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Some of us love the mouth-burning feeling of spicy foods, but should we worry about how they affect the rest of our body?
Spicy food often gets blamed for many gastrointestinal issues, such as indigestion, abdominal pain, and even hemorrhoids. Yet, regarding this last one, is it possible for spicy foods to cause hemorrhoids? The answer is no, but that doesn’t mean that this food with a little kick of heat plays no role in the worsening of their symptoms.
Table of Contents
- What Are Hemorrhoids?
- Does Spicy Food Cause Hemorrhoids?
- Does Spicy Food Make Hemorrhoids Worse?
- How to Treat Hemorrhoids?
- How Can You Prevent Hemorrhoids?
- When to See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
What Are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids also referred to as piles, are swollen veins that lie inside (internal) or outside (external) the rectum. Everyone has these veins; they only become hemorrhoids (and a problem) when they swell up.
This swelling can cause various symptoms, such as itching, pain, discomfort, and bleeding.
Does Spicy Food Cause Hemorrhoids?
While spicy foods may upset your stomach, they do not cause hemorrhoids because they do not affect your veins in the rectal area.
There are many myths regarding what can cause piles and recommendations for things to avoid that don’t always need to be avoided. Spicy food is just one example of a standard recommendation that doesn’t truly affect hemorrhoid development. In fact, there is no evidence linking spicy foods to hemorrhoid development.
The spicy part of spicy foods comes from an acid called capsaicin, which plants use as a defense method to keep pests from eating their fruit. While this acid can cause some burning sensation, it’s actually milder than the hydrochloric acid naturally found in your stomach, so it will not be any more dangerous to your digestive tract.
Still, many people may wonder about the burning they feel when going to the bathroom after eating spicy foods. This burning comes from chili flakes that are not fully digested, but this doesn’t affect your body in any way beyond causing some discomfort.
The one way in which spicy foods may contribute to the development of hemorrhoids is because of the change in bowel habits that they can instigate. Constipation is most often associated with hemorrhoids because those who are constipated end up straining more while on the toilet, increasing the risk of swollen veins. However, any change in bowel movements, including one that makes diarrhea more prevalent, can cause hemorrhoids to develop.
Still, it’s unlikely that eating one batch of spicy food will cause hemorrhoids to develop, and this is only if your body is sensitive to spicy food and responds with an upset stomach and diarrhea.
Does Spicy Food Make Hemorrhoids Worse?
While spicy food does not cause hemorrhoids, it can make them worse.
As we know, spicy foods can cause a burning sensation when passing a bowel movement, and while this will not cause piles to form, it can irritate them and make them worse by aggravating the anal lining that is already sensitive. This is especially prevalent for those with anal fissures from their hemorrhoids, which spicy foods can irritate.
Spicy foods can also irritate hemorrhoids because they stimulate the digestive tract, which often results in diarrhea. While constipation is often associated with the development of hemorrhoids because of the greater strain to pass a bowel movement, diarrhea can also play a role, primarily by irritating symptomatic hemorrhoids already present.
How to Treat Hemorrhoids?
The discomfort of hemorrhoids can leave you looking for treatment. Luckily, many home remedies are available to help reduce your pain and help your hemorrhoids go away.
Available both over the counter or as a prescription, hemorrhoid cream is applied topically and contains ingredients such as hydrocortisone, witch hazel, and lidocaine. These ingredients help provide relief for any itching, swelling, or mild pain resulting from your hemorrhoids.
If you try hemorrhoid cream, note that it is recommended to only use it for a week. At this time, you should notice an improvement in your symptoms. If not, it’s recommended to see a doctor.
A sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath covering only the hips and buttocks. The goal of the sitz bath is to offer relief for swollen hemorrhoids through heat therapy. There are special tubs for sitz baths placed on the toilet, but you can also use a regular bathtub to achieve the same goal.
To get the most from a sitz bath, you’ll want to sit in the water for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, 2-3 times per day.
The biggest cause of hemorrhoids is increased straining when passing a bowel movement. So, when you’re working to treat your hemorrhoids, you want to try and minimize straining so that the hemorrhoids can go away and not worsen.
If you have difficulty passing bowel movements, try drinking more water, eating more fiber, taking a stool softener, and exercising more.
How Can You Prevent Hemorrhoids?
When it comes to preventing hemorrhoids, you will want to do what you can to reduce straining and keep blood pressure low.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight is a risk factor for hemorrhoids, so staying within a normal weight is one way to reduce your risk of hemorrhoids. Additionally, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, which can help you maintain a healthy weight, can further minimize hemorrhoid risk by helping stool move more easily through your gastrointestinal tract.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber helps bowel movements move more easily through your gastrointestinal tract, making it a beneficial compound for those looking to prevent hemorrhoids.
Some foods high in fiber include:
- whole grains
When to See a Doctor?
If you have tried at-home treatments for your hemorrhoids, but your symptoms persist after a week, it’s recommended to see a doctor. Additionally, see a doctor if you ever have bleeding from your rectum.
While hemorrhoids can be uncomfortable, they should not interfere to a point where they impact your quality of life. If they do, a doctor can help you find a treatment that addresses them.
For those looking for quick guidance from their doctor, no matter where they are, an online doctor can help. With DrHouse, you can meet with a doctor in just 15 minutes to discuss your hemorrhoids and the various treatments that may offer you relief.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins located inside and around the anus, which cause symptoms such as itching, pain, and discomfort.
Food is often linked with hemorrhoid development, yet despite the myths, spicy foods are not a potential cause of hemorrhoids. Still, these foods can upset the digestive system, causing diarrhea which may lead to hemorrhoids because of more time spent on the toilet. Likewise, spicy food-induced diarrhea can irritate existing hemorrhoids, potentially worsening their symptoms.
For those with hemorrhoids, many lifestyle habits can be implemented and altered to treat hemorrhoids and prevent further irritation.
- Fontem RF, Eyvazzadeh D. Internal Hemorrhoid. [Updated 2022 Aug 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537182/
- Lawrence A, McLaren ER. External Hemorrhoid. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK500009/
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- Sanchez, C., & Chinn, B. (2011). Hemorrhoids. Clinics In Colon And Rectal Surgery, 24(01), 005-013. doi: https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0031-1272818
- Margetis, N. (2019). Pathophysiology of internal hemorrhoids. Annals Of Gastroenterology. doi: https://doi.org/10.20524/aog.2019.0355
- Cengiz, T. B., & Gorgun, E. (2019). Hemorrhoids: A range of treatments. Cleveland Clinic journal of medicine, 86(9), 612–620. https://doi.org/10.3949/ccjm.86a.18079
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