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Hemorrhoids are quite common in women during pregnancy. The other common cause of hemorrhoids is straining during bowel movements—usually because of constipation or dry, hard feces.

What are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids (or piles) are swollen and enlarged veins in the anal area.  Hemorrhoids are caused by increased pressure in the veins in the pelvic and rectal area—the veins can get swollen and enlarged and result in a hemorrhoid. They can be internal or external. They are not always painful—often, people are unaware they have hemorrhoids, especially the internal ones. External hemorrhoids tend to be more painful—but not always. 

Hemorrhoids.jpgA person can have both internal and external hemorrhoids at the same time. Both types of hemorrhoids can range in size from very small and barely noticed to quite large and uncomfortable.  The most common signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids are blood on the toilet paper, itching and/or pain in the rectal area, especially when cleaning the anal area, and a feeling of discomfort or pain with bowel movements.  Hemorrhoids are quite common in women during pregnancy. The other common cause of hemorrhoids is straining during bowel movements—usually because of constipation or dry, hard feces.

How Can I Prevent Hemorrhoids?

One of the best things you can do to prevent hemorrhoids is to maintain healthy bowels with regular bowel movements. 

Some ways you can do this is by:
  • Drink plenty of plain water—the drier the stool, the harder it is to pass
  • Eat lots of high-fiber foods.  This includes whole grains like brown rice, flax and bran, fruits with the skin such as apples and plums, and vegetables such as leafy greens (Swiss chard, mustard and collard greens, spinach and beet tops).
  • When you are in the bathroom—leave yourself the time!  Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge and relax—try not to strain to pass the stools.
  • Lower the acid pH of your stools by avoiding: 1) soft drinks 2) citrus fruits and juices, and 3) beer and wine.
  • Avoid caffeine—especially coffee.
  • Elevate your knees when sitting on the toilet—this mimics the squatting posture that was used for thousands of years before the invention of the toilet!  The theory is that it makes bowel movements easier.
  • Keep active—bowels work better when you are more physically active.  If you have a desk job, see if you can take a quick walk once or twice a day.
  • Most people should have 1-2 bowel movements every day.
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