Help for Hemorrhoids

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Published 3-14-09

“Dear Pharmacist,

I have hemorrhoids that are very uncomfortable. What can I do to treat them and prevent the flare ups?”

–J.C. Ocala, Florida

Answer: Hemorrhoids (also called “piles”) are blood vessels that have become abnormally enlarged and swollen around the area of the rectum. They cause a lot of pain for about 9 million Americans and are most often triggered by straining on the toilet; straining occurs because of constipation, often the result of consuming processed foods and too little fiber. It’s interesting though that one Oreo cookie has the same amount of fiber as 15 – 20 grapes, yet cookies are constipating, grapes are not. If we all had 20/20 hindsight, we would not eat constipating foods or other offenders such as dairy, meat, fried foods, sugar and anything that comes out of a box.

Medications — such as allergy pills, cold medicine, over-the-counter sleep aids and patches or pills used for motion sickness can cause or intensify hemorrhoids. So can iron and calcium supplements. While hemorrhoids can be a pain in the hiney, they are fortunately very treatable; only rarely is surgery needed. Another important aspect to curing hemorrhoids is water –drink it! Here are other tips and remedies:

Ice: Apply an ice pack to the area for 10 minutes three or four times daily.

Probiotics: These supplements provide your intestines with a friendly camp of healthy bacteria and improve digestion and elimination. Take probiotics with anything else in this list.

Creams: Pharmacies carry products to relieve pain, itching and inflammation such as presoaked witch hazel wipes (like Tucks) and hydrocortisone creams (like Preparation H). Hemorrhol by Life Flo is a unique natural product sold at health food stores that contains cat’s claw, green tea extract, cod liver oil and witch hazel.

Stool softeners and laxatives: If your body tends to produce hard stools, take a stool softener like Colace (docusate). Laxatives like Metamucil (psyllium fiber), Dulcolax (bisacodyl) or Senokot-S (senna and docusate) are widely available. Aloe vera juice, sold at health food stores, is a natural laxative that has health benefits beyond the bowels.

Mullein Tea: It’s fine to drink the tea, but for hemorrhoids I have a better idea to reduce swelling. Steep the tea bag, then cool it in the refrigerator. Use it to swab the anus.

Comfrey Leaf: Buy the powdered root and make a paste out of it with water to apply externally. You can also take supplements by mouth. Comfrey is historically used for varicose veins because it strengthens connective tissue.

Butcher’s Broom: You can find ointments and suppositories which help ease pain and improve circulation. Oral supplements are touted for varicose veins.

Silica: Silica helps strengthen and normalize tissue. If you buy Cellfood’s liquid silica you can supplement with it orally, and also squirt some on a cotton pad to apply to the painful area. Horsetail  capsules (Equisetum arvense) are also a source of silica.

Did You Know?
Magnesium supplements can help relax you, reduce muscle tension and relieve constipation.