Haemorrhoids can be a real pain in the butt, quite literally. It’s estimated around 300,000 cases of haemorrhoids are treated each year in Australia, but they’re rarely talked about due to the attached stigma.
So what are they exactly? Haemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swollen veins that can be found in or around the anal canal. They’re most often caused by straining too hard to pass faeces as a result of being constipated, being pregnant, regularly lifting heavy objects and other hereditary factors.
Like many medical conditions, haemorrhoids have their fair share of old wives tales and myths. So which myths might have some merit and which should you ignore? Read on to find out.
Myth 1: Sitting on a cold floor gives you haemorrhoids
Have you ever had a family member put newspaper under your bottom when you’re sitting on concrete? That might be because your nearest and dearest think they’re protecting you from getting haemorrhoids. Luckily, this one seems to be a myth. While more research needs to be conducted on the link, a small initial study of 148 individuals with haemerroids in Germany found there was no direct correlation between sitting on a cold surface and getting haemorrhoids.
Myth 2: Eating spicy food causes haemorrhoids
For all the spice enthusiasts out there, if you’ve ever been a victim of the “spicy bum”, you may be familiar with the burning sensation passing through your rectum after eating a little too much chilli. While there hasn’t been much research conducted on this subject, there is currently no evidence to suggest that eating spicy food causes haemorrhoids. If you already have the condition, you may find too much spice may aggravate your anus, but this is dependant on each individual.
Myth 3: Haemorrhoids cause cancer
Haemorrhoids causing cancer is a myth. The myth may have come about because haemorrhoids share some symptoms with certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer. The shared symptoms can include blood in your stool and rectal pain. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, however, it’s best to visit your GP.
Myth 4: You can’t exercise if you have haemorrhoids
Understandably, if your bottom is itchy and tender, exercise isn’t high on the to-do list. While heavy manual labour is a potential cause of hemorrhoids and should be avoided, other low impact exercises may have positive benefits. The treatment and prevention of haemorrhoids generally requires treating constipation, a common underlying cause of the condition. And 30 minutes of exercise a day may help to stimulate bowel function.
Treatments for haemorrhoids
If you think you have hemorrhoids, first and foremost, see your local GP as they’ll be able to develop a personalised treatment plan. There are various treatments available. Some treatments are as simple as increasing the fibre in your diet, avoiding prolonged straining on the toilet and using stool softeners. For more serious stages there are other interventional options, such as surgery, to completely remove haemorrhoids.
Got more burning questions? Find out how often you should eat red meat and other interesting facts with our Burning Questions collection.