Anal fistula is a condition that develops as a reaction more usually to an anal abscess. Inside the anus are several glands that make fluid. At times when the gland gets blocked or clogged, the building up of bacteria can form a swollen pocket of pus filled infected tissue and liquid called the anal abscess. An untreated growing abscess will eventually find a way to the outside.
As a result, a path or a tunnel is formed to drain the pus from the infected gland to the outside. The opening to the outside, appears as a hole in the skin somewhere near the anus. The fistula is the tunnel that connects the gland to that opening. If the abscess does not heal the right way after the pus has drained away, the fistula may remain open and cause symptoms.
Can anal fistula be treated with home remedy treatments ?
An anal fistula exists as an abnormal structural tunnel under the skin connecting the anal canal in the colon to the skin around the anal opening. This tunnel can manifest symptoms time and again. A gastro intestinal surgeon conducts required tests and examination to confirm the diagnosis and determine the most suitable treatment.
The best option is usually suggested depending on the position of the fistula, whether it is a single channel or branching fistula. In certain conditions that affect lower digestive tract or anal area, there is an increased risk for anal fistula. Immediate surgical correction may not be possible in such conditions. Those conditions include:
- Colitis – acute inflammation of the colon
- Crohn's disease - – long term inflammation of the digestive system
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Constipation causing injury
- Radiation treatment for rectal cancer
- Complication of an earlier anorectal surgery
- Infection with Tuberculosis or HIV
The only permanent treatment would be to correct the structural abnormality. However, home remedies can ease symptoms and bring temporary relief from severity.
Symptoms of anal fistula that can get better with home remedies
Anal fistulas create unpleasant symptoms such as discomfort and skin irritation. These symptoms do not usually get better on their own. Some of the several symptoms of anal fistula can find relief with certain home remedies. Such symptoms include:
- Pain with swelling around the anal area
- Redness, soreness or constant itching of the skin around the anal opening
- Throbbing pain specially while sitting down, moving around, passing motion or coughing.
- Experiencing fever and chills
- Tiredness and feeling sick
- Leaking of smelly discharge near the anus
- Passing of blood or pus in stools
- Difficulty in controlling bowel movements
Home remedies to ease symptoms of anal fistula
If an anal fistula is acute, the chances of finding relief is easier with simple home remedies. Healthy diet and lifestyle habits become a part of daily remedies to bring down the impact of the fistula.
Healthy eating habits – Diet that can prevent constipation or diarrhoea is the best suitable to avoid recurrence of symptoms. In the same way, well hydrated body can make bowel movements pain free and lessen the strain on the anal canal.
Fibres help a lot in controlling anal fistulas. Fibre rich foods add volume to the stools and help expel them easily. Foods to be included in daily diet constitute mainly of fibre rich whole grains, vegetables and fruits. They clear the colon and help prevent or cure constipation. Vitamins and minerals present in them can boost immunity and help healing the infection faster.
Including healthy fats such as cold pressed oils or clarified butter in moderate amounts can help better absorptions of nutrients and help smooth bowel movement.
Healthy foods like fish, olives, nuts and seeds are rich in omega-3s and omega-6s that will help to strengthen the immune system and decrease the levels of inflammation from the anal fistula.
- Avoid eating heavy and large meals to prevent indigestion and diarrhoea.
- Avoid eating spicy and hot foods that can aggravate bleeding and irritation in the anal region.
- Consuming too much caffeine or alcohol can dehydrate the system and worsen constipation.
- Avoid refined, sugary and fried foods that can harm the intestinal function.
Keeping hydrated - One of the best home remedies for anal fistula is to drink plenty of water. Consuming huge amounts of water and fruit juice is good substitute for carbonated beverages and alcohol. Having ginger tea, turmeric milk, cabbage juice, orange juice or extracts from gooseberries can help bowel clearance. Excess amount of water makes the waste softer and will help clean the intestines thus preventing constipation and pressure on the fistula.
Healthy bowel habits – Toilet hygiene and bowel habits can help prevent bacterial residue that may remain on the skin and spread infection. Habits to follow include:
- Anal area has to be washed well after each bowel movement or going to the toilet.
- Hands have to be kept clean as they get the most exposure to germs.
- Underclothing needs to be changed as and when the fistula may leak.
- Use anal pads if necessary
- Do not delay or resist the urge to pass motions.
- Staying seated for long on the toilet can increase abdominal pressure and worsen the fistula.
Sitz bath - one of the best ways to aid symptoms of anal fistula that include irritation, swelling, pain and inflammation is a sitz bath, which is a process of soaking the anal area in plain warm water. A sitz path taken at least 3-4 times every day can be soothing and relieving.
Using a donut pillow – This will avoid pressure on the anal area and relieve pain while sitting.
Using stool softener or laxative - helps the stool bulk to retain fluid, making it softer and less likely to dry out and cause constipation.
Topical anaesthetics – Medically prescribed gels or creams can relieve pain and swelling when applied locally.
Home remedies may provide symptomatic relief to a certain extent but anal fistulas rarely heal If left untreated. Every treatment method has different benefits and risks. It is best advised to discuss the condition and seek treatment options with the gastroenterologist.