Living a stress-free life is easier said than done. We are all quite aware that stress is one of the biggest causes of mental health issues. But it can also cause actual physical health problems. For example, did you know that stress is an indirect cause of hemorrhoids?
Per mayoclinic.org, hemorrhoids (also called piles) are swollen veins in your anus and lower rectum, similar to varicose veins. It has many causes, an important one being an unstable digestive system. And stress and anxiety play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids happen when the veins or blood vessels in and around your anal area and lower rectum become swollen and irritated. This happens when there is extra pressure on these veins.
Hemorrhoids are a common condition in both men and women. About half of all people will have hemorrhoids by age 50. (www.hopkinsmedicine.org)
One of the first signs of hemorrhoids is pain during bowel movements or passing hard stool. It can lead to pain, burning, and itching. It can also cause bright red blood in your stool and toilet paper.
Types of hemorrhoids and their symptoms
According to mayoclinic.org, there are three main types of hemorrhoids.
These are under the skin around your anus. Hemorrhoid symptoms might include:
- Itching or irritation in your anal region.
- Pain or discomfort
- Swelling around your anus
Internal hemorrhoids are found inside the rectum. You usually can’t see or feel them. But if you strain or force when you pass stool, it shows some signs.
- You can experience painless rectal bleeding during bowel movements.
- Hemorrhoids could push through the anal opening (prolapsed or protruding hemorrhoid). This can lead to pain and irritation.
This happens when blood pools in external hemorrhoids and form blood clots (thrombi). You can identify one if you see the following symptoms.
- Severe pain
- Swelling and inflammation
- A hard lump near your anus
What are the different causes of hemorrhoids?
While the exact cause of hemorrhoids is not definite, the following risk factors could increase your chances of getting them.
- If you often strain during bowel movements. This could be due to digestive problems or bad food habits. Or you could have medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.
- An unhealthy digestive system for long periods could also lead to long-term or chronic constipation or diarrhea. They also increase your chances of getting hemorrhoids.
- Being pregnant. Many women get hemorrhoids during pregnancy and childbirth. This is because the pressure of carrying a baby puts extra stress on the blood vessels in your pelvic area. Childbirth and labor also put extra pressure on these blood vessels.
- You also have a higher chance of getting hemorrhoids if you are older and/or have a family history of it.
- Being obese or doing regular heavy lifting increases the chances of getting hemorrhoids.
Stress and your digestive system
Having a lot of stress and anxiety in your life has a negative impact on your digestive system.
High-stress levels can lead to either an overactive digestive system (increased stomach cramps and diarrhea). Or it can lead to an underactive digestive system (uncomfortable gas and constipation). Neither of these is pleasant or good for your health.
Maintaining a well-regulated digestive system is very important for the body. This is because a large part of your immune system and many crucial hormonal processes rely on the digestive system.
However, if you have an unhealthy gut that persists over a long time, it can cause hemorrhoids as well as many other health issues.
How to treat and manage hemorrhoids?
Thankfully, hemorrhoids are easily manageable, provided you are willing to make the effort. Some treatment options that healthcare providers can suggest include:
- Sitting in plain, warm water or a warm bath several times a day.
- Using ice packs to reduce swelling.
- Using topical creams.
- Taking stool softeners and eating a high-fiber diet. Introducing more fiber in the form of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can make it easier to pass stool. This reduces pressure on the hemorrhoids.
- Medical procedures and surgeries can also help if your case is severe.
More importantly, a long-term solution for overall health is to manage the stress and anxiety in your life. This is especially important if your gut health is poor. Dietary changes or taking medicines cannot manage bowel problems permanently, without lifestyle changes.
So, you must reduce the stressful situations in your life. Getting proper rest, regular physical activity, and maintaining boundaries can all help.
As a Christian, how can you manage stress in your life?
Our daily lives can be quite stressful. And stressful situations often bring out the worst in us and our health. It causes problems like hemorrhoids, chest pain, heart disease, high blood pressure, and so on.
So, the best way to combat stress is to use the tools we have at hand. One important tool that is easily within our reach is the strength of our spiritual life. Oftentimes, it’s the one tool that we neglect unknowingly but one that can have a strong impact.
According to aop.com, nearly 3 out of 4 Americans felt that 2020 was the most stressful year of their lives. So, how can we imbibe what the Bible says to reduce stress in our lives?
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” As the verse says, we need to trust in the Lord and remind ourselves not to be anxious. Prayer and giving thanks will help us reduce our anxiety.
Luke 12:25 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” This verse reminds us that worrying will get us nowhere. It will only add to the chronic stress we feel. So, we should leave our worries to the Lord who has plans for us all.
Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved”. This verse again reminds us that the Lord is there behind us all the way. As long as we love him and follow his will, he will never abandon us. For those who have been struggling with emotional stress for a long time, this verse fills us with courage and hope.
As we fight our daily anxieties and stress, let us always remember Exodus 14:14. The verse says, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Fighting a troublesome health condition such as hemorrhoids is more than just about medicines and diet. Finding the root cause and trying to eliminate it is also crucial. And what is often the root cause? Stress!
Even as it can inconvenience and pain us, let’s take relief in the fact that there are remedies available. And more so, the remedies are often in our hands.