Nutrition and Healing
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  • This embarrassing issue can be brought on… by sneezing?

    Q: I started experiencing hemorrhoids after menopause. I’m a vegetarian and am confident that I eat well. What else can I do?

    GR: Brace yourself, because I’m about to say something that you may not want to want to hear.

    No matter who you are… or what you do… you’ve got hemorrhoids.

    At least there’s a silver lining: Everyone else does, too!

    The hemorrhoids themselves — the natural cushions that protect your anal sphincter muscles and help manage pressure down there — aren’t inherently irritating, itchy, or painful.

    The pain comes in when your hemorrhoids become inflamed or engorged with blood due to a whole host of reasons that may range from irritants to strain to diet (or some combination thereof). And while narrowing it down can be a long, frustrating process, identifying the root cause of your flare-ups will help you figure out how best to calm them down.

    Some flare-up-inducing situations aren’t necessarily under our control — hard bouts of sneezing or coughing, for one — but there’s never any harm in checking in on the things that you can manage, like your gut.

    As I’ve shared with you in a past issue of my Nutrition & Healing newsletter, one factor that can determine the likelihood of a hemorrhoidal flare-up is if it takes too much time for food to pass through and be eliminated from your system.

    The quicker your “transit time,” the less likely that your dietary habits are irritating your hemorrhoids.

    To measure your own transit time, take 1.5 to 3 g of activated charcoal tablets (available at your local pharmacy) with a large glass of water right after a bowel movement. The next time you poop, look for signs of the crumbly black charcoal tablets.

    It should take somewhere between 12 and 18 hours from the time you swallow something to the time you eliminate it.

    If everything comes through on schedule, your diet probably isn’t the culprit behind your flare-ups, and you can move on to considering other potential causes (heavy lifting, excessive sitting, obesity, anal strain) and lifestyle changes (moving more, avoiding strain, losing weight).

    But if it takes longer for the charcoal to resurface, try adding some fiber-rich veggies or nuts to your diet and testing again.

    And yet, even if you’re doing everything “right” — eating well, going Paleo, and even getting regular exercise — you may still experience debilitating flare-ups. Your doc can help identify whether you have a circulation issue or other underlying condition that may be causing your flare-ups.

    In the meantime, there are two herbs that can be used together to soothe flare-ups — especially if they’re related to fragile veins and limited circulation. I typically recommend 40 mg of Butcher’s Broom and 100 mg of Horse Chestnut twice daily. As well, witch hazel may help quiet mild flare-ups.

    Got another itch that needs scratching? Send me a question at, and I may choose to answer yours next.

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