Hemorrhoids range from mildly unpleasant to downright painful, but they’re almost always unwanted. There are several strategies for treating hemorrhoids once they emerge, such as treating them with ointment, but is it possible to prevent them altogether?
The Basics of Hemorrhoids
If you’ve already experienced hemorrhoids personally, or you know someone who has, you can skip to the next section. But for the unacquainted, hemorrhoids are essentially swollen veins in your lower rectum and anus. Not unlike varicose veins, these tiny structures can be internal or external, and can range from almost unnoticeable to large, bloated, and painful.
You might be surprised to learn that hemorrhoids are a common development, with as many as three-quarters of adults dealing with hemorrhoids at least sometimes. In fact, you may have had hemorrhoids without even realizing it.
For some people, hemorrhoids emerge only in response to certain triggers. This makes them relatively easy to prevent. But for others, hemorrhoids seem to emerge at random, with no discernable pattern or root cause; some people are genetically predisposed to have hemorrhoids, meaning they’re much harder to effectively prevent.
How to Prevent Hemorrhoids
Regardless of whether you’re genetically predisposed to have hemorrhoids, these strategies can minimize the occurrence of these swollen veins in most people:
- Switch to a bidet. Most of us are used to using toilet paper to clean ourselves after using the bathroom, but this is not an ideal strategy if you want to prevent hemorrhoids. Toilet paper is rough, and it can irritate your anal area, stimulating the rise of new hemorrhoids. It’s much cleaner and less disruptive to use a bidet instead. And because bidets are both inexpensive and easy to install, there’s no excuse not to use one. Once you make the switch, you’ll enjoy a much cleaner and more comfortable bathroom experience – and you’ll wonder why you ever used toilet paper in the first place.
- Increase your fiber intake. If you have smoother, more comfortable bowel movements, you’ll be at a lower risk of developing hemorrhoids. One way to propagate smoother, more comfortable bowel movements is to increase your fiber intake. Eat foods that are naturally high in fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, and complex carbohydrates. You should also make sure you get both soluble and insoluble fiber throughout the day. If you have trouble meeting your fiber intake goals, or if you just want some extra fiber, consider adding a fiber supplement to your daily regimen.
- Drink lots of water. Another way to loosen your stools and have smoother bowel movements is to drink lots of water and other fluids. Keep a glass of water by your desk and try to drink it throughout the day. While you’ll occasionally hear of fixed recommendations for how much water to drink, ideal water intake is slightly different for everyone; it’s hard to drink too much water, so err on the side of caution by drinking more than you think you need.
- Keep active. Hemorrhoids sometimes develop in people who live a sedentary lifestyle and sit for prolonged periods of time. You can avoid this risk factor by standing up and walking around periodically, especially if you have a desk job that requires extended periods of sitting.
- Exercise every day. Similarly, it’s a good idea to get physical exercise every day. Make it a point to hit the gym or at least go for a daily walk.
- Go to the bathroom when you feel the urge. Practicing healthier bowel movements can also prevent the rise of hemorrhoids. Don’t hold in your bowel movements; always go to the bathroom whenever you feel the urge.
- Avoid straining. It’s also important to avoid straining while defecating. Pushing too hard can lead to complications.
Relieving Existing Hemorrhoids
If these strategies fail you and you do end up with hemorrhoids, there are several strategies you can use to manage them.
- Use a topical ointment. Hemorrhoid creams and ointments are designed to relieve the symptoms of hemorrhoids, shrink them, and minimize their chances of recurring. Most of these creams are over-the-counter (OTC), meaning you can pick them up at almost any pharmacy or supermarket.
- Soak in warm water. Sometimes, a simple soak in warm water is all it takes to provide immediate hemorrhoid relief.
- Rely on OTC pain relief. If you need some extra pain relief, consider taking OTC pain-relieving medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Treating Advanced Hemorrhoids
Most hemorrhoids will shrink and disappear if properly treated and given enough time. But if you have advanced hemorrhoids that don’t seem to go away, or if your hemorrhoids are causing you significant pain, you may require more advanced forms of treatment. Consider talking to your doctor about your experience and seeking alternative forms of prevention and treatment.