Using the Paleo Diet to Manage Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the lower rectum. As they swell and the tissues around them weaken, these blood vessels may fall through the anus and extend outside the body. These misplaced blood vessels can bleed, usually causing fresh, red blood to streak toilet tissue or underwear, and causing itching, burning, and pain.

Medical experts don't really know how many people suffer hemorrhoids. The condition can occur to anyone at any age. Sometimes babies develop hemorrhoids while they are still in the womb. About 1 in 25 people worldwide is being treated for the condition at any given time, but because most people are hesitant to go to the doctor for an inspection of the anus, it is likely that many more people have hemorrhoids than are treated for them.

Not only do patients not care to be examined for hemorrhoids, doctors don't especially care to make the diagnosis. One study found that about 50% of conditions diagnosed as hemorrhoids were misdiagnosed, the actual condition being anal fissure, anal abscess, fistula, anal warts, or prolapse of the rectum, which suggests that most doctors don't spend even as much time “down there” as is necessary to determine the illness.

Of course, if you can cure your ano-rectal ailment with diet, all the better. And there are aspects of paleo dieting that can help in hemorrhoids and related conditions, primarily eating foods with more fiber.

Fiber lightens fecal matter. Fibers absorb water, making the stool bulkier and easier to pass, placing less pressure on weakened blood vessels in the lower rectum.

Fiber feeds probiotic bacteria. These bacteria in turn form up to 1/3 of the volume of fecal matter. The more bacteria in the gut, the more fiber they eat, and the lighter they make the stool.

Whether you are on a paleo diet or not, you don't want to add fiber to your diet by eating high-fiber wheat products. Wheat bran contains insoluble fiber. When this insoluble fiber reaches the stomach, it displaces stomach acid, increasing the likelihood of heartburn.

The kind of fiber you do want if you have hemorrhoids is soluble fiber, the kind of fiber found in leafy greens, salad greens, most vegetables, and most fruits. (A small amount of fruit is OK on most paleo diets.) This fiber mixes with the water in food and holds stomach acid down, letting it do its work so digested food goes down the digest tract, not up it.

Everyone who has hemorrhoids should eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and/or fruit per day, but if you don't eat these healthy foods now, start by adding a probiotic to your diet. Take a probiotic supplement like  Nexabiotic 20-Strain Multi-Probiotic Supplement. Eat small servings of foods that contain live bacteria, such as homemade or refrigerated (not canned) sauerkraut, kimchi, or, in small amounts, yogurt with live cultures.

Get the friendly bacteria into your gut before you start adding high-fiber foods, and then increase your consumption gradually. Eat 1 or 2 servings of veggies the first day, 1 or servings the second day, 3 servings the third day, 4 the fourth, and 5 the fifth day, reducing your consumption if you experience nausea, heartburn, bloating, or gas. About the third day you should find that bowel movements are easier and there is less pain and less evidence of bleeding. And after a few months, you may find your symptoms are greatly relieved with no other treatment at all.

See your doctor if you notice brown, “old” blood on toilet paper. That is a sign of bleeding that occurs further up the digestive tract, not in the lower rectum.

See your doctor if you notice mucus or pus on toilet tissue. And go to an emergency room if you experience sudden, unbearable abdominal pain, especially on the right side of your abdomen.

Modern surgical techniques have a success rate of over 90% for treating hemorrhoids, including the newer one-minute outpatient procedures that shrink swollen hemorrhoids with radio wave radiation. But diet is 90% effective, too. It just takes longer. If you have the willpower and patience to eat some natural, paleo-friendly plant foods, chances are your hemorrhoids will heal over a weeks, rather than over a few minutes. But they will heal, simply, slowly, inexpensively, and naturally, when you make sure to include plant foods on your paleo diet.

About Andy Williams

Andy Williams has a Ph.D. in biology and a strong interest in health and nutrition. The Paleo Gut web site was created to explore the health benefits of the Paleo diet and see how it is changing lives. Also, get our free daily Paleo Gut newspaper delivered to your inbox. Please feel free to contact me and let me know about your Paleo experiences or favorite recipes.

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