Is Coffee Bad For Hemorrhoids?

If you have hemorrhoids, the pain, inflammation, and itching accompany a flare-up. Eating the right foods can help reduce the number and intensity of flare-ups.

The most important thing to do is eat plenty of fiber, which helps make your stools easy to pass and can help treat and prevent hemorrhoids. However, there are other things to consider.

One question often asked is whether coffee is good or bad for hemorrhoids.

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What causes hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are caused by inflammation of the veins in the rectal area. They may be external, under the skin around your anus, or internal, forming in the lining of your anus and lower rectum. This inflammation is typically caused by pressure on the veins around the anus, which can be caused by:

  • Frequently lifting heavy objects, putting movers and construction workers at higher risk

  • Pregnancy, which can cause the weakening of the supporting tissues around the anus and rectum

  • Not eating enough fiber

  • Chronic constipation, including straining a lot during bowel movements and spending a lot of time on the toilet

  • Chronic diarrhea

Age is also a risk factor for developing hemorrhoids, with self-reported peak incidence occurring between the ages of 45 and 65. For most people who get hemorrhoids, they are a one-time or infrequent thing, and they recover within a few days without treatment. However, some people have recurring hemorrhoids, meaning they come back.¹

You may also have a repeat bout with hemorrhoids because of a risk factor that is still present, such as if your job requires lifting heavy objects.

Should you drink coffee if you have hemorrhoids?

For many Americans, coffee is a daily ritual. However, caffeine can have various effects on your body, which can be good or bad.

First of all, coffee is a diuretic, which means it can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can make you constipated.

On the other hand, coffee can also stimulate the rectosigmoid motor response, resulting in the urge to defecate. Black coffee is particularly likely to make you want to head to the bathroom due to the higher caffeine content.²

So, which is it? Unfortunately, the answer depends on how you respond to caffeine. If coffee typically makes you want to go and drinking it does not make your hemorrhoid symptoms worse, it may be helpful. Women are more likely to experience the urge to go to the bathroom.

Interestingly, in the same study, decaf coffee appeared to have the same effect, and many respondents claimed tea did not. This might indicate that drinking decaf coffee may have a beneficial effect while avoiding the dehydrating impact of caffeine. If you do not have constipation, coffee may result in diarrhea, which can also aggravate hemorrhoids.

Avoiding coffee can be a challenge for people with a caffeine addiction, which is fairly common. If this is the case, slowly reducing your consumption is better than simply stopping, as those symptoms can also make you miserable. 

Caffeine withdrawal symptoms include headache, fatigue, decreased energy and alertness, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and depression. It can be mild to extreme and can affect daily functioning. Cutting out caffeine can, thus, result in more discomfort than continuing to drink it in some individuals. Caffeine withdrawal can also sometimes cause constipation and, thus, direct issues. However, cutting caffeine down will still help your symptoms in most cases.

You should talk to your doctor about whether you should drink coffee and how much. It's also important to avoid other foods that aggravate your symptoms.

What are good alternatives to coffee?

Unless coffee gives you diarrhea and increased bowel frequency, you can always opt for decaf coffee. Other good alternatives include:

  • Non-caffeinated herbal teas and tisanes

  • Green tea, which has a much lower caffeine content that may be safer for you

Herbal teas can offer you a lot of flavors and satisfy the habit of having a hot cup of something in your hands. Talk to your doctor before consuming teas touted to help with hemorrhoids (there are blends on the market). Ginger is often touted as good for hemorrhoids, but no studies have been done to establish whether it works.

What other foods are bad for hemorrhoids?

You should avoid other caffeinated beverages such as black tea and caffeinated soda. Some foods that typically aggravate hemorrhoids or constipation include:

  • Cheese

  • Meat

  • Ice cream

  • Processed foods, especially hot dogs

  • Chips and other salty snacks

  • Fast food

It's a good idea to note what foods seem to make your hemorrhoids worse. The key thing to do is to eat more fiber, however.

If you have hemorrhoids during pregnancy, you should talk to your nutritionist about the best way to avoid aggravating your hemorrhoids while still eating a good diet for you and your baby.

The lowdown

The caffeine in coffee can have a diuretic effect, leading to dehydration and worsening constipation, which can aggravate hemorrhoids. Some people also find that coffee increases their desire to defecate, which can potentially ease constipation but could also cause diarrhea, which can also aggravate hemorrhoids.

Most people should, thus, avoid coffee if they have hemorrhoids. People prone to recurring bouts of them should consider limiting their coffee consumption, including decaf coffee. Non-caffeinated teas and tisanes make for a good alternative.

Talk to your doctor about whether you should drink coffee and how much is a good idea for you to drink.

  1. Review of hemorrhoid disease: Presentation and management (2016)

  2. Effect of coffee on distal colon function (1990)

Other sources:

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