01 Apr 2010

Haemorrhoids

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Haemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed varicose veins located on the rectum or anus.

Symptoms

  • Bright red anal bleeding in the faeces or on the toilet paper
  • Painful swelling, protrusion or lump
  • Anal itching
  • Irritation of anus during defecation
  • A mucous discharge from the anusĀ  may also occur

Causes

Straining with bowel movements causes pressure on the blood vessels of the anus and rectum, and if the blood vessels are weak, the increased pressure can cause them to swell and become distorted, leading to the formation of haemorrhoids.

Other sources of pressure in the anal region may include pregnancy, standing and sitting for long periods, heavy lifting, liver disease, coughing, sneezing, and vomiting. Sitting on hard surfaces for extended periods of time may also contribute.

A hereditary component may also play a role in the development of haemorrhoids.

Natural therapies

  • Eliminating constipation is essential to managing haemorrhoids and preventing their formation. Herbs that are traditionally used to promote elimination and aid bowel function include senna and buckthorn. Ideally, they should be accompanied by a source of fibre, such as psyllium, which is indicated for constipation and when a soft stool is desirable, such as when haemorrhoids are present.
  • Although best known for their effects on the eyes, bilberries have also traditionally been regarded as beneficial for haemorrhoids.
  • Vitamin C and bioflavonoids may be of benefit in the management of haemorrhoids.

Diet and lifestyle

  • Improving your diet is the first step to controlling haemorrhoids. Make sure you eat a high-fibre diet based on ample quantities of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. However, note that some natural therapies experts believe that wheat bran fibre may aggravate haemorrhoids. Instead, choose soluble fibre sources, such as psyllium.
  • Drink plenty of water too – aim for at least eight glasses of water per day.
  • Avoid straining to lift heavy objects as this can increase the pressure on the veins.
  • In clinical studies, the topical application of witch hazel has been shown to relieve haemorrhoid symptoms such as itching, bleeding, soreness and burning pain.
Fibre and water are both important for bowel regularity. Aim to maintain a good balance between soluble fibre (such as psyllium or apple fibre, which has the ability to absorb a lot of water and produces a soft stool), and insoluble fibre (such as wheat bran, which produces a larger, but harder stool).

Important notes

Bleeding from the bowel always requires further medical investigation to determine the cause - consult your healthcare professional for more information.