If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, you will certainly agree that living with the condition is no easy task, especially if your symptoms tend to flare up for what seems to be like no reason at all. However, the good news is that most people with the disease will respond well to the treatment plan, provided that they follow the advice given by their gastroenterologists.
Here are some tips for living with Crohn’s disease.
1. There will be flare ups and remission phases
Most people diagnosed with Crohn’s experience phases of flare-ups and remission. During the remission phase, individuals with Crohn’s feel normal. However, when the condition flares up, the symptoms of Crohn’s worsen and are likely to cause:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Painful bowel movements
- Bloody stools
Alongside the conditions mentioned above, Crohn’s patients are also subjected to weight loss and are often considered undernourished with poor levels of iron, vitamins, and folic acid.
2. Always stick to the treatment plan
To avoid any flare-ups, you have to listen to your doctor and stick to the provided treatment plan. There is no standard treatment protocol for Crohn’s patients, and what worked for you may not work for another person with the disease.
According to Raymond Cross, MD, an Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of the IBD program at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine,
“A significant number of patients, once they’re in remission and are feeling well, don’t want to take medications. Or they skip a few doses of medicine. That can be a mistake.”
He states that whenever patients visit him feeling better, he always suggests them to never discontinue their medications. He claims that the reason for going in the remission phase is because the medicines are doing their job; and no one would want to disrupt the successful outcome by stopping the prescribed medicine, right?
It is also important that patients don’t take any over-the-counter medicine for any other problem they are facing without consulting with their doctors. For example, most people with Crohn’s have arthritis, and to relieve the pain, they are often tempted to take anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen. However, most pain relievers are considered bad for Crohn’s patients and can cause ulcers in the lining of the intestines.
3. Stick to a healthy diet
By and large, the food choices that you make have a great impact on your well-being. While there isn’t a specific “Crohn’s diet plan” to combat the condition, patients can avoid flare-ups by eating a healthy diet and avoiding foods that trigger the symptoms.
Hence, doctors recommend keeping a food journal and noting each and every food you eat. Consequently, within a month or so, you will be able to pinpoint exactly which foods are not being tolerated by your body and which ones are good for you.
Additionally, since Crohn’s makes it hard for the body to absorb nutrients, patients are also advised to take dietary supplements that are rich in vitamins, especially Vitamin D and calcium.
Apart from these suggestions, doctors recommend:
- Eating small meals frequently and avoiding large meals
- Refraining from consuming greasy and fried foods
- Avoiding high fiber foods such as nuts, peanuts, and seeds
- Experimenting with various ingredients to make new dishes and keeping things interesting
- Opting for almond milk and plain yogurt, instead of dairy products, to boost calcium intake
4. Avoid smoking and alcohol
Health experts claim that smoking and Crohn’s disease are linked; those who smoke have higher chances of developing Crohn’s disease, and once you have it, smoking can make the condition even worse.
Dr. Miguel Regueiro, MD, Medical Director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program, comments that patients of Crohn’s who smoke should quit the habit as soon as possible.
Same goes for drinking alcohol and caffeine. Apart from interfering with the medications you are taking, alcohol and caffeine can irritate the lining of your intestinal tract as well and further aggravate the symptoms.
5. Steer clear of stress
Although stress doesn’t cause Crohn’s, it can certainly worsen the symptoms. Usually, when a person is stressed out, their normal digestion process undergoes changes. The stomach empties more slowly and secretes more acid. This can exacerbate the symptoms associated with Crohn’s.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid stress but you can stay calm and manage it properly by:
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation
Bonus tip – Get support
Although it may seem like you are alone and helpless in facing the disease, remember you are not the only one going through it. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, more than 700,000 Americans have Crohn’s disease, and the numbers are growing day by day.
Unfortunately, the specific cause of the disease is still unknown and the lack of clarity about how and why they got the disease makes the patients feel more stranded.
Having support from friends and family is great but they are not the ones going through the difficult situation. Therefore, meeting people face-to-face or online who actually have the disease and sharing challenges with them can greatly improve your coping strategies and motivate you to make the right choices.
The good news is that the condition can be effectively managed by following the treatment plan provided by your doctor and keeping track of the symptoms you experience. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, eating the right foods, and staying in touch with your doctor can go a long way in improving your condition.