Anal fissures are small cracks or tears in the lining of the rectum. While they are most commonly caused by hard stools passing through the anus, constipation or chronic diarrhea other less common causes such as inflammatory bowel disease, anal, sex cancer and HIV also contribute to their formation. Anal fissures generally cause bleeding, so you may notice blood pooling on the toilet seat or streaks of blood on the toilet tissue.
Anal fissures are painful and unfortunately quite common, affecting about one in every 350 adults in the United States. While it is difficult to entirely prevent anal fissures, taking a few precautionary steps could prevent them from becoming a problem for you.
Preventing Anal Fissures
Anal fissures are the third most common condition of the rectum, but they don’t have to be. Taking measures to prevent the most common causes of anal fissure such as constipation and diarrhea by improving digestion and encouraging healthier bowels can also reduce your likelihood of developing anal fissures, and there are several ways that you can go about this. For example, dehydration leads to constipation, hardened stools and the potential for anal fissures, so try to drink at least 64 ounces of water every day to stay properly hydrated.
Another dietary change you can make to reduce your likelihood of experiencing anal fissures is to eat more fiber. Fiber slows digestion, makes stools bulkier and helps you stay full for longer in between meals. The National Institute of Health recommends American adults eat 20-35 grams of fiber every day, but most people don’t eat even close to that amount. Fiber is found in whole grains, vegetables and fruits.
There are plenty of ways to add more fiber to your diet, such as eating:
- Brown rice
- Nuts, like almonds, pecans and walnuts
- Potato skins (try having potato skins with baked potatoes and healthy toppings—not as fried potato skins which will counteract the health benefits of the fiber).
- Whole grain cereals
While it is difficult to control all situations in which anal fissures can develop, it is possible to control your diet. That is where the above dietary choices come into play. Eating more fiber will help you to stop straining during bowel movements, and by preventing constipation you are reducing one factor that could lead to anal fissures. For more advice on preventing anal fissures, or for information on how to treat anal fissures you’ve already developed, talk to your colon and rectal specialist.