Most of us already know that our food choices affect bowel and digestive health directly. But when it comes to hemorrhoids, the confusion over finding the ideal diet can leave many people at a loss.
Here’s what I’ve learned as someone who’s spent years optimizing my diet for medical conditions, including hemorrhoids.
The Connection Between Diet and Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids form when rectal veins swell up because of unusual intestinal activity like constipation or diarrhea. Any food your body digests make its way through the digestive tract and leaves the body through the rectum. So, your food choices can aggravate the condition or improve the symptoms depending on what you put on the plate.
Stool consistency is a huge factor when it comes to hemorrhoidal symptoms. The hardened stool is more difficult to pass through the intestines. And it’ll increase the need to strain when you’re on the toilet. Both are terrible contributors to worsening your hemorrhoids.
Other times, imbalanced diets may lead to constipation. Rectal tissues and surrounding veins swell up faster when stool refuses to pass through its natural course.
Also, when you have hemorrhoids, some food items that are otherwise safe may irritate and aggravate sensitive tissues. This irritation worsens your hemorrhoidal symptoms.
In all these instances, the stuff you put on your plate affects your hemorrhoids directly. The goal is to strike that balance of increasing healthier choices like fiber and regular hydration while avoiding excessive processed items.
And here’s how to do it.
Foods That Can Help Ease Hemorrhoids
We don’t have the space (or time) to go through every item of food considered ‘good’ for hemorrhoids.
So, I’ll go through the types and groups of foods you should eat more to lessen and reduce hemorrhoidal symptoms or prevent them altogether.
- Good Old H20
Okay, so this one isn’t a food group, to be honest. But it’s so crucial yet so overlooked that I had to mention it first. Regular hydration ensures softer stools and good digestive health and is simply an all-around benefit to the body. Watery foods like soups, watermelon, oranges, etc., are also good additions.
- Fiber Foods
Fiber is the one food group you should aim to increase, even if you fail to remember any of the other points mentioned here. It’s excellent for bowel health. They add volume to your stool while keeping them soft. So there’s less risk of developing hemorrhoids. And there’s less irritation even if you already have the condition.
- Healthy Probiotics
Your digestive system uses healthy bacteria to break down and digest the food you eat. A lack of healthy bacteria or an increase in unhealthy bacteria can lead to diarrhea or other bowel problems. Probiotics are the good ones that your gut needs to ensure proper digestion. Consider adding healthy fermented foods like yogurt or Kimchi to your diet.
Flavonoids are a group of healthy compounds from fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based nutrition. They’re anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and offer protection to your system in many ways. Citric fruits, berries, tea, wine, etc., are all good stores of Flavonoids.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
An excellent food choice when your hemorrhoidal symptoms flare up is Omega-3 fatty acids. Think salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, etc. If fish isn’t your favorite, consider plant sources like flaxseeds and walnuts.
Your diet’s effect on hemorrhoidal symptoms goes both ways. As much as some food items help the condition, others worsen it.
Here’s what to avoid when your hemorrhoidal pain or discomfort shoots up.
- Full-fat Dairy
Unlike low-fat yogurt, full-fat dairy products have worse conditions like constipation when you have hemorrhoids. Ice-creams and sundaes taste great, but they’re not the best choice when you want to improve bowel health and hemorrhoidal symptoms.
- Spicy Foods
This one’s a no-brainer, but I’ve come across many patients who ignore this advice. Weekend outings to your favorite Indian restaurant are fun, but the spice may irritate your bowels leading to unhealthy bowel movements. You risk aggravating the hemorrhoid’s swollen veins and prolonging the condition.
It’s not just coffee we’re talking about here. Any caffeinated food or beverage is best avoided when you have hemorrhoids. Caffeine may dehydrate your body, leading to harder stools. Other times, it may induce more frequent bowel movements and cause diarrhea.
- Fried Food Items
Avoid those greasy items on the menu when you step into your favorite diner. The occasional indulgence may be okay, but frequently eating fatty foods extends the digestive process. You may even gain additional weight, which puts extra pressure on the abdomen and, worse, your hemorrhoids.
Tips for Incorporating Hemorrhoid-Friendly Foods into Your Diet
- Plan your meals in advance so that you don’t end up raiding the fridge when hungry.
- Look up tasty smoothie recipes online to get as many fruits and healthy vegetables as you can in your diet.
- Learn to love the taste of salads and greens in your meals.
- Add healthy soups as part of your diet to avoid unnecessary snacking between meals.
- Carry packets or mini-meals of nuts, berries, or dried fruits that you can snack on throughout the day.
Sample Meal Plans for Hemorrhoid Management
Here are some sample combos you can try to increase healthier foods when experiencing hemorrhoids.
- Enjoy a bowl of oats with some sliced fruits for breakfast. Then, feast on some cooked quinoa with stir-fried shrimp for lunch. And end your day with a salmon fillet with some roasted cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts.
- Start your day with a fruity smoothie that includes chia seeds, bananas, and berries of your choice. Enjoy a rich lentil soup with diced onions and carrots for lunch. Finally, cap it off with a chickpea salad garnished with red onion and cherry tomatoes for dinner.
- Begin breakfast with a veggie omelet that includes sliced mushrooms and bell peppers. Add life to your lunch with a salad wrap using a whole grain tortilla, some baby spinach, and sliced cheese. Cap it off with baked chicken breasts paired with roasted sweet potatoes and some broccoli sides.
Your choice of food remains the single most important factor when managing hemorrhoids through lifestyle changes. Avoid fatty foods, caffeine, excessive alcohol, and spicy menus.
Ensure that you’re getting in enough fiber, a lot of water, and a good balance of probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, and Flavonoids across all your daily meals.