You may think hemorrhoids are a problem of the modern world, born of our refined diet and sedentary ways. And it's true they're one of the most common problems doctors encounter today. But while our "civilized" lifestyle certainly contributes to the condition, people have been suffering from hemorrhoids, or "piles" as they used to be called, for centuries. And then as now, the cause and best remedies remain the same.

In this article, we will look at altenative treatments for hemorrhoids and how to control them through the choices you make in your diet. First, though, we will provide an overview of this painful condition:

It's All About Pressure

The cause of hemorrhoids is stress on the veins in the rectum. That pressure can come from many sources, including standing upright for long periods; pregnancy; straining or pushing because of constipation, diarrhea, or trying to force a bowel movement; sitting too long; obesity; and even prolonged coughing and sneezing.

Too much pressure can cause veins in the rectum and anus to swell and stretch out of shape. Internal hemorrhoids form just under the tissue that lines the inside of the rectum. They are not visible unless they become so big they prolapse, or fall down and protrude through the anus.

External hemorrhoids form outside the rectum, in the veins surrounding the anus.

Either type of hemorrhoid can bleed, although external ones are more prone to bleeding, because they're easily irritated. The itching, burning, and pain typically associated with hemorrhoids result from the external variety. If an internal hemorrhoid develops a fissure -- a tear or ulcer in the anal canal -- or forms a blood clot, it can cause severe pain. But normally, internal hemorrhoids don't burn or itch, because there are no nerve endings in the lining of the rectum. Indeed, in 1991 the Food and Drug Administration banned 30 over-the-counter hemorrhoid preparations from the market as unsafe or ineffective because they were purportedly designed to relieve discomfort inside the rectum. Now, products must be labeled "for external use only."

Almost all rectal bleeding is due to hemorrhoids, but because such bleeding can, in rare instances, signal other serious disease, notably colon cancer, you should always consult a doctor if you spot blood in the toilet or on the toilet tissue after you wipe if that bleeding lasts more than a day. External hemorrhoids are easily diagnosed, but to detect internal hemorrhoids, a doctor may need to use a special instrument called a proctoscope to look inside the rectum.

In the next section, we will focus on how to fix your hemorrhoids and how to prevent them.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.