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Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are enlarged raised veins in the anus or rectum.

Common hemorrhoids are often linked to both diarrhea1 and constipation. Although the belief that hemorrhoids are caused by constipation has been questioned by researchers,2 most doctors feel that many hemorrhoids are triggered by the straining that accompanies chronic constipation.3 Therefore, natural approaches to hemorrhoids sometimes focus on overcoming constipation.

 

Rating Nutritional Supplements Herbs
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Fiber
Flavonoids (hydroxyethylrutosides derived from rutin)
Horse chestnut
Psyllium
Witch hazel
Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

 

What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?

Symptoms of hemorrhoids may include painful swelling or a lump in the anus that can bleed and become inflamed, often causing discomfort and itching. There may also be bright red blood on the toilet paper, the stool, or in the toilet bowl.

Surgical treatment may be recommended for hemorrhoids that become very enlarged, protrude from the anus (prolapse), bleed frequently, or contain blood clots (thrombosis). Common procedures include freezing the affected tissue (cryotherapy), injecting chemicals into the hemorrhoid to shrink it (sclerosing solutions), surgically removing the hemorrhoid (hemorrhoidectomy), or placing rubber bands around the hemorrhoid for removal (ligation).

Dietary changes that may be helpful for hemorrhoids

Populations in which fiber intake is high have a very low incidence of hemorrhoids. Insoluble fiber—the kind found primarily in whole grains and vegetables—increases the bulk of stool. Drinking water with a high-fiber meal or a fiber supplement results in softer, bulkier stools, which can move more easily. As a result, most doctors believe that fiber in combination with increased intake of liquids helps to treat people with hemorrhoids. Nonetheless, few clinical trials compare the effects of fiber supplementation against the effects of placebo in hemorrhoid sufferers.

Nutritional supplements that may be helpful for hemorrhoids

A number of flavonoids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and/or to strengthen blood vessels. These effects could, in theory, be beneficial for people with hemorrhoids. Most,4 5 6 7 but not all,8 double-blind trials using a group of semisynthetic flavonoids (hydroxyethylrutosides derived from rutin) have demonstrated significant improvements in itching, bleeding, and other symptoms associated with hemorrhoids when people used supplements of 600–4,000 mg per day.

Other trials have evaluated Daflon, a product containing the food-derived flavonoids diosmin (90%) and hesperidin (10%). An uncontrolled trial reported that Daflon produced symptom relief in two-thirds of pregnant women with hemorrhoids.9 Double-blind trials have produced conflicting results about the effects of Daflon in people with hemorrhoids.10 11 Amounts of flavonoids used in Daflon trials ranged from 1,000 to 3,000 mg per day. Diosmin and hesperidin are available separately as dietary supplements.

Some doctors recommend flavonoid supplements for people with hemorrhoids. However, many different flavonoids occur in food and supplements, and additional research is needed to determine which flavonoids are most effective against hemorrhoids.

Are there any side effects or interactions with hemorrhoids?

Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.

Herbs that may be helpful for hemorrhoids

Constipation is believed to worsen hemorrhoid symptoms, and thus, bulk-forming fibers are often recommended for those with hemorrhoids. A double-blind trial reported that 7 grams of psyllium, an herb high in fiber, taken three times daily reduced the pain and bleeding associated with hemorrhoids.12 Some healthcare professionals recommend taking two tablespoons of psyllium seeds or 1 teaspoon of psyllium husks two or three times per day mixed with water or juice. It is important to maintain adequate fluid intake while using psyllium.

Topically applied astringent herbs have been used traditionally as a treatment for hemorrhoids. A leading astringent herb for topical use is witch hazel,13 which is typically applied to hemorrhoids three or four times per day in an ointment base.

Horse chestnut extracts have been reported from a double-blind trial to reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids.14 Some doctors recommend taking horse chestnut seed extracts standardized for aescin (also known as escin) content (16–21%), or an isolated aescin preparation, providing 90 to 150 mg of aescin per day.

Are there any side effects or interactions with hemorrhoids?

Refer to the individual herb for information about any side effects or interactions.

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