Hemorrhoids are enlarged blood vessels under the lining of the rectum and anus. They are similar to varicose veins in that they are blood vessels that allow blood to pool, swelling the tissues. Hemorrhoids can result from extended periods of inactivity, straining to have bowel movements, chronic diarrhea, obesity, or pregnancy.
The treatment of hemorrhoids is one area in which alternative therapy is gaining acceptance with conventional physicians. Several therapies offer natural pain relief from hemorrhoids and aid in preventing a recurrence.
Nutritional Therapy for Hemorrhoids
Nutritional therapy can reduce the pain of hemorrhoids and prevent future ones. One way to prevent the straining that can lead to hemorrhoids is to ensure softer stools. Include unrefined fiber and lots of water and decaffeinated liquids. (Coffee and other drinks with caffeine act as laxatives and can train the colon to be lazy, only producing bowel movements with the help of artificial stimulation.)
Certain nutritional supplements such as vitamin C and the bioflavonoids can strengthen the tone of blood vessel walls and prevent hemorrhoids in other ways. Excess body weight can also make someone susceptible to hemorrhoids, so weight loss is a good idea.
In addition to prevention, nutritional therapy can help ease the pain of hemorrhoids as well. Certain foods, such as coffee, red pepper, mustard, and alcohol, can irritate hemorrhoids as they are passed out of the body. Avoid these.
Consuming sufficient amounts of insoluble and soluble fiber in your daily diet, together with drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water, should eliminate problems with hard stool. Good sources of insoluble fiber include:
- wheat bran
- fruits such as apples and pears
- vegetables such as carrots and spinach
- brown rice
Good sources of soluble fiber include:
- oatmeal or oat bran
Herbal Medicine for Hemorrhoids
Herbs can be used to shrink and strengthen the blood vessels around the anus, providing relief from the pain and bleeding of hemorrhoids. Witch hazel, a native American plant, acts as an astringent when applied to the hemorrhoids. (Be prepared: Witch hazel may sting during the application.) It's often used in distilled or extract form. Another valuable astringent is stone root, often taken in capsule form.
Other herbs commonly used to treat hemorrhoids include:
- bayberry bark
- butcher's broom
- horse chestnut
Hydrotherapy for Hemorrhoids
Hydrotherapists use applications of water to ease the pain of hemorrhoids and encourage the circulation of blood in the area around the anus. The types of hydrotherapy commonly used for hemorrhoids are:
- alternating warm and cold sitz baths -- soaking the area
- hot and cold compresses -- alternating applications of comfortably hot and ice-cold washcloths
- cold compresses -- applying ice-cold cloths only
Certain herbs, such as yarrow, can be added to the water in each of these treatments for an astringent effect. Follow these steps for an alternating sitz bath:
- Fill the bathtub with four inches of comfortably warm water.
- Sit in the tub with your knees bent and near your chest.
- Sit for five minutes.
- Refill the tub with cold water.
- Sit in the cold water the same way for one minute.
- Repeat the procedure three times.
Other Hemorrhoid Therapies
- Aromatherapy for Hemorrhoids -- Several essential oils, including cypress, geranium, and myrrh, can be used in sitz baths and as compresses.
- Ayurvedic Medicine for Hemorrhoids -- Treatment can involve dietary changes, stress reduction (including meditation), and herbal therapy (with astringent herbs).
- Detoxification, Fasting, and Colon Therapy for Hemorrhoids -- Fasting can relieve constipation.
- Homeopathy for Hemorrhoids -- Common remedies include nux vomica, belladonna, hamamelis, and collinsonia.
- Yoga for Hemorrhoids -- Yoga offers exercises to relieve constipation and improve circulation.