People who suffer from hemorrhoids often find that a proper diet can make a whole lot of difference in their overall health. Chances are that you are already aware of specific foods that may trigger your hemorrhoids. Perhaps you have also noticed that at times you are able to eat these same foods without experiencing any problems.
Hemorrhoids and constipation
The aim of the conservative treatment of hemorrhoids is to break the cycle of hard stool, pain, and delayed defecation, caused by the anorectal discomfort that one may feel. As we mentioned in our previous article, constipation is one of the major risk factors for the development of hemorrhoids. We always recommend adequate fluid and fiber intake, and, if necessary, a stool softener. However, this may not always be enough. While there are many causes, the foods that you eat can be a major culprit.
The biggest group of foods that cause constipation are mainly the processed foods. This group includes all foods purchased from fast food restaurants or any ready-made meals that you can buy in the nearest supermarket (deep-fried and frozen foods, junk food, packaged sweets and so on.) The main problem with these foods is that most of the natural fiber, vitamins, and minerals, have been removed through processing. This means that even if you buy foods, that are normally good for your gut (like fruits and vegetables), processing actually turns them into foods that are void of nutritional value. The other problem with processed foods is that they contain many preservatives. Salt and sugar are commonly added to many foods in order to make them stay fresh longer or taste better. In addition, salt is dehydrating, and can make stool harder to pass. Excessive amounts of salt can therefore slow the digestive system, making bowel movements harder.
Even if you think you are eating healthy, processed foods can disrupt your digestive system more so, than the “unhealthy” meals, which you would prepare at home form fresh products. That’s why fast food and processed meals are among the main causes of constipation in our society.
A low fiber diet usually includes foods that have high cholesterol and fat content like red meat and dairy products (especially butter and cheese). Meat (including poultry) often includes preservatives and high levels of monosodium glutamate, which are not good for your gut. Dairy products are promoting the production of cytokine and casein, which lead to inflammation and excess mucus production. On top of that dairy contributes to the production of gas, which can elevate the pain syndrom and cause stomach cramps if you are already constipated. In general, high cholesterol foods are hard to digest. They require many digestive enzymes and can slow down the digestive process. By slowing down the digestive process, you are eventually causing yourself constipation.
If you have hemorrhoids, the last thing you would want to do is drink alcohol. Alcohol is extremely dehydrating, which means it can lead to the development of constipation. If you drink large amounts of alcohol, not only will you be more likely to face constipation, but you may also upset the digestive balance. In such cases frequent alternation between constipation and diarrhea is observed.
Hemorrhoids and diarrhea
That being said, constipation is not the sole factor at play for making your hemorrhoids worse. Sometimes they could be triggered by diarrhea.
Milk and sugar are one of the leading causes of diarrhea. Bear in mind that 1/3 of the world’s population is actually lactose-intolerant. Fatty foods and artificial substances (think about all the beverages that you consume) have also been found to cause diarrhea in relation to malabsorption problems. Another trigger is insoluble fiber. It’s not typically digested and used by the body. When most of the nutrients from the fruits and vegetables are absorbed, the insoluble fiber just passes straight to the large intestine, stimulating gas formation and peristalsis, which may lead to diarrhea.
Then we have the spicy foods (or substances) that have been found to irritate the bowel and may even trigger diarrhea. Red chili peppers are consistently put in the “bad foods” list for people who suffer from hemorrhoids. Your body may also respond in an unpleasant way if you consume a lot of caffeine. In excessive amounts, it may affect the gastrointestinal tract, leading to diarrhea.
To summarize, a low fiber diet includes many foods that cause constipation and may trigger your hemorrhoids. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain natural fiber. Think of fiber as a gel-like substance, which is then combined with water in your body. Fiber adds bulk to the stool, making it softer and easier to pass. It is the best thing you can eat when you are trying to prevent constipation and it may help with chronic diarrhea, by adding bulk and keeping the stool well formed.
Essentially, the best way to determine how different foods affect you is by keeping a food journal. Now I know that this sounds old-fashioned, but it does not have to be detailed. Try to include the date, time, and the food you ate. Note down any symptoms or benefits that occur when eating a certain group of foods. The more you learn how different foods affect you, the better equipped you will be to make healthy dietary choices and escape further complications of your hemorrhoidal symptoms.