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Hemorrhoids

Stress and hemorrhoids: the unseen connection

Hemorrhoids, or swollen blood vessels in the rectum and anus, can transform a simple act like a bowel movement into a painful ordeal. The symptoms are hard to ignore - anal pain, itching, bleeding, and possible prolapse.

Stress, on the other hand, has become a part of modern life. Chronic stress has been linked to numerous health problems including high blood pressure or mental health issues like depression and anxiety. But can stress also contribute to hemorrhoids? Let's delve into the connection between stress and hemorrhoids.

Understanding hemorrhoids: internal and external 

Hemorrhoids can be classified into 2 types: internal hemorrhoids and external hemorrhoids. The former originates within the rectum, while the latter develops on the anus region. Regardless of the type, the passing of stools can cause serious symptoms in affected individuals.1

The role of stress in digestive health

It's important to note that while there is a relationship between hemorrhoids and stress, stress does not directly cause hemorrhoids. Instead, it disrupts the functioning of the digestive system, leading to conditions like constipation or diarrhea that can induce hemorrhoids.3

The digestive system, particularly the gut, is deeply influenced by stress. The gut, home to hundreds of millions of neurons and bacteria, communicates ceaselessly with the brain. Stress can interfere with this communication, triggering discomfort and potentially exacerbating digestive disorders.2

When stressed, the brain sends signals to the gut, which then reacts accordingly. In some people, these reactions can manifest as gut cramps, constipation, or diarrhea. These conditions, if severe, can lead to or worsen hemorrhoids.2

Managing stress to prevent hemorrhoids

Helping to prevent or manage hemorrhoids is possible with certain lifestyle modifications and stress-management techniques. Here are 6 practical ways to mitigate stress and promote healthy bowel movements:

  • Meditation:
    Mindfulness meditation can foster tranquility and help you focus, keeping stressful thoughts at bay.
  • Laughter therapy:
    Good laughter can reduce stress hormones and increase the release of feel-good chemicals. Watching a comedy or spending time with friends who bring joy can help lower stress levels.4
  • Bonding with loved ones:
    Connecting with family and friends during stressful times can provide the emotional support you need and may even help find solutions to your problems.
  • Music therapy:
    Upbeat music can help distract you, ease muscle tension, and reduce stress.
  • Exercise:
    Physical activity can stimulate the release of endorphins, promoting a sense of well-being and calm. It also helps regulate bowel function.4 Physical activity is a potent stress buster. Even if high-impact workouts are not your cup of tea, there are plenty of calming exercises you can do at home, like yoga, or taking a leisurely walk around your neighborhood.
  • Seek medical help:
    Despite your best efforts, if you are experiencing hemorrhoidal symptoms you should always consult your doctor for treatment advice. Your doctor can help you choose the best treatment for your situation, whether hemorrhoids treatment without surgery such as venoactive drugs or, when needed, to also explore the option of a medical procedure such as hemorrhoidal surgery to remove or reduce hemorrhoids. Only your doctor knows what’s the best option for you!
 

Stress and hemorrhoids are more closely linked than you might think. While stress does not directly cause hemorrhoids, it can significantly disrupt your digestive system, leading to conditions that induce hemorrhoids. By managing stress effectively and adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of developing hemorrhoids and improve your overall health.

Show references

References

1
Lohsiriwat V. Hemorrhoids: From basic pathophysiology to clinical management. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18:20069-2017.
3
De Marco S, Tiso D. Lifestyle and risk factors in hemorrhoidal disease. Front Surg. 2021;8:729166.
5
Credit image: Freepik