One of the most common pieces of advice you’ll receive if you have haemorrhoids (or want to avoid getting them) is “eat more fibre.” It’s actually pretty good advice to get for life in general, of course. However, in the case of haemorrhoids, are all kinds of fibre good for you? And why should you eat more of it anyway?
Why should I eat more fibre when I have haemorrhoids?
It’s good to consume plenty of fibre on a daily basis regardless of whether or not you have haemorrhoids. Fibre can help reduce your risk for a number of conditions, including stroke, cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It can also help promote healthy gut bacteria and bowel movements, lower your cholesterol levels, help keep your body at a healthy weight, control your blood sugars, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce a variety of inflammation types.
An ideal amount of fibre to eat each day is 25-30 grams per 1,000 calories. The kinds of food you should be aiming to consume can include sunflower sprouts, chia seeds, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, mixed berries, onions, jicamas, sweet potatoes, beans and peas.
Are there different kinds of fibre?
There are two main kinds of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre, as you might expect, dissolves in water to form a sort of gel. This is the best kind of fibre for softening your stool and making it easier to pass during a bowel movement. It helps you avoid becoming constipated and, in turn, avoid getting haemorrhoids or further irritating those you already have.
Insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in water. However, it helps keep everything ticking along nicely inside your digestive system and maintains a chemical balance inside your colon.
Ideally, you’ll want to eat a combination of soluble and insoluble fibre-rich foods (many of which contain both kinds of fibre), and aim to hit the 25-30 gram mark each day. About one third of your fibre intake should be soluble, though you should eat more if you have diarrhoea.
Don’t get carried away, though – it’s always possible to have too much of a good thing. If you eat too much fibre you’re likely to experience a lot of internal gas and bloating. You should also aim to drink plenty of water to help your body make use of the fibre it’s ingesting (8-10 tall glasses of water is the recommended amount per day).
What kinds of fibre-rich food should I eat?
Fruits and vegetables
Let’s start with the obvious one – fruits and vegetables. You’ll get loads of fibre from fresh fruit and veg, and there’s a huge variety to choose from.
You should leave the skins on your fruit when they’re the thin kind, like those you’ll find on pears, plums, apples and potatoes. The skins contain insoluble fibre along with special compounds called flavonoids, which are useful for controlling haemorrhoid bleeding. You’ll get most of your flavonoids from fruits and vegetables that are brightly-coloured, such as grapes, tomatoes, berries, kale, and dark-leafed vegetables. It’s best to keep them in one piece and avoid over-cooking them to get the maximum benefit from their flavonoids.
A single serving of fruit can give you at least 10% of your overall fibre intake for the day (about 3-4 grams), while you’ll get a slightly higher amount from leafy green vegetables, sprouts, broccoli, winter squash and green peas. Cucumbers, bell peppers, watermelon and celery all have high water content too (90%).
Try to add fruit or vegetables to all of your meals if you can – fruit with breakfast and lunch, veg with lunch and dinner. Be creative in how you add them to keep things interesting. Try to swap out biscuits and salty snacks during the day for dried fruit like dates, apricots and fig leaves.
Beans, lentils and nuts
Beans and lentils are extremely rich in fibre. A relatively-small amount of beans, such as navy, lima, black or kidney beans, can give you a boost of between 7 and 10 grams of fibre, which is about a third of your overall daily intake alone. They also contain both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Nuts are also excellent sources of fibre. A handful of pecans or almonds can contain as much as 3 grams of fibre on their own, as does a small portion of edamame. As with fruit and veg, try incorporating more beans and nuts into your dishes – Indian dishes in particular often use plenty of beans, so try out a few new recipes.
It’s all too easy to end up eating lots of bread throughout the day as it can be incorporated into most of your meals: toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, garlic bread with dinner. All delicious, but not great for you.
Try swapping white breads, pastas and crackers for those made with whole-grain flours, stone-ground cornmeal and buckwheat or rye. You’ll get plenty of insoluble fibre from these. Ditch the whiter foods for those rich in oats and grains for a great fibre boost.
What shouldn’t I eat when I have haemorrhoids?
Fibre-rich foods are great for helping reduce your chances of becoming constipated and thereby lessen the risk of getting haemorrhoids. But while you increase your fibre intake, you should also decrease the amount of food you it that has little or no fibre in it, such as white bread, cheese, milk, meat, processed and fast food. Also avoid eating too much salty food and don’t drink too much caffeine as this can dehydrate you.
Can I take anything else?
If you’re struggling to get the amount of fibre in your diet up, you can try a dietary fibre supplement to give you a boost. One such supplement is organic psyllium, which works best alongside a diet rich in vegetables. Organic psyllium is “type of soluble fibre made from the husks of seeds from the Plantago ovata plant…it is a simple and cost-effective way of increasing your body’s fibre supply. Taking it three times a day could give you as much as 18 grams of dietary fibre.”