The fact that both hemorrhoids and constipation affect the digestive system may make you question, can hemorrhoids cause constipation?

Hemorrhoids are a common condition caused by swollen veins in the rectal area that can cause discomfort, pain, and itchiness.

Constipation is also a common problem that many people experience, where bowel movements become difficult to pass or infrequent.

In this article, we will explore whether hemorrhoids can cause constipation and what steps you can take to prevent them from occurring.

Also see Foods That Cause Constipation and the Best High Fiber Foods For Constipation!

What are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the lower rectum or anus. 

They can cause discomfort, pain, itching, and bleeding during bowel movements. Hemorrhoids are also referred to as piles.

There are two major types of hemorrhoids: internal and external. 

Internal hemorrhoids develop inside the rectum and often go unnoticed until they bleed or prolapse (protrude outside the anus). External hemorrhoids form under the skin around the anus and can be felt as a hard lump.

The exact cause of hemorrhoids is unclear, but factors that increase pressure on the veins in the anal area can contribute to their development. 

These include straining during bowel movements, sitting for long periods of time on the toilet, chronic constipation or diarrhea, pregnancy, obesity, and aging.

Treatment for hemorrhoids varies depending on their severity. Mild cases may respond to home remedies such as over-the-counter creams or ointments to reduce swelling and relieve itching. Soaking in a warm bath or using moistened wipes can also provide relief. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.

What is Constipation?

Constipation is a condition characterized by infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stool. It is a common digestive problem that affects people of all ages, genders, and lifestyles.

The normal frequency of bowel movements varies from person to person, but most people have between three and seven bowel movements per week. When the frequency drops to less than three times per week, it may be an indication of constipation.

In addition to infrequent bowel movements, other signs of constipation include straining during bowel movements, hard or lumpy stools, feeling like you haven’t completely emptied your bowels after going to the bathroom, abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, or gas.

Several factors can contribute to the development of constipation. These include a low-fiber diet, dehydration (not drinking enough fluids), lack of physical activity or exercise, certain medications (such as opioids), changes in routine or lifestyle habits (such as travel), pregnancy, and aging.

Treatment for constipation usually involves making dietary and lifestyle changes, such as increasing fiber intake through fruits and vegetables. 

Drinking plenty of water each day also helps keep stools soft and easier to pass. 

In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help relieve symptoms.

If left untreated chronic constipation can cause complications such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures (small tears in the anus), and fecal impaction (a buildup of hard stool that cannot be expelled), which may require medical attention.

Can Hemorrhoids Cause Constipation?

If you have hemorrhoids and are constipated, you could be wondering whether hemorrhoids could be the cause. The truth is hemorrhoids do not directly cause constipation. However, they can contribute and even make it worse.

When hemorrhoids become inflamed and irritated, they can cause pain and discomfort during bowel movements.

a woman holds a cactus as a symbol of rectal pain.

This can lead to a fear of defecation, causing individuals to hold back and avoid passing stools altogether.

As a result of this holding back, the stool becomes harder and drier, which makes it more difficult to pass through the rectum, causing constipation.

Straining when passing stools further aggravates hemorrhoids and causes them to bleed or prolapse. This close relationship shows that managing both conditions is essential to prove the symptoms and management of both conditions.

Signs and Symptoms of Hemorrhoids:

The signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids depend on the type you are dealing with.

External Hemorrhoids Symptoms

The external hemorrhoids will be visible, and you can feel them around your anal opening. Here are a few pointers:

  • Pain and discomfort in the anal region
  • Swelling around the anal opening
  • Bleeding
  • Itching and irritation in the anal area

Internal Hemorrhoids Symptoms

The internal hemorrhoids are a bit tricky to identify. This is because they are inside the rectum. You will not be able to feel, see, or even feel any discomfort. However, there are two major scenarios you should be aware of.

  • Painless Bleeding: If you notice any blood on your tissue after bowel movements, you might suffer from internal hemorrhoids.
  • Protruding Hemorrhoid: If you see any prolapse or protrusion from your anus, you are likely dealing with hemorrhoids. Depending on the strain, you could also experience pain and irritation.

What Causes Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are a common condition with more than a 50% chance of happening in your lifetime. In most cases, hemorrhoids occur due to strained veins around the anus. They often stretch under pressure. If the strain continues, they will bulge and swell. Some of the causes are:

  • Constipation and strain during bowel movements
  • Sitting on your toilet for long periods
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Anal intercourse
  • Regular heavy lifting
  • Lack of adequate fiber in your diet

Complications Related to Hemorrhoids

Here are some of the most common complications related to hemorrhoids:

  • Thrombosis: Hemorrhoids can develop blood clots in them, which is called thrombosis. This can cause severe pain and swelling around the affected area.
  • Anemia: Chronic bleeding from hemorrhoids can lead to anemia (a decrease in red blood cells). Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and pale skin.
  • Strangulated hemorrhoid: In rare cases, a hemorrhoid may become “strangulated” or cut off from its blood supply. This can cause extreme pain and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Fistula formation: A fistula is an abnormal connection between two organs or tissues that do not usually connect. In some cases, chronic inflammation from hemorrhoids can lead to the development of a fistula between the anal canal and other nearby areas, such as the vagina or bladder.
  • Infection: If bacteria enter into an open wound around your anus due to scratching or irritation caused by hemorrhoids, it could result in an infection leading to painful abscesses developing around your anus region
  • Impact on Quality of Life: Hemorrhoids may interfere with daily activities like sitting for long periods or exercising due to discomfort making life miserable over time

How to Relieve Hemorrhoid-Related Constipation

If you suffer from hemorrhoid-related constipation, there are several treatment options available to help alleviate your symptoms:

1. Increase Fiber Intake

If you’re experiencing hemorrhoid-related constipation, one of the best ways to relieve it is by increasing your fiber intake. Fiber helps keep stools soft, making them easier to pass without putting too much pressure on the anal area.

Here are some high-fiber foods that you can incorporate into your diet:

  • Fruits: Apples, pears, berries, bananas
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, cauliflower
  • Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils
  • Whole grains: Brown rice, oats
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, chia seeds
  • Psyllium husk supplements: These are natural plant-based fibers that absorb water in your digestive system making stools softer.

It’s important to increase fiber gradually over time as sudden changes may lead to bloating or gas build-up in some individuals.

2. Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking plenty of water helps keep you hydrated, which in turn softens your stool and makes it easier for you to pass. It also helps reduce inflammation in the body, including in the area around your hemorrhoids.

To relieve constipation related to hemorrhoids, aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. You may need more if you live in a hot climate or exercise frequently. Drinking other fluids like herbal tea or clear soups may also help.

Young woman laying down and stroking her belly because of a stomach ache

3. Exercise Regularly

Here are some ways that exercise can help relieve hemorrhoid-related constipation: 

  • Increases blood flow: Exercise helps increase blood flow throughout your body, including your digestive system. This increased circulation can help stimulate bowel movements and reduce constipation.
  • Improves muscle tone: Exercising regularly helps strengthen and tone the muscles in your abdomen and pelvic floor. These muscles play an important role in controlling bowel movements, so keeping them strong can help prevent constipation.
  • Reduces stress: Stress is known to contribute to gastrointestinal issues like constipation. Exercise is a natural way to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation, which may help alleviate symptoms of constipation.
  • Promotes regularity: Consistent exercise routines can help establish regularity with bowel movements by stimulating peristalsis (the wave-like contractions that move food through our intestines).

Some examples of exercises that may be helpful for relieving hemorrhoid-related constipation include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Cycling
  • Swimming

It’s important to note that if you have severe hemorrhoids or other medical conditions that affect your ability to exercise safely, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new physical activity.

4. Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine is a diuretic that dehydrates the body and can worsen hemorrhoid-related constipation. Try cutting back on coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks or other beverages containing caffeine.

Here are some tips on how to do so:

  • Switch to decaf: If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, consider switching to decaf versions of these beverages. You’ll still get the same flavor without the added caffeine.
  • Limit your intake: If you can’t give up caffeine entirely, try limiting your intake instead. Stick to one cup of coffee or tea per day or switch to low-caffeine options like green tea.
  • Opt for water: Water is an excellent alternative to caffeinated beverages as it helps keep your body hydrated and supports healthy bowel function.
  • Choose herbal teas: Herbal teas like chamomile or peppermint don’t contain any caffeine but have soothing properties that may help relieve constipation symptoms.
  • Avoid energy drinks: Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine and other stimulants that can exacerbate hemorrhoid-related constipation symptoms.

5. Over-The-Counter Laxatives

Laxatives work by stimulating bowel movements and softening stools, making it easier to pass them through the rectum without causing pain or discomfort.

There are several types of laxatives available over the counter, including bulk-forming agents, stimulants, osmotic agents, and stool softeners.

Bulk-forming agents contain fiber that absorbs water in the intestines, increasing the volume of stools and promoting regular bowel movements.

Stimulant laxatives work by activating nerve cells in the colon muscles to contract and increase peristalsis (the wave-like motion that moves feces down the intestine).

Osmotic laxatives draw water into the gut to soften stools, while stool softeners help moisten hard stools for easy passage.

That being said, these medications should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

6. Prescription Medications

In some cases where other treatments have not been effective, prescription medications may be required to treat chronic constipation associated with hemorrhoids.

It’s important to note that while these medications can be helpful for relieving hemorrhoid-related constipation, they should always be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Your doctor will be able to determine the best treatment plan based on your individual needs and medical history.

7. Surgery

In severe cases where other treatments have failed or if there is significant bleeding associated with hemorrhoids surgery may be required to treat the hemorrhoids, which will also help relieve the constipation.

It’s however important to note that while surgery can be effective in treating hemorrhoids, it’s not always necessary.

Many cases of mild-to-moderate hemorrhoids can be managed with lifestyle changes such as increasing fiber intake, staying hydrated, avoiding straining during bowel movements, and taking over-the-counter medications like stool softeners or laxatives.

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Final Thoughts

Hemorrhoids and constipation are two common gastrointestinal conditions that affect millions of people worldwide. While hemorrhoids do not necessarily cause constipation, they can be aggravated by it.

People who suffer from these conditions should adopt healthy lifestyle practices such as drinking plenty of water, eating fibre-rich foods and exercising regularly to prevent constipation or the worsening of hemorrhoid symptoms.

By doing so, you can alleviate symptoms and prevent further complications from arising.

Additionally, seeking medical attention when experiencing severe symptoms is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment.

​​​​​​​With proper care and management, individuals can find relief from both hemorrhoids and constipation symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

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