Much like bathroom-humor at the dinner table, hemorrhoids can be a taboo subject. The truth is, everyone has them. Their job is to protect your anal sphincter muscles (the ones that open and close your anus) and to help keep your anus closed when you have moments of increased abdominal pressure, like when you’re coughing. They become a problem for us when they become inflamed. Once this happens they’re known as piles. Popular culture has led to “hemorrhoids” and “piles” to be interchangeable in common vernacular. By the age of 50, about half of the US population will have dealt with these inflamed itchy protrusions from your anus. Because most people with piles get curious about why their butt itches, let’s take a closer look at what they are, what causes them to become inflamed, and how we can prevent that from happening.
Your anus is controlled by one of the many sphincter muscles within the body. Sphincters are muscles that form like a doughnut around the many openings within the body, like the entrance and exit of your stomach. Those would be the lower esophageal sphincter and pylori sphincter respectively. When sphincters relax, they allow the entrance or release of liquids and solids. Normally sphincters are constricted which keeps those liquids and solids from leaving their respective positions within the body. No one likes the acid from your stomach coming back up and making your chest feel like it’s on fire! Read more