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The bathroom means different things to different people. For some, it’s simply where they use the toilet, grab a quick shower, and tend to various hygiene habits. For others, it’s a quiet space where they can have a little time to themselves—or a lot of time. A 2019 survey out of the UK revealed that the average person spends more than 400 days of their life in the bathroom, with one in six adults saying they hang out in the bathroom for peace and quiet.
While various activities can take place in a bathroom, the majority of people’s time there is most likely spent on the toilet, which can lead to a condition most of us would prefer not to discuss. Uncomfortable, sometimes painful, other times itchy, and all-around unpleasant, hemorrhoids are common—but not unavoidable. Read on to find out why having one particular thing in your bathroom can increase your risk of hemorrhoids, and how to decrease your risk of getting them.
Hemorrhoids are a common—and uncomfortable—condition.
“Nearly three out of four adults will have hemorrhoids from time to time,” according to the Mayo Clinic. But what exactly are hemorrhoids (also known as “piles”)?
“A hemorrhoid is a blood-filled pucker in the lower rectal area caused by a constriction or plugging of the veins in the area,” explains Elliana Rose, MD. “Hemorrhoids form when fatty tissue builds up around the opening of the anal canal… This adhesiveness results in the formation of a plug of fat and blood in the lower rectal area,” she says.
While hemorrhoids can happen for many reasons—including pregnancy, heavy lifting, and a low-fiber diet—sitting for too long on the toilet is a common risk factor. And bringing your phone into the bathroom with you increases that risk.
Many people bring their phones into the bathroom.
If you regularly tote your phone into the bathroom with you, you’re far from alone. A study conducted by Verizon Wireless surveyed over 6,000 people and revealed that 90 percent of them bring their phones into the bathroom. And that screen time on the toilet—spent scrolling, texting, posting, reading, etc.—extends the time spent sitting down. While it’s recommended that toilet time not exceed ten minutes, smartphone use can stretch that out to 30 minutes or more.
“When you stay on the toilet for upwards of 20, 30, 40 minutes, you’re putting unnecessary pressure on the rectum, [which] can cause hemorrhoids, and definitely make any pre-existing hemorrhoids way worse,” Partha Nandi, MD, told Thrillist. “By prolonging this pressure on the rectum, you can exacerbate gastrointestinal issues, and a problem that is moderate, like going too much or too little, can become very severe.” Nandi’s advice? “Really, you want to get in and get out as quickly as possible,” he warns. “When you just sit there after you’re done, being sucked into your phone, that becomes a problem.”
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Including this in your diet can help prevent hemorrhoids.
“Hemorrhoids are a collection of veins inside and outside the anus. Everyone has hemorrhoids. We are born with them,” colorectal surgeon Karen Zaghiyan, MD, clarified when speaking to Healthline, explaining that hemorrhoids only become a problem when they’re engorged and swollen.
While regularly sitting on the toilet for too long can cause inflamed hemorrhoids, there are other reasons the condition may occur. A low fiber diet can also put you at risk for hemorrhoids. “The majority of individuals do not consume enough fiber in their diet to meet the recommended daily level, which is between 20 and 30 grams,” says Rose, who recommends fiber supplements as an option. “Studies have indicated that over-the-counter fiber supplements, such as psyllium or methylcellulose, can alleviate the general symptoms of hemorrhoids, as well as the bleeding that is associated with them.”
Rose warns, however, that supplements can actually worsen your constipation if they’re not taken as directed and with increased water intake. “If you take fiber supplements, you should increase the amount of water or other fluids you consume each day to at least eight glasses,” she recommends.
Preventing hemorrhoids can be as simple as taking a walk.
Cutting down on time spent sitting on the toilet is a good way to decrease your risk of swollen, painful, and itchy hemorrhoids—and one way to lessen toilet time is to leave your phone out of the equation. The threat of hemorrhoids isn’t the only reason; bringing your phone in with you when you go to the bathroom can also result in a dangerously dirty phone, and can distract you in the wrong ways.
In addition to increasing your fiber intake, going for a walk can also help prevent hemorrhoids. “Constipation and vein pressure can both be exacerbated by prolonged standing or sitting, so it’s important to keep moving to avoid both,” says Rose, who adds that “Your hemorrhoids may be a result of weight gain, which can be reduced by regular exercise.”
“Try not to overextend yourself,” Rose also suggests. “When trying to pass a stool, holding your breath and straining causes more pressure in the veins in the lower rectum, which might make the process more difficult.”
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