8 Habits You Didn’t Know Could Cause Hemorrhoids
Three out of four adults will endure the itching, burning, and bleeding of hemorrhoids at some point in their lives. These habits make them more likely.
You’ve heard of them. Maybe you’re even unlucky enough to be that one in 20 Americans who has had them. Still, you may wonder: What exactly is a hemorrhoid? “Hemorrhoids are dilated, swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum,” says David Greenwald, MD, director of clinical gastroenterology and endoscopy at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. “They may be asymptomatic, or may cause discomfort and occasional bleeding.” Here are eight everyday habits that can cause them.
You’re lifting heavy objects
You may think it’s harmless to pick up one end of the couch while you’re moving. But it could cause you to bear down too hard. That increases pressure in the rectum, causing the veins (called the hemorrhoidal plexus) to swell like a balloon, says Darren Brenner, MD, associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a gastroenterologist at Northwestern Medical Group in Chicago. Boom: hemorrhoids. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to avoid this completely. Lifting correctly—you know, with your knees, not your back—can help.
You’re over-ambitious at the gym
For the same reason hoisting a big box can give you hemorrhoids, so too can lifting heavy weights at the gym, says Dr. Brenner. The idea is to challenge yourself, of course, but make sure that you’re catering the workout to your abilities, and using weights that are right for you. These weight-lifting mistakes can ruin your workout.
You’re sitting on the toilet…forever
When thinking about what causes hemorrhoids, consider your toilet time. Sure, it’s nice to hang out with your smartphone in the bathroom—it’s so quiet and relaxing in there!—but sitting too long on an open toilet bowl will cause gravity to put undue stress on these veins. Take all the time you need to go, says Dr. Brenner, but once you’re done, flush and head out. Taking too long in the john? Here’s how to get things moving again when you’re constipated.
Your diet isn’t that great
If you’re making too many fast-food runs or relying on packaged snacks to get through the day, you may not be getting enough fiber. The necessary nutrient helps bulk up and soften your stool so it can sail through your GI tract smoothly.
“Consuming an adequate amount of fiber—whether through food, supplements, or a combination—leads to bulkier stools, which are then generally softer,” explains Dr. Greenwald. “The typical recommendation for adults is 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day, along with 64 ounces of fluid.”
A review of studies published in 2015 in World Journal of Gastroenterology shows that supplementing with fiber helps lessen hemorrhoid symptoms and bleeding. Here’s how to get more fiber into your diet.
You just can’t go
If you go number two fewer than three times a week, you’re probably constipated. And the associated straining over lumpy, hard stools “causes the anal cushions that support these veins to become stretched, leading the hemorrhoidal veins to dilate and possibly lead to symptoms,” says Dr. Greenwald.
Exercising, eating enough fiber, and sipping enough water to address thirst are all lifestyle tweaks you can make to get more regular. (Try these surprising home remedies to cure constipation.)
You have diarrhea
One of the most common hemorrhoid causes is going too often. You’d think the result would be just the opposite. But pooping multiple times a day means you spend a lot of time on the toilet, possibly bearing down and straining. The fix, says Dr. Brenner, is to address the underlying reason behind your diarrhea. It may be viral (like the flu), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), medications, or a foodborne illness. Or you may need to simply tweak your diet. Be sure to avoid these fiber mistakes that can bother your belly.
Growing a tiny human is a beautiful—but often not-so-glamorous—process. “Pregnancy leads to straining, thought to be from increased intra-abdominal pressure from the expanding uterus and fetus,” says Dr. Greenwald.”It can be very troublesome for pregnant women. Many continue to have hemorrhoids following the delivery of the baby.”
In fact, a review of studies, published in 2014 in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found that almost 41 percent of pregnant women get hemorrhoids. They’re especially common during the last trimester and one month after delivery.
Traditional treatment, such as eating more fiber, staying hydrated, and taking stool softeners, can help expectant moms.
You skipped the gym…again
Everybody knows that being active goes a long way toward helping you maintain a healthy weight. But did you know that it can also lessen your odds of getting hemorrhoids? “Regular exercise—greater than 30 minutes per day of aerobic exercise—helps improve regular bowel functional,” says Dr. Greenwald. But that’s not the only reason.
A study published in the International Journal of Colorectal Disease found a connection between BMI (body mass index) and hemorrhoids. For every point increase in BMI, adults had a 3.5 percent higher risk of suffering from hemorrhoids. That’s because excess weight applies extra pressure on the anal area.
Count this as one more reason to move your body for the recommended 150 minutes per week. (This is the best time to work out.)
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, "Definition & Facts of Hemorrhoids"
- David Greenwald, MD, director of clinical gastroenterology and endoscopy at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City
- Darren Brenner, MD, associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a gastroenterologist at Northwestern Medical Group in Chicago
- World Journal of Gastroenterology "Treatment of hemorrhoids: A coloproctologist’s view"
- BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, "Haemorrhoids and anal fissures during pregnancy and after childbirth: a prospective cohort study"
- International Journal of Colorectal Disease, "The prevalence of hemorrhoids in adults"