Here are the most effective home remedies you can take to soothe your achy bottom and keep hemorrhoids from flaring.
Rough up your diet. Dietary fiber -- the fiber found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dried beans -- passes through the human digestive tract untouched by digestive enzymes. As it travels, it absorbs many times its weight in water; by the time it reaches the colon in combination with digestive waste, it produces a stool that is bulky, heavy, and soft -- all factors that make it easier to eliminate without straining. Straining, remember, is a major cause of hemorrhoids. In about half of hemorrhoid cases, consuming more dietary fiber is the only treatment necessary.
Drink up. Be sure to drink plenty of water to keep the digestive process moving right along. A minimum of eight large glasses of water or other noncaffeinated fluid a day is recommended. Fruits and vegetables, which are important sources of dietary fiber, are naturally packed with water and can also help keep you hydrated.
Avoid sweat and strain. Don't try to move your bowels unless you feel the urge to do so. And don't spend any more time on the toilet than it takes to defecate without straining. Once your bowels have moved, don't strain to produce more.
Heed the call of nature. On the other hand, don't wait too long before responding to the urge to eliminate. The longer the stool stays in the lower portion of the digestive tract, the more chance there is for moisture to be lost, making the stool hard and dry.
Try a different position. It has been suggested that squatting is a more natural position than sitting for moving one's bowels; unfortunately, Western toilets are not designed to make this possible for most people. Some people find that propping their feet up on a small footstool and pulling their knees in the direction of their chest helps.
Soften it. If eating more fiber-packed food and increasing water intake aren't enough to solve a severe constipation problem, you might want to talk to your doctor about taking a laxative known as a stool softener (such as Colace or Correctol) or one that contains a natural bulking agent (such as Metamucil and Effer-Syllium). These are only short-term solutions, however--the best way to add fiber is through food. Do not -- repeat, do not -- use laxatives that act on the muscles of the colon and rectum unless specifically directed to by your doctor; prolonged use of such products, which typically contain bisacodyl, senna, cascara sagrada, or castor oil as their active ingredient, can cause permanent malfunction of the bowel in addition to severe irritation of the anal area. Avoid mineral oil, as well, since it can interfere with the absorption of some essential nutrients, such as vitamin A.
Take a walk. Regular exercise helps your digestive system work more efficiently. Strenuous exercise isn't necessary, however; a lengthy walk at a brisk pace will do quite nicely.
Keep it clean. Keep your rectal area clean at all times. Residual fecal matter can irritate the skin, but so can vigorous rubbing with dry toilet paper. Use plain water to rinse the area, then pat it dry and dust with cornstarch powder. More convenient, but also more expensive, are premoistened wipes designed for anal care. These wipes cause irritation in some people. If you want to try them, they are available without a prescription at pharmacies and drugstores.
Rinse well. Soap residue can also irritate the anal area.
Skip the soap. If you find that, even with thorough rinsing, soap still irritates the anal area, look for a special perianal cleansing lotion in your drugstore. Follow the package directions.
Soften your seat. If your job demands that you sit all day, try sitting on a doughnut shaped cushion -- an inexpensive device that takes the pressure off the sensitive area. And be sure to take short walking breaks several times a day.
Sitz around. Take a sitz bath for 30 minutes, three or four times a day: Sit in six inches of warm water on your doughnut cushion or on a towel twisted into a circle big enough to support your bottom.
Take the heat. Even if you can't manage a full-scale sitz bath, a washcloth moistened with warm water can soothe the painful area.
Slim down. If you are overweight, you'll be doing your bottom a favor by getting your weight closer to the desirable range. Of course, you'll be doing the rest of your body good, too.
One of the most important moves toward healing hemorrhoids is a change in diet. However, it's best to add fiber to your diet gradually. Too rapid an increase can cause gas, abdominal cramps, or diarrhea. As it is, you can expect some increase in intestinal gas at first, but this will subside in a week or two as your system and the bacteria that inhabit your colon adjust to your new diet.
Here are some foods that can increase the fiber content of your diet when eaten regularly:
Bran, unprocessed miller's