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Link Between Obesity and Hemorrhoids

If you have hemorrhoids, you’re all too familiar with the pain, itching, and rectal bleeding, they cause. Both men and women can develop these uncomfortable swollen veins in the lower rectum that make bowel movements painful. You may see or feel hemorrhoids on the outside of the anus, but sometimes they occur a little deeper – out of sight – inside the rectum.

Did you know your weight can affect your risk of developing hemorrhoids? They occur most often in people who are overweight, pregnant, or older. If you regularly hold back from using the restroom or sit for long periods of time, you’re more likely to develop them, too.

At Digestive Disorders Associates in Annapolis, Maryland, our team of gastroenterologists is available to answer all of your hemorrhoid questions. We can help you adopt lifestyle habits that make these painful veins less likely to develop. One step to take is achieving a healthier weight.

Your weight matters when it comes to hemorrhoids, so we want to share more about that link.

Low-fiber diets promote hemorrhoids

An important way to prevent hemorrhoids, or treat them once they’ve developed, is to adopt a high-fiber diet. This helps prevent constipation, which encourages hemorrhoids. When you’re constipated, straining to pass stools can irritate the veins in the rectum and anus. If you do manage to pass stool, they’re often hard and compact, which further irritates the area.

Overweight or obese people aren’t alone in getting a low-fiber diet. Research shows only about 5% of Americans meet national recommended intakes for fiber. Fiber is abundant in many fresh fruits and vegetables as well as cereal grains. Celery, blueberries, and oatmeal are fabulous sources. The standard American diet that contains lots of refined grains, sugar, and meats isn’t super fiber-filled -- and, this diet contributes to overweight and obesity.

It’s hard to gain a whole lot of weight eating high-fiber foods. Fiber itself doesn’t have calories, and most of the foods containing fiber are fantastic for your waistline.

The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25-30 grams per day, at minimum. Increase your intake of fiber slowly, as too much too soon can cause loose stools, bloating, and gas. We can help you develop a smart eating plan that includes enough fiber, or we can recommend fiber supplements if you’re unable to add enough through whole foods.  

Chronic sitting contributes to hemorrhoids

Prolonged periods of sitting can push your veins downward, causing irritation and swelling that shows up as painful hemorrhoids. When you’re overweight or obese, you’re more likely to be inactive. Excess weight puts even more pressure on your veins.

The simplest solution to prolonged sitting is to get up and move. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. It doesn’t have to be overly strenuous, so a walk or stretch is a great place to start. You can begin with just a few minutes at a time, several times per day. Work your way up to more rigorous exercise and longer durations over several weeks or months.

Any exercise keeps your muscles supple and toned, including the muscles in your intestines. Activity keeps your bowels moving regularly, discouraging hemorrhoid-promoting constipation.

In addition to discouraging constipation and hemorrhoids, physical activity boosts your overall health by helping promote good sleep, weight loss, and better immunity. Exercise also helps reduce your risk of chronic disease, including cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

You can reduce incidences of hemorrhoids

Adopting a healthier, higher-fiber diet and exercise are important steps to take, regardless of your weight, when it comes to reducing the risk of hemorrhoids. You should also make sure you drink plenty of fluids. When you’re hydrated, you’re better able to process the fiber you’re eating and move your stools more easily. Water is your best beverage choice.

And, when you feel the urge to go, just go. Don’t wait for a time that seems more “convenient.” Holding back stool only worsens constipation and hemorrhoids.

If you’re plagued by chronic hemorrhoids and these simple interventions don’t help, we may recommend a medical procedure to remove or reduce hemorrhoids. You’ll still benefit from a high-fiber diet, exercise, and optimal fluid intake even when your hemorrhoids have been treated. These steps can help you achieve a healthier body overall, too.

Make an appointment with us at Digestive Disorders Associates for any gastroenterological concerns you have, including hemorrhoid management and treatment. Call today -- we can help. 

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