Hemorrhoids. Not the most pleasant cocktail conversation topic. If you suffer from them – and chances are that you will – you understand how painful they can be. Like many medical conditions it’s best to do what you can to avoid them altogether. I had always thought of them as something other people get, something that plagues only the morbidly obese. I was wrong, painfully so. In middle age you are ripe for hemorrhoids, and they can hit at a terrible time for you – witness my tale of woe.
After years of sedentary work habits, being a bit overweight, insufficient exercise, and insufficient fiber in my diet I developed hemorrhoids, which just got worse as I gained more weight. This is the proverbial pain in the ass – itching, swelling, pain that makes you generally an irritable person. My problem – and the pain – became much, much worse (and more entertaining for you) as time went on, and I provide this story so that you can either prevent yourself from getting hemorrhoids or know what to expect if you join the majority of people and get hemorrhoids.
I’m no doctor, but my understanding is that hemorrhoids are veins in and around your anus that can become swollen or inflamed, causing a lot of pain. This happens when you strain to produce a bowel movement. Straining can be caused by having insufficient fiber in the diet, insufficient fluid, insufficient exercise, or all three. The straining enlarges the veins. In bad cases the veins can become quite large (in my case, about the size of my pinky finger’s top digit) and extremely painful. So painful that you stomp around the house being a general asshole, yelling at your kids and kicking the dog. Pain. Lots of it. Here is a sedate drawing of hemorrhoids, but if you’d like to be completely grossed out just type in “hemorrhoids” into Google’s image search.
Hemorrhoids are definitely something best prevented. But, like an idiot you will probably ignore this advice until it is possibly too late. Increasing fiber (vegetables, psyllium husks, etc.) can produce softer, bulkier stool that passes much easier, reducing the straining while you poop. By drinking a lot of liquids, you help build up that volume (you don’t want to have Metamucil without lots of water, unless you enjoy an impacted colon). Exercise helps encourage healthy bowel movements.
So it is quite simple to avoid hemorrhoids – ensure you have plenty of fiber, drink a lot of fluid, and get off your butt and get some exercise. When I started getting more painful hemorrhoids this is exactly what I did. Granted I started on this regimen after my weight came dangerously close to a Very Scary Number. The fear of obesity got me out running the next day – I was lucky to be able to run for 60 seconds straight, but I persevered and put in a half hour of jogging/walking. I started eating more raw vegetables, and I had a checklist to track how much water I drank each day. Over the period of the next year my weight dropped significantly, the pain of hemorrhoids diminished, and my poops were things of beauty.