Piles are swollen blood vessels in or around the anus and rectum. The primary cause is straining while clearing your bowels, which is usually due to large, hard stools that are difficult to pass.
The role of diet
“We normally look at constipation as being the main culprit,” explains GP Dr Caroline D’Alton. “So addressing diet is an integral part of the management of piles.”
A healthy diet also helps prevent the development of piles in the first place. If you are at risk of getting piles (obesity, pregnancy, frequent constipation and diarrhoea, being over 50, and frequently lifting heavy objects are risk factors), then it’s a good idea to adjust your diet as follows to promote healthy bowel movements:
- Gradually increase your fibre intake – good sources are apples, pears, carrots, broccoli, high-fibre bread, wholegrains, beans and other pulses, and oats.
- Drink more water.
- Reduce alcohol intake as it dehydrates the body and removes moisture from your stool.
- Reduce your salt intake.
Proper toilet hygiene
Practicing good toilet hygiene definitely helps when it comes to preventing and managing piles. Keep these tips in mind:
1. Don’t delay going to the toilet
Try to always empty your bowels as and when you need to. Waiting can cause the stool to dry out which in turn causes straining.
2. Elevate yourself
Lift your feet up a little, on a step stool for example, when you sit on the toilet – this changes the position of the rectum, and may allow the stool to pass easier.
3. Wiping tips
- While feeling clean is a good objective, be careful of overzealous wiping after a bowel movement. The skin around the anus is very tender and sensitive. Using too much toilet paper may result in anal discomfort.
- Use double-ply toilet paper, and avoid dyed varieties.
- If you choose to wash yourself after a bowel movement, use warm water, (the direct flow of water from a hand-held shower extension is a good option). Generally, doctors advise against using “too much of anything around the anus,” says Dr D’Alton, “due to the sensitivity of the mucosa in the area.’ Soaps may rob your skin of their natural lubricants which aid defaecation.”
- If you notice dark red blood when you wipe yourself, see your doctor as this may indicate a more serious problem higher up the rectum.
- Pregnant women and new mothers commonly suffer from piles, but should seek special medical advice from their doctor or midwife.
- If you suffer from repeated bouts of constipation and/or diarrhoea, see your GP for advice.
Clicks stocks creams that can assist in the treatment of piles. Ask your pharmacist for advice and recommendations.