alcohol-free, hypoallergenic baby wipes such as Earth’s Best or Seventh Generation.
- cranberry poultice – Puree a few tablespoons of raw cranberries, wrap one tablespoon in a cheesecloth and place over the anus for an hour. Hold in place with tight underwear.
- essential oils – Mix two drops of lavender and geranium oil with one ounce of almond oil. Dab a small amount onto a finger and apply to the skin around the anus. Liquid lecithin can also be used.
Hemorrhoid PreventionAccording to the Mayo Clinic, “the best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to keep your stools soft, so they pass easily.” To prevent piles and reduce flare-ups do the following:
- eat a high fiber diet – Add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the diet. Not only is this good for over all health, but fiber-rich foods soften and increase the bulk of stools, thus reducing the need to strain and chances of developing or irritating hemorrhoids.
- stay hydrated – Drink six to eight glasses of water a day, as well as other non-alcoholic beverages to keep stools soft.
- use a fiber supplement – Most people get less than the recommended 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day. Add a natural psyllium fiber supplement to the diet.
- stop straining – Avoid straining or holding the breath while trying to pass a stool to decrease pressure on the veins in the rectum.
- don’t hold a stool – People should go to the bathroom when the urge strikes. Waiting can cause the stool to become dry making it harder to pass.
- exercise – Exercise can aid in weight loss, reduce pressure on veins and prevent constipation.
- avoid sitting or standing for long periods – Sitting for prolonged periods, especially on the toilet can increase pressure on veins in the anal area.
- drink lemon water – Lemons can help strengthen blood vessel walls and capillaries. Make a lemon drink at home: slice a lemon in four parts, place lemon and distilled water in a non-reactive pot with a top, cover and boil for 10 minutes, cool. Drink one cup daily.