Hemorrhoids affect 75% of adults during their lifetime, making them one of the most common gastrointestinal problems. Unfortunately, many patients don’t visit Dr. Nina Paonessa at Paonessa Colon and Rectal Surgery until they already have hemorrhoids, but she would rather help you avoid the problem.
Here’s what you need to know about the connection between sitting and hemorrhoids and how you can lower your risk or outright prevent them.
The areas around your anus and inside the rectum contain a network of blood vessels. When one or more veins become inflamed and swollen, you have hemorrhoids.
What causes hemorrhoids? In a word, pressure. Hemorrhoids develop when excessive pressure in the lower rectum makes the veins stretch, setting them up to become engorged with blood.
Sometimes the pressure comes from activities like lifting heavy objects. Women also commonly develop hemorrhoids during pregnancy, as the weight of the baby places pressure on the rectum.
But the pressure responsible for hemorrhoids primarily comes from prolonged sitting and straining due to constipation.
How sitting causes hemorrhoids
When you sit, the pressure on your buttocks makes the gluteal muscles spread out. In the process, the small veins around the anus and rectum are stretched and lose elasticity. Then the fragile veins become engorged with blood, and you have hemorrhoids.
The intense pressure from prolonged sitting leads to new hemorrhoids and aggravates existing ones. But not all sitting has the same effect. Sitting on a hard chair causes more pressure than a soft chair. And the worst is sitting too long on the toilet.
Spending too much time on the toilet places extreme pressure on your rectum and anus. On a toilet seat, your rectum is lower than the rest of your buttocks. As a result, gravity pushes down on the veins and blood pools in the veins. If you strain due to constipation, you further increase the pressure.
Lack of exercise magnifies prolonged sitting
Your job may require you to sit for an extended time. However, sitting a lot also occurs if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. This type of sitting and the resulting lack of activity only increases your risk of developing hemorrhoids.
Exercise helps you prevent hemorrhoids and lowers your risk of flare ups. When you exercise, you stimulate bowel function, tone the rectal area, and increase blood flow.
Improving bowel function helps you avoid constipation, while boosting blood flow promotes healing of existing hemorrhoids. Toning the tissues that support your anus and rectum helps offset the effect of pressure on the rectal area.
Tips for preventing hemorrhoids
Here are four tips we give our patients to prevent hemorrhoids:
Even if you need to sit for your job, you can lower your risk of hemorrhoids by taking regular breaks to get up and walk around.
Get off the toilet
You should only sit on the toilet long enough to have a bowel movement, which typically takes a few minutes. You shouldn’t spend more than five minutes on the toilet.
One of the best ways to avoid sitting on the toilet too long is to stop reading at the same time. When you stay engaged with something interesting while on the toilet, it’s easy to lose track of time.
Never strain or push down to force stool out of your rectum. Give yourself about five minutes to have a bowel movement then get off the toilet and try again later. The best way to avoid straining is to prevent constipation.
Get enough fiber, water, and exercise
To prevent constipation, you need to exercise, drink plenty of water during the day, and eat a high-fiber diet. Some great sources of fiber include beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains like oats and bran.
If you live in or around Brielle or Manahawkin, New Jersey, and need expert care for hemorrhoids, call Paonessa Colon and Rectal Surgery or schedule an appointment online today.