By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Piles or haemorrhoids are caused due to increased pressure or straining while passing stools or due to weak muscles around the anus. This leads to bulging and swollen blood vessels that often protrude and lumps while passing stools. These may bleed or may lead to discomfort, pain and itching around the anus.
There are several lifestyle changes that may be adopted to reduce the symptoms of piles and reduce episodes of aggravated piles in susceptible individuals. These include consuming fibre in your diet, practising good bowel habits and so forth. 1-5
Fibre in diet and prevention of piles
Inclusion of at least 25 to 30 grams of insoluble fibres in diet per day: this can be taken in normal diet in form of high fibre foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cereals, etc.
These fibres cause absorption of water in the stools within the colon. This makes the stools softer and increases the volume. This reduces the straining and pressure on the anal blood vessels.
People with risk of haemorrhoids should choose high fiber breakfast cereals. Products with five grams of fiber per serving should be chosen. There are also over the counter high-fiber supplements that are available for these at-risk individuals.
Diet should be low in fat and red meat since these predispose to constipation. Other foods like peas, beans and lentils should be included.
Good bowel habits and prevention of piles
Good bowel habits should be practised. All at-risk individuals are advised to go to the bathroom as soon as they feel the urge. Waiting may harden stools.
They are advised not to sit on the toilet for more than five minutes and avoid straining. If there is not urge the person is asked to get up.
Other ways to prevent piles
Other changes that may reduce the symptoms of piles include:
All people who are at risk need to take at least six to eight glasses of water daily to keep the stools lubricated.
Alcohol and caffeine containing drinks (tea, coffee and colas) should be avoided as these predispose to constipation.
Vigorous wiping especially with a dry toilet paper should be avoided as it irritates the skin around the anus.
Weight should be reduced since obesity and being overweight is a risk factor for piles.
Regular physical exercise is important since this helps in weight reduction and also helps in regular bowel movements and avoids constipation.
Stool softeners are medications that may be used in people with constipation to correct constipation before it can predispose to piles.
Some medications may lead to risk of constipation. These should be avoided. These include cough syrups with codeine.
Other conditions that predispose to piles include chronic cough, ascitis and liver disease. These conditions need treatment.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Last Updated: Sep 4, 2012