On average, 50-75 percent of the population develops hemorrhoids at some point. Hemorrhoids are veins in the anal canal and lower rectum that become inflamed, swollen and stretched out.
External hemorrhoids develop underneath the skin’s surface at the opening of the anus. Internal hemorrhoids can protrude through the anus or create a bulge in the anal canal.
Both internal and external hemorrhoids can cause bothersome symptoms such as itching, pain, burning, inflammation, irritation and bleeding. Medications and surgery can be effective at treating hemorrhoids. However, there are a variety of home remedies that can also bring relief.
There are several varieties of over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams that can be used to reduce swelling and alleviate pain and itching. Topical hemorrhoid creams are placed on the anal opening several times a day, as needed to relieve symptoms. They are for external use only and should not be placed inside of the rectum. There are suppositories that can be placed inside the anus to treat internal hemorrhoids.
Soaking in a warm bath for at least 15 minutes can help alleviate hemorrhoid pain and discomfort. The water should be warm, but not hot. Avoid using bath oils, bubbles or salts, as these can aggravate the condition and cause additional irritation. 2-3 warm bathes per day can significantly reduce symptoms.
A sitz bath is a small container that is filled with warm water and placed on top of the toilet. It has the same effect as a regular bath, but is more convenient for people who do not have the time to fill the tub several times per day. The same rules apply for a sitz bath as for a regular bath; use warm water, no soap or bath additives, and use it for 15 minutes at a time.
An effective way to manage symptoms when you do not have the time to take a sitz bath is to moisten a washcloth with warm water and dab it on the anus for a few minutes every time you use the bathroom. It will not be as effective at relieving swelling, but it can temporarily soothe itching and alleviate pain.
It is important to keep the anal area as clean as possible to prevent additional irritation. Dirt, sweat and fecal matter can irritate hemorrhoids and cause a worsening of symptoms.
Bathe or shower at least once each day and be sure to gently cleanse the anal area with warm water. Do not use soap, as it can cause further irritation. After bathing, use a soft, clean towel to blot the area dry. Never rub the area with the towel. Some individuals prefer to use a hair dryer set on low heat to gently dry the area. Lightly dust the anal area with cornstarch powder after drying.
Skip Toilet Paper
Toilet paper can also cause irritation. After a bowel movement, use over-the-counter pre-moistened wipes that are make specifically for anal cleansing. Alternately, you can use a squirt bottle to cleanse the area with warm water after bowel movements.
Cold compresses can help bring down swelling and numb the area, thereby reducing pain and discomfort. Apply a clean, cotton cloth soaked in cold water to the anal area and hold in place for 5 minutes. Alternately, you can use an ice pack applied to the area.
Eat More Fiber
White flours, sugar, high-fat foods and other highly refined foods can lead to a diet that is lacking in fiber. Individuals with a low-fiber diet are more likely to suffer from hemorrhoids. Food that contains dietary fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains, can prevent constipation and create stool that is bulky, heavy and soft. This type of stool is easier to pass and does not require straining, which is one of the top causes for the development of hemorrhoids. Some individuals will achieve great relief from symptoms by just adding fiber to their diet. Foods that are high in fiber include:
- Whole wheat grains
- Brown rice
- Milled corn
- Unprocessed oatmeal
- Rolled oats
- Unprocessed bran
For more tips and information on adding more fiber to your diet, check out 10 Must-Have Foods For Your High Fiber Diet Plan.
Use A Stool Softener
Stool softeners may be needed when other measures are not effective at alleviating constipation, a key factor in reducing hemorrhoids. Stool softeners are laxatives that can be used to temporarily induce the bowels to evacuate. Before trying over-the-counter stool softeners, try eating prunes, which have a natural laxative effect. Aim to eat 2-3 prunes each day until relief occurs.
When it becomes difficult to move the bowels, additional pressure is placed on the veins in the anal canal. Avoid straining whenever possible. Never try to empty your bowels if you do not feel the need to do so. Do not remain on the toilet after you have relieved your bowels, as this can lead to additional strain on the anal canal.
To help move your bowels, try sitting in a squatting position, which has been known to help alleviate pressure and induce a bowel movement. Although this can be difficult on most toilets, you can place a high stool near the toilet bowl and place your feet on it while pulling the knees up and into the chest.
Use Herbs And Homeopathic Remedies
Many people find relief from hemorrhoids in herbal and homeopathic remedies. Common natural remedies include:
- Apple cider vinegar dabbed on the anal area
- Aloe vera gel applied to the hemorrhoids
- Butcher’s Broom to treat poor circulation
- Horse Chestnut to reduce swelling and inflammation
- Witch Hazel
As with any conventional medicines, always discontinue use and check with your doctor if you experience any adverse reactions to herbs or homeopathic remedies. For information on how to prevent hemorrhoids, see 7 Easy Tips On How To Prevent Hemorrhoids.