Debunking Hemorrhoid Myths: What Causes It?

There are a lot of myths on what causes hemorrhoids. An example of these myths is that spicy foods cause hemorrhoids. However, science says otherwise. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, this speculation is far from the truth. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins near your anus and have no relation to eating spicy foods. And thanks to modern medicine, there are a variety of treatments available for your hemorrhoids. But before the hemorrhoid treatments, you can avail yourself of today; it wasn’t that readily available before. 

A little fact for you first, did you know that hemorrhoids are one of the best-described diseases in medical history?

Even though our ancestors lack the necessary medical knowledge about the disease, hemorrhoids are accurately described from as far back as ancient times, from all parts of the world. This is because hemorrhoids were common, observable, and occurred with simple symptoms such as pain and bleeding. 

However, different assertions, recommendations, and “treatments” have appeared throughout history. Some were linked to beliefs, myths, and antique healing methods. Here are a few examples of dated hemorrhoids treatment recorded throughout history. 

Gods and Toads

With the lack of medical knowledge in ancient times, diseases were often regarded as punishment for bad habits from the gods, demons, etc. 

Documents showed that the recommended treatment was to cast out the “demon” or appease the god. It was also wise to protect yourself with amulets, stones, and dried toads!

However, by about 400 BCE, the theory of humoralism emerged. Hemorrhoids were then speculated to be caused by an imbalance of bodily fluids such as blood, phlegm, and yellow and black bile. Causes of hemorrhoids were linked to gender, age, climate, geography, excessive riding, and wearing too tight clothes. This theory dominated for more than 2,000 years. An example of how hemorrhoids were treated back then was blood-letting, leeches around the anus, and cupping on the loins. 

These assertions are not supported by any scientific evidence. But what’s interesting is that some people still believe myths about hemorrhoids – with a modern twist, despite having no scientific explanation. 

Modern Myths You’ve Been Told About

Myth: Only Old people get Hemorrhoids

Whether you are 16 or 60 years old, you have the tendency to develop hemorrhoids. Although, studies have found that hemorrhoids are most common between ages 45 and 65. The connective tissues between the anus and rectum weaken as you become older, increasing the risk of hemorrhoids. But, a common cause of hemorrhoids is pressure on the anus from straining associated with constipation or diarrhea and pregnancy. 

Myth: Spicy Foods cause Hemorrhoids

Growing up, you always hear this advice from grown-ups. But in actuality, eating spicy foods has no relation to getting hemorrhoids. As said earlier, hemorrhoids are caused by strain on the veins near the anus. And eating spicy foods doesn’t increase the risk or worsen symptoms of hemorrhoids. 

Myth: Food doesn’t affect Hemorrhoids

One of the best pieces of advice that doctors give in preventing hemorrhoids is to eat a healthy diet. This includes drinking enough water and eating fruits and vegetables rich in fiber. Because constipation is one of the biggest risk factors for developing hemorrhoids, eating a high-fiber diet and staying well hydrated can help your hemorrhoids. These healthy practices can keep bowel movements soft and prevent constipation and straining, reducing hemorrhoids. 

Doctors recommend consuming 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily, ideally from wholefood sources. If you’re not getting enough dietary fiber, you can opt for fiber supplements widely available. However, seek advice from your doctor first before buying supplements. 

Myth: Don’t sit on cold surfaces

The “cold surfaces cause hemorrhoids” myth couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, it works quite the opposite. A cold compress may be helpful to relieve some of the symptoms of hemorrhoids. You can use cold packs to reduce the swelling of the area and ease discomfort. However, one part of the myth may be true in a toilet situation. Sitting too long in your toilet can cause hemorrhoids, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. So a word of advice, avoid bringing your phone while in the bathroom because distractions can make you lose track of time sitting in your toilet. 

Myth: Don’t exercise if you have hemorrhoids

If you have existing hemorrhoids, you can still exercise but avoid heavy lifting exercises. Lifting heavy weights, combined with poor technique, can worsen your hemorrhoids or increase the risk of hemorrhoids. Still, regular activities, such as jogging, are important in avoiding hemorrhoids by preventing constipation and weight gain. 

Myth: Hemorrhoids requires surgery

In extreme hemorrhoids, you may need surgical removal treatment. However, symptoms generally heal independently or with home treatment in most cases. The best treatment for hemorrhoids is prevention. To do this, you must stick to a healthy lifestyle. 

Myth: Hemorrhoids increases cancer risk 

Despite how alarming this myth is, there’s no evidence that hemorrhoids increase cancer risk. The only concern here is that sometimes people with a history of hemorrhoids dismiss bleedings in bowel movements and miss warning signs. 

Suppose you have a family history of colon cancer. In that case, you should be mindful of irregular bowel movement signs, such as rectal bleeding. Tell your doctor if there are any changes in your symptoms or any new digestive symptoms that go with hemorrhoids. 

So What Actually Causes Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are swollen, enlarged veins that form inside and outside your anus and rectum. And causes of hemorrhoids revolve around putting pressure on those veins. Therefore, hemorrhoids can develop from increased pressure in your lower rectum due to activities such as: straining during bowel movements, sitting for long periods on the toilet, chronic diarrhea or constipation, obesity, pregnancy, anal intercourse, eating a low-fiber diet, and regular heavy lifting. 

Key Takeaway

Hemorrhoids are one of the most common diseases in the world. There are documents since 400 BCE that descriptively noted the symptoms of hemorrhoids. And as science progresses, you could look at a variety of treatments that are widely available today.

Modern medicine enabled scientists to look under the microscope and know a fair amount of information about hemorrhoids. These include natural possible causes and tips on preventing hemorrhoids and debunking myths that you had just read. Unless your hemorrhoids are extreme, there is no need to worry about it. Thanks to science today, you can get that hemorrhoid taken care of!

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