Hemorrhoids and diet: Foods to avoid and those to favor
Hemorrhoids, often an uncomfortable topic of conversation, are a common health problem, with the worldwide prevalence of hemorrhoids in the general population estimated at 4.4%.7 Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower rectum or anus, often causing pain, itching, or bleeding. They can have a major impact on quality of life.
A crucial facet of managing hemorrhoids lies in the realm of nutrition. This article aims to shed light on how your diet can influence the condition of hemorrhoids, guiding you through foods that can alleviate the symptoms and those that might exacerbate the problem.1
The Role of Diet in Hemorrhoids
The nature of your stools, and their ease of passage, can influence the inception and progression of hemorrhoids. The type of food and liquids you consume play a role in determining the characteristics of your stools.
Understanding Fiber: The Hemorrhoids' Friend
Fiber, often known as the champion nutrient for digestive health, comes in 2 types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, found in foods like oats and legumes, forms a gel-like substance when mixed with water during digestion. This type of fiber helps soften stools, making them easier to pass and reducing the chance of constipation, one of the primary cause of hemorrhoids.2
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not dissolve in water. It adds bulk to your stools and aids in moving them through your digestive system. Foods’s rich in insoluble fiber include whole grains and many vegetables.2
Typically, an adult should ingest about 25-30 grams of fiber daily. Too much fiber too quickly, however, can cause gas and bloating, so it's advisable to increase intake gradually, particularly if you're not used to a high-fiber diet.2
Hydration: The Unknown Hero
Drinking plenty of fluids is as crucial as a high-fiber diet when it comes to managing hemorrhoids. Proper hydration softens stools and aids in regular bowel movements. Aim for at least 8-10 large glasses of water every day.3
Foods That Favor Hemorrhoid Management
Let's delve into the specific foods that can help manage and prevent hemorrhoids, thanks to their high fiber content and other beneficial properties.
Legumes and Nuts
The legume family, including beans, lentils, and peas, are packed with fiber.2 For instance, just half a cup of beans such as kidney, navy, lima, or black beans can provide 7-10 grams of fiber. Nuts like almonds or pecans also have around 3 grams of fiber per 20 pieces.4 These foods can be easily incorporated into your meals in salads, soups, or even as a snack.
Whole grains like barley, quinoa, oats, whole rye, wheat, and brown rice are rich in fiber. Opting for whole grain over refined grain options can significantly increase your fiber intake, promoting healthy digestion and easing the symptoms of hemorrhoids.5
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are a treasure trove of fiber and other essential nutrients. Eating them with the skin on can increase the fiber content. For instance, a medium pear or apple with skin can provide around 5 grams of fiber. Vegetables like green peas, collard greens, and sweet potatoes are also high in fiber.5
Foods to Sidestep
While some foods can help manage hemorrhoids, others may worsen the symptoms or contribute to constipation, leading to hemorrhoids. Below are some foods you might want to limit.
Dairy and Meat
Dairy products like milk, cheese, and ice cream, along with meat, are low in fiber and can contribute to constipation.
Processed foods, including sandwich meats, pizza, frozen meals, and fast foods, often lack fiber and can lead to constipation, exacerbating hemorrhoids.6
Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, cakes, and cookies, have the bran and germ layers removed, reducing their fiber content. They can slow down digestion and lead to constipation.3
While the information in this guide can help manage and prevent hemorrhoids, it's essential to consult your doctor if you're experiencing any symptoms. They can propose a complete treatment plan, such as venoactive treatment, tailored to your needs.