By Maureen Williams, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (March 23, 2006)—Fiber relieves the discomfort of hemorrhoid symptoms, especially bleeding, according to a review in the American Journal of Gastroenterology (2006;101:181–8).
Hemorrhoids are generally associated with conditions that increase the pressure in the veins around the rectum and anus, such as chronic constipation with frequent straining, pregnancy, and childbirth. People with hemorrhoids can experience itching, pain, and bleeding, especially after passing stool.
Drinking more water and eating more fiber is recommended to ease constipation and reduce straining. Stool softeners can also be helpful. Topical medications are typically astringents aimed at constricting the overly dilated veins. Some herbal treatments for hemorrhoids, in addition to acting as astringents, can repair and strengthen the distended walls of veins.
The current review looked at the combined results of seven studies evaluating the effect of fiber supplements on hemorrhoids symptoms. A total of 378 people with hemorrhoids participated in the studies. In each of the studies, the people were randomly assigned to receive either fiber or placebo. Between 7 and 20 grams of fiber (about 1.5 to 4 teaspoons) per day were taken for between 1 and 18 months.
People in the fiber groups were on average 47% more likely to have some improvement and 50% less likely to have bleeding by the end of their study periods than people in placebo groups. Furthermore, in studies with more than one follow-up visit, improvement was noted at the first visit—as early as three weeks—and the degree of improvement did not change between the first and second follow-up visits.
Fiber was found to work quickly and safely, although some of the studies reported mild negative side effects in people using fiber, such as gastrointestinal bloating. None of the people withdrew from the study because of side effects. Another concern with fiber supplements is their tendency to bind other substances in the digestive tract, particularly minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc, and others) and some medications, and prevent them from being absorbed. Therefore, healthcare providers should recommend fiber to people with hemorrhoids, but instruct them not to take them at the same time as mineral supplements and medications, and explain the possible side effects.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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