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Surprising Reasons You May Have Hemorrhoids

Doctors reveal everything to know about hemorrhoids.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Hemorrhoids are a common thing that most people will get at some point. While they can be painful, the good news is they only last a few days and usually go away without treatment. There's many reasons why hemorrhoids can happen, but there's a few surprising ways people can get them. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with doctors who explain what to know about hemorrhoids and the unexpected ways you may get them. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What are Hemorrhoids

middle-aged man chatting with doctor

Dr. Naheed A. Ali, MD, PhD with USA RX shares, "Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower rectum and anus, which can be painful, itchy, and uncomfortable. The symptoms often vary between sufferers, but generally speaking, they include bleeding from the anus, itching or burning sensation when passing water, pain or discomfort during bowel movements, and discharge from the anal area. A hemorrhoid is a medical condition that causes bleeding in the anal canal. Hemorrhoids are also known as piles or thrombosed piles. Hemorrhoids develop in many ways. Typically, the initial cause is straining during bowel movements and prolonged sitting. However, inadequate hygiene can also be a factor. The common symptoms of hemorrhoid development are soreness, itching, bleeding, and pain. As hemorrhoids worsen they can form swollen tissue which creates stomas (holes) where stool exits the body. According to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, one-third of all persons with hemorrhoids will develop a full-blown anorectal prolapse by the time they are 80 years old or older. In some cases, hemorrhoid symptoms may be the result of other conditions like diverticulitis and Crohn's disease."


You Can Get Hemorrhoids From Constipation

stomach pain

According to Dr. Ali, "If you suffer from constipation, it's probably because you aren't drinking enough water. If you require more fiber in your diet, then that should help you move your bowels a little easier. However, if you're not taking in enough fluids, then this can lead to constipation. Constipation can also lead to hemorrhoids."


You Can Get Hemorrhoids From Pregnancy

Portrait of the young pregnant woman

Dr. Ali reveals, "About 15 percent of pregnant women get hemorrhoids. The cause? They are caused by pressure on the pelvic area or constipation. If you're pregnant and you have hemorrhoids, there's still hope. You can take care of them with proper treatment. Consult your doctor if you have questions about how to go about it."

Dr. Mahmud Kara, MD Internal Medicine adds. "Pregnancy is often overlooked as one of the most common ways to get hemorrhoids. While a woman is pregnant, the expanded uterus can press on veins in the colon and the excess body weight can put strain on the blood vessels in the lower rectum area. Furthermore, if women do not get hemorrhoids while pregnant they may get them during childbirth—again, because of the excess pressure and strain during the childbirth process."


Drug Use

man holding a glass of alcohol and a handful of pills

According to Dr. Ali, "Hemorrhoids are caused by the same thing that causes all other types of bowel problems: constipation. If you take drugs like cocaine, methadone, heroin, or oxycodone, your body will need to pass more stool than it normally would, causing a strain on your colon muscles. This strain can cause hemorrhoids to develop. If you don't want to develop hemorrhoids from drug use, you should drink plenty of fluids every day and consume foods high in fiber."


Being Overweight

Female doctor measuring waist of overweight woman with measuring tape in clinic.

"You might think that you're the healthiest person on the planet, but if you're overweight, you could be getting hemorrhoids more often than they should occur," says Dr. Ali. "It all comes down to pressure. The heavier you are, the more pressure your body is putting on your colon and rectum, which can cause inflammation and even a type of hemorrhoid called a thrombosed hemorrhoid."


Poor Diet

Man eating pizza having a takeaway at home relaxing resting

Dr. Kara explains, "Eating certain foods may cause hemorrhoids because they inflame the gut microbiome, interfere with the normal digestive process, and may lead to constipation or other digestive issues. Foods like refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread), dairy products, and processed food items may lead to digestive problems that in turn lead to hemorrhoids. To reduce the likelihood of developing hemorrhoids, try to include more foods that are high in fiber value like fruits, leafy greens, beans, nuts, and sweet potatoes. Beyond high-fiber foods, certain diets like the ketogenic diet or eating foods that are high-protein fats, like avocado, fatty fish, and certain meats, can be helpful for hemorrhoid prevention. There is a caveat here when it comes to the ketogenic diet. It is common for people to start the keto diet and stop including fiber-rich foods in their diet as they begin to cut out carbohydrates—this can lead to constipation. However, most ketogenic diets do allow for a specific carbohydrate allotment each day which can be filled with "high-fiber" carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains rather than "low-fiber" carbohydrates like baked goods. This can help you avoid the constipation that may be associated with keto. These dietary changes can help improve your gut health, which in turn may help to reduce digestive issues, like constipation, that lead to the strain and pressure that causes hemorrhoids."


Lifting Heavy Items

gym weights lifting spotter

"You don't need to be a bodybuilder or olympic weightlifter to get hemorrhoids from trying to carry heavy items," emphasizes Dr. Kara. "Lifting heavy things, like moving a piece of furniture, can cause straining and swelling in the veins found in the lower rectum area—especially if you hold your breath or do not breathe properly while lifting heavy items."


Who Get Hemorrhoids

Doctor talking with an obese woman and measuring her.

Kashmira Govind, Pharmacist Health Writer for Farr Institute explains, "Typically, people who are obese/overweight can be more prone to hemorrhoids. Older people are also susceptible because the supportive network of tissues in the anal area loses strength, pregnancy places an increased pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvic area causing the blood vessel to prolapse, there may be a genetic component that predisposes you, People lifting heavy weights can place undue pressure on the pelvic area, Prolonged coughing and vomiting Prolonged periods of sitting also places pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvic area."


What People Should Know About Hemorrhoids


Dr. Kara states, "People should know that hemorrhoids are a common occurrence, but there are a few lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the likelihood or frequency of getting one.

  • Check your diet: make sure you are staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water, eating high-fiber foods, and avoiding foods that may inflame the gut and lead to constipation and straining during bowel movements
  • Physical activity: light to moderate exercise can help with more regular bowel movements, remaining still for long periods of time can slow down the digestive process
  • Change your bathroom habits: it may seem odd, but practicing good bathroom habits (avoid staying on the toilet for long periods of time, do not hold it in when you need to go, etc) can help with hemorrhoid prevention."

Govind adds, "Depending on the severity they can be easily managed at home with over-the-counter treatments and a few lifestyle changes. Fiber intake is key to producing a stool that is easily evacuated without strain. Fiber in your diet would include seeds, nuts, fresh fruit and veg and wholegrain products. Additionally, drink more water so that the fiber holds onto the water to soften the stool. Be mindful to not strain when on the toilet. Daily physical movement helps keep the bowels moving. Avoid "holding it in" for whatever reason. You should go to the toilet as soon as you have the urge to pass a stool. Avoid sitting for prolonged periods. If your symptoms are more severe, visit your doctor for further intervention."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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