Hemorrhoids are distended, or swollen veins in the anus and lower parts of your rectum that can clot or bulge if left untreated, potentially requiring surgery.
Fortunately, some foods can help alleviate symptoms — and even help prevent hemorrhoids in the first place.
Here are 15 helpful foods for hemorrhoids.
One major rule of thumb is ensuring you’re getting enough fiber when trying to avoid or prevent hemorrhoids.
You can get two types of fiber from food — soluble and insoluble. While the soluble kind forms a gel in your digestive tract and can be digested by friendly bacteria, insoluble fiber helps bulk up your stool.
To promote a healthy gut, you need both.
Legumes are the edible seeds of plants in the Fabaceae family. They include beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, peanuts, and chickpeas.
They’re loaded with both kinds of fiber but especially rich in the soluble type.
For instance, 1 cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils packs nearly 16 grams of fiber. That’s about half of the recommended fiber intake.
Most adults should get 21–38 grams daily, though this may vary depending on age and sex.
Lentils and other legumes can bulk up your stool, making it less likely that you have to strain when going to the bathroom. This can help prevent hemorrhoids or ease symptoms.
2. Whole grains
Like legumes, whole grains are nutritional powerhouses. They retain their germ, bran, and endosperm, loaded with beneficial components like fiber.
Whole grains are especially rich in insoluble fiber. This helps move your digestion along, which can help reduce pain and discomfort associated with hemorrhoids.
Keep in mind that whole grains go beyond hearty whole-wheat flour and bread. While these are good options, this category includes barley, corn, spelt, quinoa, brown rice, whole rye, and oats.
Oatmeal is an especially good option to include in your diet when trying to reduce hemorrhoid symptoms.
It contains a specific kind of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which benefits your gut microbiome by acting like a prebiotic. Prebiotics help feed the friendly bacteria in your gut.
When shopping for oatmeal, remember that steel-cut oats take longer to cook but are less processed. They provide a more toothsome bite and about 5 grams of fiber per 1/4-cup (40-gram) serving of dry oats, compared with 4 grams for quick-cook or rolled oats.
3. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, arugula, bok choy, kale, radishes, turnips, and cabbage.
While they’re predominantly known for their anticancer properties, they also deliver an impressive amount of insoluble fiber.
For example, 1 cup (76 grams) of raw broccoli provides about 2 grams of dietary fiber, which is insoluble. This works to bulk up your stools and keep you regular.
What’s more, cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolate, a plant chemical your gut bacteria can break down.
One study in 17 adults found that increasing the intake of cruciferous vegetables by 6.4 grams per pound (14 grams per kg) of body weight diversified their gut microbiome within two weeks.
The diversity of gut bacteria is linked to a more resilient gastrointestinal system and improved immunity. This and their insoluble fiber content make cruciferous vegetables a great choice for preventing hemorrhoids.
Artichokes are loaded with fiber, with a raw, medium-sized one (128 grams) packing about 7 grams of this nutrient.
Like many fiber-rich foods, artichokes’ fiber helps feed the friendly bacteria in your gut.
Suggested read: Top 20 foods high in soluble fiber
Two human studies found that inulin — a type of soluble fiber in artichokes — increased the number of beneficial gut bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
This may help prevent the onset of hemorrhoids or diminish its symptoms by keeping your gut healthy and regular.
5. Root vegetables
Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, turnips, beets, rutabagas, carrots, and potatoes are filling and packed with nutrition.
They’re rich in gut-healthy fiber, containing about 3–5 grams per serving.
Remember that much of their fiber is harbored in the skin when it comes to tubers, so be sure to leave it on when you enjoy them.
What’s more, cooked and cooled white potatoes contain a kind of carbohydrate known as resistant starch, which passes through your digestive tract undigested. Like soluble fiber, it helps feed your friendly gut bacteria.
As this reduces constipation, it may ease hemorrhoid symptoms.
The best way to incorporate root vegetables into your diet is to roast, steam, sauté, or boil them with their skin on. They’re also wonderful mashed or cut up and baked skin-on as a substitute for fries.
Squash brings color and fiber to your dinner plate from summer to winter.
There are many varieties, including yellow squash, zucchini, acorn squash, butternut squash, and pumpkin.
The most fibrous of this bunch is acorn squash, which packs 9 grams of this hemorrhoid-fighting nutrient in every cup (205 grams) of baked cubes.
Enjoy squash roasted, sautéed, or boiled to help keep your digestive tract moving while warding off hemorrhoids.
7. Bell peppers
Another great vegetable to help with hemorrhoids is the bell pepper.
Each cup (92 grams) of sliced, mild peppers delivers nearly 2 grams fiber.
While not as fibrous as some other vegetables included in this list, bell peppers are very hydrating, with a water content of 93%.
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Along with fiber, this makes your stool easier to pass and prevents straining.
Like bell peppers, celery delivers a lot of water and fiber. This softens your stools and diminishes the need to strain.
One large, 11–12-inch (28–31-cm) stalk provides 1 gram of fiber and comprises 95% water.
Slice this crunchy vegetable into salads, add it to soups or stews, or dip the stalks into a bit of your favorite nut butter.
9. Cucumbers and melons
Cucumbers and melons belong to the Cucurbitaceae family.
Like bell peppers and celery, they’re delicious ways to bring fiber and water into your digestive tract.
When enjoying cucumber, leave the skin on to ensure you get the most fiber.
One medium pear packs nearly 6 grams of fiber, 22% of your daily fiber needs.
Be sure to eat this fruit with the peel on, as that’s where a lot of the hemorrhoids-defying fiber can be found.
Pears make an excellent snack on their own or can be stewed or tossed into soups or salads.
Like pears, apples boast an impressive amount of fiber.
For instance, one medium apple possesses nearly 5 grams of fiber. Moreover, some of this fiber is pectin, a soluble fiber that creates a gel-like consistency in the digestive tract.
This helps soften and bulk up your stool, easing straining and aiding the discomfort associated with hemorrhoids.
While berries are considered fibrous, raspberries stand out as a fiber-packing powerhouse.
Simply eat 1 cup (123 grams) of raw raspberries for 8 grams of fiber with 85% water content.
Together, these nutrients will make it easier to go to the bathroom without straining.
B bananas are an ideal food to incorporate into your diet to calm hemorrhoid symptoms by boasting both pectin and resistant starch.
One medium, 7–8-inch (18–20-cm) banana provides 3 grams of fiber.
While pectin creates a gel in your digestive tract, its resistant starch feeds your friendly gut bacteria — a great combination to help your hemorrhoids.
14. Stewed prunes
Prunes are considered nature’s laxative.
Studies show that eating a moderate amount — up to 10 prunes daily — can improve the consistency of stools and digestive motility among people with constipation.
This is attributed not only to fiber but also to sorbitol. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that your intestines don’t digest well. It draws water into your digestive tract, softening stools and spurring the need to use the bathroom.
Stewed prunes pack a bit more water. To make them, simply simmer dried prunes in filtered water for 10 minutes or until soft.
Keeping yourself hydrated will help make stools softer and easier to pass.
How much water you should drink depends on age, sex, and activity level. Be sure to opt for water the majority of the time. If you need more flavor, infuse it with lemon slices or berries.
You may occasionally reach for other fluids low in sugar, such as unsweetened or mildly sweetened teas and clear low-sodium broths.
Generally, drinking eight 8-ounce glasses daily is recommended, but this is arbitrary advice not rooted in scientific evidence. It comes down to what works best for you.
Foods to avoid
It’s a good idea to limit foods that are low in fiber. These can worsen constipation, which can trigger hemorrhoids.
Low-fiber foods to avoid include:
- Dairy products. These include milk, cheese, and other varieties.
- White flour. This flour has removed bran and germ, making it less fibrous. Products from this flour include white bread, pasta, and bagels.
- Red meat. Avoid this type of meat, as it takes longer to digest and may exacerbate constipation.
- Processed meats. These foods, such as bologna and other cold cuts, are low in fiber and high in sodium, increasing your risk of constipation.
- Fried foods. These can be hard on your digestive tract and difficult to digest.
- Salty foods. They may cause bloating and make your hemorrhoids more sensitive.
You should also avoid:
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- Spicy foods. While not necessarily low in fiber, spicy food may increase pain and discomfort associated with hemorrhoids.
- Caffeinated beverages. These beverages, especially coffee, may harden your stools and make it more painful to use the restroom.
- Alcohol. Like caffeinated beverages, alcoholic drinks can dry up your stools and exacerbate the discomfort of hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.
While certain foods may worsen your symptoms, others can be highly beneficial.
Increasing your fiber intake may help diminish symptoms — as can staying hydrated with plenty of water.
Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits are loaded with fiber. Eating more of them may help keep you regular and prevent constipation — and, therefore, hemorrhoids.
However, if your symptoms don’t improve or worsen, see your healthcare provider to determine your best treatment plan.