Pregnancy is one of life's truly wonderful events! Do not be discouraged if you have developed hemorrhoids and find that you are spending more time and energy trying to tame symptoms of hemorrhoids than you are spending planning for your new arrival. There are things you can do to get the hemorrhoids under control. We've discussed home care at great length already so we will not go over those measures again. Let's talk about how to balance your nutrition in order to feed your baby and yourself during pregnancy and starve your hemorrhoids!
You will be pleased to know that these recommendations will not change anything that is fundamental to good nutrition during pregnancy. Follow the advice your doctor has already given you on how to eat for proper nutrition during pregnancy. In addition, take the following steps to get those hemorrhoids under control.
The most basic cause of hemorrhoids is an increase in pressure in the lower abdomen. There are many factors that are responsible for this change and during this particular time, your pregnancy is one of them! The very presence of your baby is adding significant pressure to the lower abdomen. In addition, normal hormonal changes during pregnancy cause increased blood flow to the abdomen and this also increase the pressure.
There's nothing you can do to decrease pressure related to pregnancy but there are several things you can do to decrease pressure from other sources. Without a doubt, the main culprit is constipation! Unfortunately, constipation is very common during pregnancy. When you are constipated there is a natural tendency to strain to push the stool out. Bad idea! Straining increases pressure and the dry, hard stools of constipation irritate and tear the hemorrhoids causing pain and bleeding. So, let's focus on nutritional steps for avoiding constipation!
Increasing your intake of dietary fiber is the most important change you can make to avoid constipation. Fiber adds bulk to the stool for smoother passage and joins water to keep the stool soft and moist. Add the following foods to your diet to avoid or ease hemorrhoids. (Note: you can purchase fiber supplements but they are not as good for you during your pregnancy because they lack the vitamins and minerals that food items naturally contain.)
- Grains and whole grain breads, cereals and pasta. The emphasis here is on whole grain, as opposed to products made from white flour which has had the fiber processed out of it. When you go to the grocery store, read the labels. Make sure the first ingredient is whole grain and that each serving delivers at least 2 grams of fiber. Increase fiber in baked products by adding bran cereal to the mixture before baking.
- Unpeeled fruits and vegetables. Most of the fiber in fruits and vegetables is in the skin so do not peel if you do not need to. Eat them raw or add fresh or frozen vegetables such as carrots or broccoli to soups, stews, and sauces. (Stay away from canned vegetables. They have too much sodium / salt for you during pregnancy.) Try to eat at least a bit of fruit with each meal or as a snack between meals.
- Aim for a daily intake of 30 grams of fiber. (If you are a typical Westerner your fiber intake is probably 12 grams per day or less!) Read the label for fiber content. As a sample, one cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber, a cup of whole wheat spaghetti has 6 grams, and 3 cups of popcorn has 3 1/2 grams of fiber. (Avoid buttered popcorn though. You do not need extra saturated fat during your pregnancy.) Opt for air-popped at this time.)
- One caution about fiber: increase it slowly (such as over a week or two) so as to avoid gas and bloating. Talk to your doctor before adding more than 30 grams of fiber per day because excess fiber can reduce the absorption of vitamins and minerals during your pregnancy.
- Add beans and lentils to your diet. (One cup of cooked peas has 16 grams of fiber.)
- Eat some nuts for fiber. An ounce of almonds has 3 1/2 grams of fiber. (A word of caution though: use nuts only occasionally and in small amounts.) While they are high in fiber they are high in calories and also contain saturated fat which is not good for you.)
Another very important nutritional change during pregnancy to deal with your hemorrhoids is to increase your intake of water!
- Water is essential in order to keep your stool soft and moist and to avoid constipation. Fiber works by adding bulk to the stool and one of the ways it does this by absorbing water into the passing stool. You can do your part by providing plenty of water for the fiber to absorb.
- Aim for 6 to 8 glasses per day. However, this is not possible for some pregnant ladies so shoot to double your daily intake of water (except your doctor has told you that you should limit your fluid intake because you are having kidney or other issues).
- Try to sip water through the day rather than drinking it all at once. Your bladder will be able to handle the water easier and you will not be constantly “on the go”.
- There are fluids other than water of course. However, do not rely on other sources for the bulk of your fluid intake because juices are high in calories without adding much extra fiber. Coffee and tea contain caffeine which is not good for you at this time. Alcohol is calorie-laden, not good for your baby, and can actually dehydrate you. The best way to add fluid is with good, simple water.
These basic changes in your nutrition will aid in avoiding the development of hemorrhoids during your pregnancy and ease the symptoms of hemorrhoids you already have. Properly cared for, most hemorrhoids will go away after delivery. Do what you can now to avoid pain and heartache in the future. Happy hemorrhoid-free pregnancy!