Hemorrhoids are swollen veins that can occur inside and outside of your anus. There are a variety of surgical and nonsurgical treatments available, and these can be done in conjunction with certain vitamins for hemorrhoids. Other supplements for hemorrhoids can support treatment as well.
Hemorrhoids and Treatment Options
Hemorrhoids, also known as "piles," are a very common anorectal condition that involves the enlargement of submucosal tissue in the anus. This condition is caused by swelling of veins around the anus.
Harvard Health states that there are two types of hemorrhoids: internal ones and external ones. External hemorrhoids occur just outside the opening to the anus and often protrude, swelling out and causing discomfort.
Internal hemorrhoids may also protrude outside the anus, but appear as small marble-sized masses when they do. Otherwise, you may not realize that you even have internal hemorrhoids. These hemorrhoids can be relatively painless compared to external hemorrhoids and may cause symptoms like bleeding and mucosal discharge.
According to an August 2015 study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, 75 percent of Americans are likely to experience hemorrhoids at some point in their lives. Diet plays a role in your risk of developing hemorrhoids.
Diets low in fiber and rich in alcohol and spicy foods are associated with the development of hemorrhoids and worsening of symptoms. Other risk factors include constipation and other conditions associated with increased intra-abdominal pressure, as well as aging, obesity, depression and pregnancy.
Treatment for hemorrhoids is completely based on their severity. Hemorrhoids are rated by grades. Dietary and lifestyle modifications are recommended for all types of hemorrhoids. However, medication is only effective in mild cases, known as grades one and two. Nonsurgical procedures are suitable for grades one through three, while surgical procedures can be performed on grades two and up.
If you have or suspect that you have hemorrhoids, you should talk to your doctor and discuss treatment options. Some hemorrhoids can be relieved with self-care treatments, including supplements. However, anal lumps, rectal bleeding and pain are associated with other conditions too, like colorectal cancer.
Fiber Supplements for Hemorrhoids
According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology study, around 50 percent of people with hemorrhoids experience symptomatic relief and less bleeding after taking fiber supplements.
Increasing dietary fiber intake and fluid consumption are two of the main dietary changes that doctors recommend to treat hemorrhoid symptoms and prevent future hemorrhoid development. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, most people don't consume enough fiber, which is likely part of the reason why fiber supplements benefit so many people suffering from hemorrhoids.
However, according to a May 2012 study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, fiber supplements don't help with other symptoms, like pain, itching and rectal prolapse. This means that these supplements are only really suitable for the prevention of hemorrhoids and treatment of mild grade, nonprolapsing hemorrhoids.
Unfortunately, fiber supplements can also take a long time to actually help; significant improvement may only occur after around six weeks of supplementation.
Another important note to keep in mind is that not all types of dietary fiber are the same. Soluble fiber and insoluble fiber can act differently within your gastrointestinal system. According to "Pros and Contras of Outpatient Treatments for Hemorrhoids," a chapter in the book Hemorrhoids, published in June 2018, certain types of fiber supplements can aggravate your gut when you're already suffering from constipation or other issues.
This book reported that fine small insoluble fiber, like fine wheat bran, and fermentable soluble gel-forming fiber, like wheat dextrin, are both likely to aggravate constipation, which can worsen your hemorrhoids. Insoluble large particle fiber, like coarse wheat bran, and soluble gel-forming fiber, like psyllium husk, work in different ways. However, both are able to support regular bowel movements.
Dietary Supplements for Hemorrhoids
Other supplements for hemorrhoids include omega fatty acids. A May 2019 study in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research found that the polyunsaturated fat alpha lipoic acid (ALA), which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, could help treat grade two and three hemorrhoids.
Just 200 milligrams of ALA was able to reduce discomfort, pain, bleeding and inflammatory cells present in people with hemorrhoids. However, it's noteworthy to mention that these improvements did occur gradually, over a period of 12 weeks.
Antioxidants like flavonoids and other phlebotonics are also useful supplements for hemorrhoids. According to an August 2012 study in the Cochrane Database Systems Review, these beneficial bioactive compounds can also help reduce bleeding and improve hemorrhoid-related symptoms.
The 2012 World Journal of Gastroenterology study supported these findings, stating that oral flavonoid supplements for hemorrhoids can reduce itching by 35 percent, pain by 65 percent and bleeding by 67 percent.
The 2015 World Journal of Gastroenterology study reported that flavonoids also have anti-inflammatory effects, facilitate lymphatic drainage and lessen discharge. A June 2015 study in the journal Techniques in Coloproctology reported that flavonoids can reduce the persistence of edema and blood clots.
These supplements for hemorrhoids have also shown benefits following surgical procedures, reducing the risk of discomfort, pain and hemorrhage after hemorrhoidectomies.
Surgery and Vitamins for Hemorrhoids
There are a variety of different nonsurgical and surgical options that are somewhat invasive. Nonsurgical treatment options that your doctor can perform include rubber-band ligation, sclerotherapy and coagulation therapy. Surgical treatment options excise the hemorrhoids. In general, surgery is best avoided except when other treatment options have failed or complications have arisen.
A July 2016 study in the International Journal of Colorectal Disease found that vitamins for hemorrhoids were useful in conjunction with certain surgical procedures, like the open hemorrhoidectomy.
In this study, vitamin E was able to support hemorrhoid treatment because it can help reduce inflammation and pain following surgery, as well as the days required to recover from the procedure. However, using vitamin E for piles on its own would likely not substantially help in treating hemorrhoids.
There aren't too many other vitamins that can help treat hemorrhoids. However, certain vitamins, like vitamins A, C and D, also have antioxidant properties. These nutrients may also help reduce inflammation and support treatment. In general, however, anti-inflammatory drugs and steroid creams are thought to be better at minimizing the discomfort and pain associated with hemorrhoids and hemorrhoid surgery.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Help for Hemorrhoids"
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: "Treatment of Hemorrhoids: A Coloproctologist’s View"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Fiber"
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: "Hemorrhoids: From Basic Pathophysiology to Clinical Management"
- International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research: "Alpha Lipoic Acid Reduces Symptoms and Inflammation Biomarkers in Patients With Chronic Hemorrhoidal Illness"
- Cochrane Database Systems Review: "Phlebotonics for Haemorrhoids."
- Techniques in Coloproctology: "Flavonoids Mixture (Diosmin, Troxerutin, Hesperidin) in the Treatment of Acute Hemorrhoidal Disease: A Prospective, Randomized, Triple-Blind, Controlled Trial"
- International Journal of Colorectal Disease: "Reduction of Postoperative Pain and Improvement of Patients' Comfort After Milligan-Morgan Hemorrhoidectomy Using Topical Application of Vitamin E Ointment"
- Mayo Clinic: "Hemorrhoids"
- Hemorrhoids: "Pros and Contras of OutpatientTreatments for Hemorrhoids"