Hemorrhoids occur when the veins in and around the anus and rectum swell and become irritated due to pressure. They can be internal (inside the anus) or external (under the skin around the anus). Dietary changes, like a high-fiber diet, are commonly recommended for the treatment and prevention of hemorrhoids.
Read on to learn the benefits of adding more fiber to your diet and how to do it.
Symptoms of Hemorrhoids
Some common symptoms of hemorrhoids are:
- Bright-red blood (usually painless) noticed on the outside of stool, on toilet paper, or in the toilet bowl
- Pain and irritation in the perianal area (area around the anus)
- Swelling or hard lump(s) around the anus
- Anal itching
Fiber and Hemorrhoids
Foods that are high in fiber, along with adequate (non-caffeinated, nonalcoholic) fluid intake, can make stools softer and easier to pass. This can help treat and prevent hemorrhoids.
Studies have shown that fiber supplementation can reduce the bleeding associated with hemorrhoids by 50%, though it does not appear to help prolapse (hemorrhoids that protrude outside the anus), pain, and itching.
What Are the Different Types of Fiber?
The two different types of fiber, both of which can help with hemorrhoids, are:
- Soluble fiber: Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel, which slows digestion. It is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables, as well as in psyllium (a common fiber supplement).
- Insoluble fiber: Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, and it may help food pass more quickly through the digestive system. It’s found in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains.
Foods High in Fiber
When increasing your fiber intake, start slowly and work your way up. Too much fiber too quickly may cause gas or bloating. It’s also important to drink enough caffeine-free and nonalcoholic fluids when you increase your fiber intake.
There are a variety of fiber-rich foods that can be incorporated into your regular diet.
Eating vegetables is a great way to increase your fiber intake. Try vegetables such as:
- Swiss chard
- Raw carrots
- Baked potatoes and sweet potatoes with skin
- String beans
- Green peas
- Collard greens
Fruit (especially dried fruit) is another good source of fiber.
Add these fruits to your diet:
- Apples (with skin)
- Pears (with skin)
- Prunes (stewed)
- Figs and other dried fruits
Whole grains are a tasty way to get more fiber. Try these options:
- Hot cereals, such as oatmeal and farina
- Whole-grain breads
- Brown rice
- High-fiber cereals, such as bran, shredded wheat, and puffed wheat
- Whole wheat pastas
- Bran muffins
Legumes, Nuts, and Seeds
To increase your intake of fiber, you can also eat:
- Black beans
- Split peas
- Kidney beans
- Lima beans
- Navy beans
- Pinto beans
- Sunflower seeds
Foods to Avoid
Foods that contain little or no fiber can make constipation—and, by extension, hemorrhoids—worse. Limit foods such as:
- Dairy products
- Fast food
- Processed foods, such as hot dogs and some microwavable dinners
- High-fat and/or high-sugar foods
Not all meats need to be avoided. While they are low in fiber, fish, chicken, turkey, or other lean meats won’t make constipation worse.
Why Should You Avoid Processed Foods If You Have Hemorrhoids?
Processed foods are often high in fat and low in fiber, which contributes to constipation. Limit (or avoid) processed foods, such as:
- White breads
- Fast-food burgers
- Potato chips
- French fries
Other Treatments for Hemorrhoids
A high-fiber diet is a good start for treating hemorrhoids, but other treatments may be necessary if diet alone is not effective enough.
In addition to increasing fiber intake and drinking plenty of fluids, at-home treatments for hemorrhoids include:
- Avoiding straining during bowel movements
- Limiting time spent sitting on the toilet
- Taking warm baths or sitz baths (soaking the rectal area in a shallow tub of warm water)
- Applying an ice pack or cold compress to the anal area
- Using over-the-counter (OTC) hemorrhoid treatments (under the advisement of a healthcare provider)
Medical procedures may be required for more serious or treatment-resistant hemorrhoids.
In-office procedures work by creating scar tissue, which cuts off blood flow to the hemorrhoid, often shrinking it. Procedures include:
- Rubber band ligation: A specialized rubber band is placed around the base of the hemorrhoid to cut off the blood supply, causing the banded part of the hemorrhoid to fall off, resulting in scar tissue.
- Sclerotherapy: A solution is injected by a healthcare provider into an internal hemorrhoid.
- Infrared photocoagulation: A tool directs infrared light at an internal hemorrhoid, generating heat.
- Electrocoagulation: A provider uses a tool to send electric currents into an internal hemorrhoid.
Rarely, outpatient surgery using anesthesia may be needed in more serious or complicated cases. This includes:
- Hemorrhoidectomy: Surgical removal of large external hemorrhoids and prolapsing internal hemorrhoids that do not respond to other treatments.
- Hemorrhoid stapling: A stapling tool is used to remove internal hemorrhoid tissue and put a prolapsing internal hemorrhoid back into place inside the anus.
How to Prevent Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids can’t always be prevented, but some measures can be taken to reduce the chances of developing them, including:
- Eating a high-fiber diet with adequate fluid intake
- Avoiding straining during bowel movements
- Avoiding sitting on the toilet for long periods of time
- Avoiding regular heavy lifting
When to See a Healthcare Provider
See your healthcare provider if:
- You are experiencing rectal bleeding (especially if it’s for the first time).
- You have new or worsening symptoms.
- You notice more blood than usual.
- Your symptoms persist after one week of home treatment.
- You have questions or concerns.
Seek immediate medical attention if:
- Your anal pain is severe.
- You are losing or have lost a lot of blood.
- Your symptoms are accompanied by abdominal pain, diarrhea, or fever.
- You feel dizzy or faint.
- You think you may be experiencing an emergency.
Remember to slowly increase your fiber intake. Consult with a healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.
Eating a high-fiber diet along with drinking plenty of non-caffeinated, nonalcoholic fluids can help prevent constipation, treat hemorrhoids, and lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids.
Foods that are fiber-rich include vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Limit or avoid processed foods and foods that are low in fiber, and/or high in fat and sugar.
If hemorrhoid symptoms are not relieved with diet alone, try other at-home treatments. In more serious or complicated cases, medical procedures or surgery may be required.
A Word From Verywell
If your hemorrhoids are caused or aggravated by constipation, try slowly increasing your fiber intake. Make sure to drink enough liquids too. This can help make bowel movements easier and more comfortable and may help with symptom relief.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do hemorrhoids look like?
Internal hemorrhoids aren’t visible on the outside unless they prolapse (slip down and out of the anus). External hemorrhoids look like swollen, sometimes bluish lumps under the skin around the anus.
How long do hemorrhoids last?
Pain and swelling usually decreases within a few days to a week. The firm lump should improve within four to six weeks.
Is chocolate bad for hemorrhoids?
While not necessarily related to hemorrhoids, chocolate is one of the food intolerances commonly associated with anal itching, along with cola, coffee, citrus, and dairy.
Is yogurt bad for hemorrhoids?
While yogurt is low in fiber, you can increase its fiber content by sprinkling a teaspoon or two of bran flakes, ground flax seeds, wheat bran, or psyllium onto it.