While you may find your hemorrhoids embarrassing, you're not alone in your suffering. As many as 50 percent of people develop hemorrhoids at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). It's possible for your hemorrhoids to resolve on their own, but sometimes surgery is necessary.
You may have some concerns about your diet after hemorrhoid surgery, but you shouldn't worry. While you may need to make a few modifications for the first few days after hemorrhoid removal, you should focus on eating a diet that may help prevent a recurrence of your hemorrhoids, which are also called piles.
The best foods to eat immediately following hemorrhoid surgery are low-fiber foods such as white bread, mashed potatoes, soft-cooked vegetables and healthy proteins. But to prevent future hemorrhoids, high-fiber foods make the best choice.
What Are Hemorrhoids?
You may be surprised to learn that hemorrhoids are a lot like varicose veins, but instead of on your legs, they develop around your anus or in your rectum. This area of your digestive tract is made up of a complex system of muscles and tissue that helps expel feces during a bowel movement. Your hemorrhoids are a cushion of tissue near the anus that fills with blood to help keep the strong muscle closed and prevent leakage after a bowel movement.
Excess pressure on the tissue may cause the hemorrhoid tissue to fill with blood, swell and protrude from its normal position, creating what you may refer to as hemorrhoids or piles. Hemorrhoids don't always cause symptoms, so you may not even know you have them.
- Sitting too long on the toilet
- Straining during a bowel movement
- Ongoing diarrhea or constipation
- Not getting enough fiber in your diet
Internal and External Hemorrhoids
Where your hemorrhoids form may determine the types of symptoms you experience. As previously mentioned, hemorrhoids don't always cause symptoms, and you may not even know you have them.
Internal hemorrhoids develop in your rectum. These types of hemorrhoids don't typically cause pain or discomfort, but they can bleed. With internal hemorrhoids, you may notice streaks of blood on your toilet paper after you wipe or bright red blood in the toilet after your bowel movement.
External hemorrhoids occur under your skin around your anus. Like internal hemorrhoids, external hemorrhoids may not cause any problems. However, if they become irritated they may itch or bleed.
When Can Hemorrhoids Become Painful?
You may wonder if hemorrhoids don't cause symptoms, why are they such a concern? Well, sometimes hemorrhoids can be painful and quite bothersome. If your hemorrhoid develops a blood clot it's referred to as a thrombosed hemorrhoid, which can cause significant discomfort.
External hemorrhoids can become thrombosed. When the blood fills the tissue and clots, it swells and becomes painful. The thrombosed hemorrhoid may also harden into a lump that may make sitting comfortably nearly impossible.
Is Hemorrhoid Removal Necessary?
You don't always need hemorrhoid surgery to treat hemorrhoids. In most cases, you may be able to get relief from your symptoms using over-the-counter creams or wipes and eating a diet that's higher in fiber. However, if your hemorrhoids are large, thrombosed, or don't improve with less invasive measures, then you may need surgery.
Hemorrhoid removal surgery is referred to as a hemorrhoidectomy and is usually done under anesthesia so you don't feel any pain. During the procedure, your surgeon removes the swollen tissue and seals off the blood vessel to prevent further bleeding. Depending on your surgeon, your hemorrhoid may be removed using a scalpel, laser, or a cautery pencil, which is a surgical tool that uses electricity to cauterize your hemorrhoid.
Following the procedure, your surgeon provides specific instructions on how to take care of the area, including what foods to eat after hemorrhoid surgery. It may take up to three weeks for you to fully recover from your surgery.
Diet After Hemorrhoid Surgery
While recovery from hemorrhoid surgery isn't quick, you don't need to follow a special diet for very long following your procedure. For the first few days, you need to minimize movement through the area so that your wound can heal, which means eating foods that won't add bulk to your stool and create big bowel movements. This type of diet is called a low-residue diet.
This diet consists of foods that are low in fiber to help minimize waste and bowel movements. Examples of the low-residue foods to eat after hemorrhoid surgery include:
- Any milk products, but limit to 2 cups a day
- Strained vegetable juice, potatoes without the skin and soft-cooked vegetables
- 100 percent fruit juice, canned fruits, soft melons and bananas
- White bread, white rice, pasta and cornflakes
- Soft cooked meat, poultry and seafood
Comfort foods like chicken noodle soup and meatloaf with mashed potatoes are low-residue foods to eat after hemorrhoid surgery.
Back to Your Regular Diet
You shouldn't have to follow the low-residue diet after hemorrhoid surgery for too long. Usually about three days following your hemorrhoid removal you should be able to start to reintroduce your usual preferred foods. Go slow, though, to prevent any unnecessary discomfort.
Most importantly, follow your doctor's advice regarding your diet and how and when to add back foods to prevent discomfort during your recovery.
Your Diet After Hemorrhoids
After dealing with hemorrhoids and the recovery from your surgery, you may be ready to make the necessary changes to your diet to prevent a recurrence of your piles, which means a high-fiber diet.
Fiber is an indigestible substance found in plant foods. Because your body isn't able to digest fiber, it adds bulk to your stools, making them easier to pass. That means you have less straining, more regularity and a decrease in your risk of developing hemorrhoids. Upping your fiber intake not only improves your bathroom habits, but may also keep you feeling full longer, benefit your heart health and improve your blood sugar control.
Getting Your Daily Fiber
- Fruits: raspberries, strawberries, pears and oranges
- Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, carrots and potatoes with the skin
- Grains: brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat bread and barley
- Beans, peas and lentils: kidney beans, chickpeas and split peas
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds
What About Fiber Supplements?
While it's always better to get your nutrition from whole foods because it usually comes with nutrients you can't put in a bottle, if you're struggling to meet your daily fiber needs, supplements may be an option. Talk to your doctor for recommendations on how and when to take fiber supplements to prevent constipation or other digestive issues.
Fiber supplements may even prevent your need for surgery, according to a 2017 study published in Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica. Researchers found that combining a fiber supplement with improved bathroom habits — not sitting on the toilet for too long, limiting bowel movements to once a day and no straining — helped prevent the need for hemorrhoid surgery in a group of participants with advanced hemorrhoids, where surgery was the only next option.
- Medical University of South Carolina: Hemorrhoids
- University of Michigan: Hemorrhoidectomy for Hemorrhoids
- Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroentrology: Low Fiber/Low Residue Diet
- FamilyDoctor.org: Fiber: How to Increase the Amount in Your Diet
- Today's Dietitian: The Top Fiber-Rich Foods List
- Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica: Adequate Dietary Fiber Supplement and TONE Can Help Avoid Surgery in Most Patients With Advanced Hemorrhoids
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Hemorrohoids
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet