I realize that talking about hemorrhoids is not polite cocktail conversation. With that in mind, I use every other opportunity I have to educate the public on this too-often embarrassing subject. My 30 years as a board certified colon and rectal surgeon qualifies me to speak on the subject. Hopefully I will demystify some of the commonly held beliefs, reduce the discomfort associated with hemorrhoid talk, and possibly keep you off of the operating table.
First of all, let’s look at a few numbers. Hemorrhoids are one of the most common aliments found today according to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. More than 50% of the population over the age of forty experience hemorrhoids at some point in their life. But that does not mean the younger folks are off the hook.
Occupations that require long periods of being seated such as pilots, truck drivers, and accountants, as well as weightlifters, are susceptible. Women know they are a nuisance that often accompanies late stage pregnancy and post partum periods.
Another important number is that 100% of the patients that I see with hemorrhoid symptoms have tried over-the-counter remedies before seeking medical attention. It is very important that you get an accurate medical diagnosis. Not all patients presenting with anorectal pain, discomfort, itching, bleeding, and swelling, have hemorrhoids. Anal fistulas, prolapsed rectum, and, of course, anal or colon cancer, may show symptoms in a similar way. I cannot stress enough the importance of regular colonoscopies after the age of fifty and candidly discussing any hemorrhoid symptoms with your family physician.
There are many things you can do to help with your own anorectal health. Even if you are prone to hemorrhoids, you can take steps to avoid them, or find a bit of relief:
- Drink plenty of water–48-64 oz per day should be your goal
- Get active for at least thirty minutes a day
- Try to minimize the time spent sitting on the toilet
- Increase your fiber intake to at least 30+ grams a day
There are many reasons to eat a fiber-rich diet and helping your stool is just one of them. Fiber helps satisfy appetites by giving a feeling of fullness. Insoluble fiber from wheat bran and whole grains passes through the digestive system quickly, helping with regularity and reducing the risk of colon diseases. Fiber helps your heart too. Soluble fiber from oats, dry beans, grains, some fruits, and vegetables may help decrease cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease risk.
The treatment of hemorrhoids via alternative measures has not been well developed. It deserves a much closer look. Delisting of drugs by the FDA in the late 70’s led to a flood of drugs delisted to the category of supplements, and the growth of the natural health food industry.
One of these delisted drugs was bromelain. Bromelain is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory supplement that is marketed as an aid to digestion. The anti-inflammatory properties make it ideal for treatment of hemorrhoids. It has the added benefit of being administered in pill form, thereby making it easier for people to manage the problem. Bromelain is not recommended for anyone allergic to pineapples or taking blood thinners or anticoagulants. The supplement originates in the stalk of the pineapple plant and has been used to treat a number of medical conditions. I find it very helpful in treating the symptoms associated with hemorrhoids.
Similarly, witch hazel has been used for many years to treat various conditions. Most people think of it as an astringent, but it is by far the most commonly available product for hemorrhoids in health food stores. Combining witch hazel and bromelain works as a powerful solution in addressing the problems of hemorrhoids.
Psyllium has also been used for years to treat hemorrhoids. It decreases the issues of constipation and diarrhea, both of which can aggravate hemorrhoids. I tested a combination of these 3 ingredients in my clinical practice and found results far better than expected. Patients taking these ingredients before surgery started canceling their hemorrhoid procedures. Anecdotally, I realized this combination is an effective all-natural alternative for the treatment of hemorrhoids.
Patient satisfaction of 97% has been reported when this all-natural alternative treatment is used in conjunction with correct diagnosis. Do not try to diagnose and treat yourself. See your doctor. Make sure that the doctor does an exam of the anorectal area, and get a colonoscopy if you are over 50.
Banish your embarrassment–we need to be talking about hemorrhoids.
Dr. Joseph Thornton is a board certified colon and rectal surgeon. He has been practicing in Las Vegas, NV for the past 34 years and is the Founder and CEO of TUSHM.D. LLC. He can be reached at [email protected]