Humans evolved to stand upright and outrun their predators, so it’s no wonder sitting sedentary in a halogen-lit office is ruining the species. But it’s not just your lower back and general outlook on life slowly being crippled by your 9-to-5. It’s also your butt.
Hemorrhoids. Irritation. Diarrhea and constipation. Your work habits are waging a secret war on your anus. You may be a faceless cog in the capitalist machine, but don’t let your butthole suffer for it.
We’re here to help. We reached out to Dr. Will Bulsiewicz of the Charleston Hemorrhoid Center to see what havoc your office life is unleashing on your hindquarters—and what you can do about it.
Sitting Too Long
First and foremost, the thing ruining pretty much everything else in your body — sitting — is also ruining your butt. “Staying in a seated position for too long allows gravity to pull more blood down into the pelvis and will plump those hemorrhoids up,” Bulsiewicz says.
As with your lower back, heart, brain, eyeballs and overall wellbeing, you need to get up and move around to keep them in top shape. “If needed, set an alarm on your phone to stretch your legs and take a couple steps every 15 minutes,” he adds.
Spending Too Long on the Toilet
That said, don’t make the 30-step walk to the bathroom your hourly workout, because spending long periods straining to poop instead of working might get you a promotion to CEO of the hemorrhoid branch.
It’s tempting to escape the drudgery of office life and sit in the stall, careening down some internet black holes until the motion lights time out and your legs go numb. But you’re still sitting, and the toilet is worse than the office chair.
“Squatting your tail down on the toilet for more than five minutes at a time is a bad idea,” says Bulsiewicz. “What happens on the toilet is that your pelvic muscles are conditioned to naturally relax, in preparation for defecation, like the butt version of Pavlov’s dog.” Just like sitting too long, he says, blood begins to flow more freely toward your butthole, which means “plumper, juicier hemorrhoids, which means more problems.”
We know how hard it is to pull yourself away from Twitter, but Bulsiewicz urges you not to stay any longer than necessary on the toilet. Then, “find somewhere else to read,” preferably standing up, he says.
Pooping Too Much
Watch your lunch—and resist the temptation to make it too spicy. “When you let the cafeteria lady drizzle extra red sauce on your enchiladas, it comes as no surprise that your butt explodes that afternoon,” says Bulsiewicz. “Most people associate hemorrhoids with constipation, but they can happen just as easily with diarrhea.”
Not Pooping Enough
“On the flip side,” Bulsiewicz continues, “you’re not going to be much better off if you make yourself constipated by taking two Imodium before lunch.” If you’re constipated, you’ll probably sit longer and push harder, putting even more strain on your poor, beaten butt. “The point being,” he concludes, “any change in bowel habits can aggravate the hemorrhoids, so focus on maintaining good regular bowel movements with a healthy dose of fiber, and don’t overdo it on the spicy and greasy stuff.”
Trying to Prove Your Manliness
If you’re a soft-handed cog in the white-collar machine, chances are you’re not doing too much manual labor. So these guys trying to be the hero and volunteering to lift furniture? Bad for the butt!
For example, “let someone else lift the giant water cooler,” says Bulsiewicz. “When the vein in the middle of your forehead is throbbing and the blood vessels in your eyes are about to burst, your hemorrhoids are experiencing a similar effect.”
The same goes for working your stress out at the office gym. If you haven’t worked your way up to it, Bulsiewicz argues, “heavy lifting is an easy and unexpected way to get your behind just as swole up as your muscles.” Gah!
If you’re the sweaty biker type, cycling to work instead of cramming yourself into a hot train or bus with the rest of us, good for you—you’re doing great by your body and by the environment. Your butthole, on the other hand, might be suffering. “By cramming that hard bike seat into your perineum and then leaning forward,” Bulsiewicz says, “you not only increase blood flow to the ’roids but also apply pressure that may impair drainage of the juice.”
The same goes for bike desks. (I’m feeling bad for this stock photo model right now.) “Anytime you put yourself into a squatted position for hours on end, you’re running the risk of aggravating the private piles,” Bulsiewicz adds.
If you get really focused on work, hunkering down for hours and skipping lunch, you’re betraying your butthole. “It’s easy to get too busy at work,” Bulsiewicz says, “and this generally leads to less time for eating and more caffeine consumption.” When you skip meals or eat fast microwavable food, you’re not getting the fiber needed for a healthy butt. “Fiber is like a magic salve for hemorrhoids,” adds Bulsiewicz. “It not only helps to regulate your bowel movements, but it also has a healing effect that’s been shown to reduce bleeding from hemorrhoids.”
The same goes for water. To stay focused at work, you’ll probably opt for coffee or energy drinks (if you’re a monster). According to Bulsiewicz, “When we substitute highly caffeinated drinks, like coffee, they act as diuretics on the kidneys and actually dehydrate us, which can easily lead to bowel changes that aggravate hemorrhoids.”
So if you want to avoid a bleeding and painful butthole, drink water, eat healthy, don’t sit too long and reconsider those long hours. “The office can be a dangerous place when it comes to your anus,” says Bulsiewicz. “The last thing you need is to have your elite skillset held back by a raging, flared-up hemorrhoid.”