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Can Stress Cause Hemorrhoids? Gut Health, Constipation, Prevention
Mental Health

Can Stress Cause Hemorrhoids? Gut Health, Constipation, Prevention

Wendy Lord, RD
Written by Wendy Lord, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on December 4, 2022
146 Views
6 min

Hemorrhoids are painful, itchy, protruding bundles of veins that may cause rectal bleeding. In this article, we examine the relationship between stress and hemorrhoids and offer 4 tips to help you prevent them.

Can stress cause hemorrhoids
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Many people are too embarrassed to talk about hemorrhoids, but they are more common than you think. It is estimated that half of all adults in America have them, and men and women are affected equally.

The swollen, irritated veins in and around your anus can cause chronic pain and itching and make bowel movements uncomfortable. Constipation, age, and pregnancy are known to cause hemorrhoids, but there are other factors to consider if you have hemorrhoids.

In this article, we examine the body’s stress response and the impact it has on the gut to help you determine whether stress is a possible cause of your hemorrhoids. 

Can Stress Cause Hemorrhoids?

The short answer is yes. Stress can cause hemorrhoids. However, the bulging, itchy, painful veins associated with the condition are not the direct result of stress.

Hemorrhoid flare-ups may be common during periods of psychological stress due to the effect the body’s stress response has on the digestive system. When the fight or flight response is triggered, all of your body’s resources are used to deal with the threat to your safety, and digestion slows down or stops.

Chronic stress can, therefore, result in stomach cramps and an underactive digestive system, and constipation. Alternatively, the opposite may be true for you. Your stress-related digestive problem may be an overactive digestive system and diarrhea. 

Whether you are coping with constipation or diarrhea, you may be straining when your bowel moves, which causes excess pressure in the blood vessels in the lower rectum. 

Additionally, when you feel stressed, you may unconsciously contract your anal sphincter muscles and further increase the pressure in the rectum. 

High blood pressure may seem to be an obvious cause of hemorrhoids. However, research does not support this hypothesis. Although hypertension increases the pressure on the walls of your blood vessels, hemorrhoids occur when the connective tissue surrounding the blood vessels is weak and cannot support them. 

Can stress cause hemorrhoids to bleed?

Stress does not cause hemorrhoids to bleed. However, if your digestive tract is sensitive to stress, the increased pressure on the blood vessels during a bowel movement could cause the hemorrhoids to rupture and bleed. 

What Are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are bundles of veins found beneath the lining of the rectum and anus. They are a normal part of the human anatomy. It is only when excess pressure in the vessels causes them to become engorged, protrude, or cause symptoms, such as pain and itching, that we refer to them as a health condition similar to varicose veins.

There are two types of hemorrhoids, depending on where they are located. You may have internal hemorrhoids found in the wall of the rectum, or you may have external hemorrhoids located under the skin in and around the anus. 

Both may cause rectal bleeding, which can be identified by bright red blood, which you may notice on the toilet tissue or in the toilet bowl when you have a bowel movement. The difference is that internal hemorrhoids are usually painless and external ones can cause significant pain. 

What Can Cause Hemorrhoids to Flare-Up?

The risk factors associated with developing hemorrhoids include pregnancy, straining during bowel movements, sitting on the toilet for extended periods, obesity, and eating a fiber-poor diet. It is, therefore, vital to take care of your physical health to avoid hemorrhoid flare-ups. 

Good mental health is equally important. Environmental and psychological stress can indirectly cause stomach pain and hemorrhoids due to the effect of stress hormones on bowel function. An underactive or overactive digestive system resulting from your stress response can cause constipation or diarrhea, which increases the risk of straining when you go to the toilet. 

Consequently, stress management is a crucial component in the treatment of hemorrhoids, alongside a high-fiber diet, exercise, invasive medical procedures, such as surgery, and over-the-counter medications.

How to Avoid Getting Hemorrhoids From Stress?

Taking care of your physical health and preventing physical and emotional exhaustion with stress reduction efforts can help keep your bowel movements steady and prevent hemorrhoids. 

Below are 4 tips to help you enhance your gut health, relieve stress, and improve your mental health. 

#1 Eat a healthy diet

The best way to avoid digestive problems is to eat a healthy diet that is high in fiber. Combined with sufficient water intake, fiber-rich food can help prevent constipation and make your bowel movements easier, reducing your risk of developing hemorrhoids. 

It is recommended for adults to eat 25g of fiber daily on average. More specifically, women should aim for 21–25g of dietary fiber per day, and men should try to consume 30–38g of dietary fiber per day.

If you struggle to get enough fiber in your diet to improve your bowel function, you could try a fiber supplement, such as Benefiber, Metamucil, or ColonBroom. Clinical studies support using such supplements as a treatment for hemorrhoids and have shown an almost 50% reduction in chronic symptoms and bleeding when used regularly. 

#2 Involve yourself in physical activity

Studies show that regular physical activity can help relieve stress and keep your bowel movements steady. Daily exercise releases feel-good endorphins to boost your mood and improves blood flow throughout your body, including in your digestive system.

The body’s movements gently massage the digestive tract and support healthy bowel movements. Therefore, exercise, such as yoga and walking, can help reduce your risk of digestive problems and hemorrhoids. 

Some forms of exercise can aggravate your discomfort. Activities like cycling and horse riding can exert pressure directly on your hemorrhoids, while exercise involving lifting heavy weights can increase the pressure in your abdomen.

#3 Try journaling

The pressures and responsibilities we deal with every day can make life difficult. Journaling is one of many coping tools that can help us manage our emotional lives more effectively.

Stressful situations cause your body’s nervous system to trigger your fight or flight response, which, in turn, can have a negative impact on your digestive system.

Relieving stress is, therefore, essential for your emotional well-being and your physical body. Writing down your thoughts in a journal can put your concerns into perspective, help track your symptoms and triggers, and give you an opportunity to identify negative thoughts and engage in positive self-talk. 

Alternatively, you might want to try the Sensa app. It’s like having a therapist in your pocket. The app includes 3 features: a planning tool based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, health, mindfulness, relaxation, and physical activities that help you develop new healthy habits, and a mood journal to help you track your mood. 

Sensa Health
Your calm mind assistant
  • Lessons based on the CBT method
  • Mood journal
  • Challenges & self-improvement activities
  • Quick relief function
  • Assessments to help you grow
Our rating:
4.5
Start Free Quiz Now

#4 Speak with a therapist

It may seem strange to speak with a therapist about your digestive problems, but since the activation of your sympathetic nervous system can indirectly result in hemorrhoids, professional counselors can help you prevent flare-ups. 

Your stress response is meant to be a short-term solution to an immediate problem, and then your parasympathetic nervous system takes over to return the body to a calm state. 

Unfortunately, this natural response to stressful situations can result in emotional exhaustion when you don’t have the necessary tools to relieve stress. A therapist can teach you some effective stress management techniques and give you some effective coping tools for when life gets the better of you.

FAQs

Can babies get hemorrhoids from stress?

Yes, babies can get hemorrhoids from stress. Constipation as a result of dehydration, a transition from breast milk to formula, or from milk to solid foods may also cause hemorrhoids in babies. If you notice hemorrhoids or rectal bleeding in your baby, immediately seek help from an experienced doctor.

Can depression cause hemorrhoids?

Yes, depression can cause hemorrhoids. There is a two-way communication system between your gut and your brain called the gut-brain axis. As a result, your mental health can impact your gut health and cause digestive problems, including hemorrhoids. Therefore, speaking with professional counselors to manage your depression can help prevent flare-ups.

A Word From MD

Your body’s natural response to stress is a protective measure to keep your body safe and healthy. Unfortunately, we live in a world where chronic stress is normal, and our bodies are almost constantly in fight or flight mode, which can negatively impact the digestive tract.

As a result, many people have an underactive digestive system and battle with constipation. The increased pressure exerted on the rectum and anus when you have to strain when going to the toilet and the extended time you may spend sitting on the toilet attempting to pass a stool is how stress causes hemorrhoids.

Similar to varicose veins, hemorrhoids are bundles of veins in the lower rectum that become engorged with blood. Treatment includes a high-fiber diet, gentle exercise, over-the-counter medications, topical creams, and a procedure called a rubber band ligation.

Conclusion

Stress affects your body and your mind. Although it is not a direct cause of hemorrhoids, stress can result in digestive issues, including constipation and diarrhea, which can cause excess pressure to be exerted on your rectum and anus when you go to the toilet, causing hemorrhoids.

Sensa Health
Your calm mind assistant
  • Lessons based on the CBT method
  • Mood journal
  • Challenges & self-improvement activities
  • Quick relief function
  • Assessments to help you grow
Our rating:
4.5
Start Free Quiz Now
Wendy Lord, RD
Written by
Wendy is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for writing about nutrition, health, and medicine. Her aim is to translate the medical jargon to make information accessible to everyone so that they can make informed decisions about their health.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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