A reader requested that I write on the subject of hemorrhoids, given that, as she pointed out, it is estimated 75% of people will get them at some point in their lives.
Hemorrhoids are blood vessels that have become swollen around the rectum, and, from the perspective of natural healing, there are two primary factors which lead to their development. The first is liver congestion, and the second is vein weakness.
When the liver becomes congested, the processing of blood slows down, and blood backs up in the veins. That unusual pressure puts stress on the blood vessels, and if vessel walls are weak they will balloon out; thus the hemorrhoids. Think of it like a garden hose with thinning sides, if water pressure is blocked, the weakened sides will protrude under the pressure. Unless you duct tape that weak spot it might even rupture (i.e. bleeding hemorrhoids).
So our response is two-fold: clean up the liver, so that it can process blood faster and easier; and “duct tape” the veins so that they can withstand the extra pressure.
A sign of liver congestion is what is commonly referred to as the “elevens”, which is when you can see two vertical lines between the eyebrows (this is based on facial diagnosis). Untoward anger, or even irritability, can also be a symptom of liver problems (based on Chinese medicine principles). Other signs of liver congestion include nausea when eating fatty foods, or when taking large doses of B-vitamins, and actual pain in the area of the liver.
Taking care of liver problems is quite simple, usually as easy as consuming a milk thistle product. Milk thistle capsules will do the job (follow label instructions; 250 mg of an 80% silymarin extract, 2 or 3 times daily). However, for those with digestive problems, taking milk thistle in a tincture form (or in a liver formula tincture), will also help improve digestion, as it functions as a “bitter” when actually tasted. Bitters encourage the gallbladder to release bile, which facilitates the digestion of fats and proteins.
There are many substances which strengthen the veins, most of which are commonly used for varicose veins as well as hemorrhoids. The first nutrient to ensure is taken frequently is vitamin C, along with bioflavonoids. While the bioflavonoids (found in the peel of citrus fruits, which actually used to be eaten) are most involved in strengthening the veins, vitamin C is required for collagen production. Collagen is the glue that holds us together, and it gives elasticity to tissue, something obviously of value here.
The least expensive, and old school approach to supporting vein health when treating hemorrhoids, is the isolated bioflavonoid, rutin. Next generation herbal treatments include any combination of grape seed extract, horse chestnut, and/or Butcher’s broom. Finally, the two strongest, most recent treatments, are pycnogenol, or diosmin (a citrus extract). With all these products just follow label instructions, except in the case of pycnogenol (take at least 100 mg daily; but be warned, it is the most expensive product here).
Another helpful supplement to take is silica. Silica helps strengthen and normalize tissue, providing elasticity and flexibility to skin, clearly something that would be helpful for this problem. One capsule of NutriStart’s Bamboo Silica product is sufficient for this purpose.
Short term relief can be obtained by topically applying agents which reduce swelling and inflammation. The best choices are creams containing aloe vera, horse chestnut, or witch hazel (sold under the name Hamamelis, in homeopathic versions). I have had my best feedback from users of the Hamamelis cream. Another option is to apply an ice pack to the area for 10 minutes, three or four times daily.
Clearly one does not want to cause undue pressure on the area where the hemorrhoids occur. Hemorrhoids are often triggered by straining on the toilet, and straining occurs because of constipation, which is usually the result of consuming too many processed foods, and too little fiber
(The following bit on fiber is from an earlier blog on Varicose Veins, which you may wish to read if you have this problem as well.)
Fiber-rich foods prevent constipation (along with probiotics), whereas refined foods (those with the fiber removed, such as white flour) worsen this condition. Whole fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and vegetables are all rich in fiber. Flax seeds are especially helpful for those with constipation since they absorb water, and soften the stools (like all fiber), keeping the feces soft and easy to move. By grinding them freshly (every three days) and using them liberally in foods we gain the benefits of both the fiber and the oil (rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids). Other helpful fibers include psyllium husk, and oat and wheat bran.
After fiber, the most important component for keeping regular is probiotics. Here I will recommend our Lactospore product, as it has been shown to be clinically effective at treating constipation (and diarrhea).
So, we clean up the liver, strengthen the veins, eat a fiber and probiotic rich diet, and, in most cases, hemorrhoids will clear up. But, those prone to them will need to always take some vein strengtheners, even if it is as simple as vitamin C with a good amount of bioflavonoids (at least 500 mg of each, two or three times daily). And they should tone up the liver every few months with a round of milk thistle.