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If you have hemorrhoids, you're not alone. Far from it, in fact. Almost 1 in 2 adult Canadians have suffered from hemorrhoids at some point in their lives.1 That's nearly every second person at work, on the train – even at the pharmacy.

Hemorrhoids are caused by increased pressure on the blood vessels in your rectum. These blood vessels stretch and swell and you may begin to notice one or several symptoms, such as itchiness and pain. But, once you know what causes hemorrhoids, you’ll be well on your way to help prevent them.

Wondering what may cause this increased pressure? A few things:

  • Constipation and straining during bowel movements – Straining when you are constipated is one of the major causes of hemorrhoids. Increase your intake of fresh fruit and fibre - they’ll make your trips to the bathroom much more manageable.
  • Diarrhea – prolonged bowel movements that have you sitting on the toilet for longer than usual can cause hemorrhoids.
  • Heavy lifting - It can be weights at the gym or heavy boxes at work. Any activities that put pressure on your abdomen can increase your chances of having hemorrhoids, even something like slouching when you’re sitting, or prolonged sitting/standing.
  • Obesity – Being obese can also put your abdomen under strain.
  • A poor diet - A diet high in refined carbohydrates, low in fiber and lacking whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables can contribute to inflammation and hemorrhoids.  A lack of nutrients that support healthy vascular function can increase your risk for as well as the severity of hemorrhoids.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth – The weight of your developing baby, constipation, and pushing during labour make hemorrhoids common. Moms can find more information here.

Adding to the above factors, your chances of experiencing hemorrhoids increase with age.2 So, if you are over 45, take extra notice of what you can do to decrease your chances of getting hemorrhoids.

There is plenty you can do about them

You can help relieve your hemorrhoid symptoms with over-the-counter and prescription medications. Simple lifestyle changes can also help prevent hemorrhoids and make them feel less painful.

1 Hemorrhoid Study Online Omnibus. Ipsos Reid, July 2005, n=1412

2 Carruthers-Czyzewski, P. Hemorrhoids. In Patient Self-Care . Canadian Pharmacists Association 2002;287-293