Lately it seems like exercise is a magic cure for just about anything—and that’s because it is. Not only will it help you avoid problems like heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, but keeping your muscles loose and limber even takes care of issues down below. It all has to do with how often you go #2, according to Harvard Health. Constipation and the straining that comes along with it can put too much pressure on your bottom. Harvard Health suggests 20 to 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic exercise, like taking a brisk walk, to stimulate your bowels and keep you regular.
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Although the reason isn’t clear, some studies show a correlation between having a clean bum and hemorrhoids—in favor of personal hygiene, of course. In one study of 138 people, scientists found washing up after you poop and cleaning your bottom in the shower had a significant effect on whether study participants got hemorrhoids. The study suggests you should shower before bed at least once a week, making sure to pay special attention to your genitals.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet—and a healthy bottom. Since fiber helps keep you regular, it prevents hemorrhoids in the same way as exercise—by preventing constipation. You should aim for about 25 to 30 grams of fiber every day, which you can find in high-fiber foods like beans, broccoli, carrots, bran, whole grains, and fresh fruits. (Check out these 10 best foods to avoid constipation—and the worst.)
No, not alcohol—some studies suggest excessive alcohol use can actually cause hemorrhoids—but rather good ol’ H20. Water makes up about 75% of a healthy poop. Keeping hydrated helps your stool stay soft and, you guessed it, staves off constipation.
Take It Easy
In a twist on the usual health news, one study of 2,813 people found that sedentary behavior actually reduced the risk of hemorrhoids, and that carrying a few extra pounds had no correlation to the bumps whatsoever. While it may seem contradictory (you actually WANT me to sit on the couch?), in the case of hemorrhoids taking it easy actually makes sense. Research shows excess strain, from pushing a little too hard on the John to lifting heavy boxes, can cause a sudden increase in pressure in the blood vessels around your rectum, leading to hemorrhoids. Still, a sedentary life puts you at risk for a host of other health problems, like diabetes and memory loss, and weight training has been proved to decrease risk of heart disease and stroke and to keep you feeling balanced well into your golden years. So hit the gym, but remember to keep breathing regularly while you lift weights to relieve some of the pressure you’re putting on your hindquarters.
Go When You Gotta
If you’ve been paying attention, you already know constipation is a big risk factor for the development of hemorrhoids. But eating more fiber and drinking more water aren’t the only ways to keep your bowels moving. It’s also important to go when you’ve got the urge. While it’s good to be able to hold it in until you can find a toilet, holding your poo for too long can make it go hard and dry inside your bowels, according to Cleveland Clinic. This is because your intestines leach water from stool, and if it sits there long enough, poop shrivels and is harder to push out.