The good news is that you can make a few tweaks to help quell flare-ups.
If inflammation is causing your symptoms, your doctor may need to adjust the dose of your medications. A short-term adjustment, or dose customization, may be sufficient to control symptoms, according to a study published in February 2015 in Journal of Internal Medicine. However, Tamboli says your doctor may also order tests to see if you develop complications that might benefit from other treatments. You may need to switch medicines if they stop responding to the treatment you are taking. Steroids can be used short-term to get the flare into remission, and although medication is the first treatment option, many people with Crohn’s need surgery at some point, according to the CCF. Surgery may help reduce the number of seizures a person has and reduce complications.
You can deal with the symptoms of Crohn’s disease
While you’re waiting for treatment to start, there are things you can do to relieve your symptoms.
Agglutination research has shown that complementary, non-drug therapies including yoga, mindfulness, biofeedback, and diet changes can be used along with medication to help reduce stress and soothe Crohn’s symptoms.
You can also try these tips to help manage the most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease, including:
drying Start by making sure you get enough fluids. says Peter Higgins, MD, PhD, director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Research Program at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.
CCF suggests drinking at least 64 ounces (ounces) of water per day, which equals eight 8-ounce glasses of water, or enough until your urine is clear. You should also avoid caffeine and don’t drink alcohol. Ask your doctor if you can keep yourself well enough hydrated on your own or if you need rehydration with intravenous fluids at your local clinic.
Discomfort from diarrhea Frequent bowel movements can lead to irritability. For relief, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada recommends:
- Use wet wipes instead of dry toilet paper, but make sure they are alcohol-free and for sensitive skin.
- Avoid using soap on the area until it has healed because the soap can be drying.
- Avoid tight clothes and wear breathable cotton underwear.
- If possible, wash around the anus after having diarrhea, using a bidet or hop-on shower, or use a wet wipe.
- Talk to your doctor about whether you can use an ointment or barrier to help relieve itching or pain.
Stomach ache Cramps, bloating, and gas can be painful. Up to 70 percent of people with IBD experience abdominal pain during a flare, and in up to half of those people that pain can persist even when the flare subsides, according to a 2021 study published in the journal Diabetes. 360 – CDs. Try these steps to reduce discomfort:
- Eat smaller meals, but eat them more often to get enough calories to promote recovery.
- Eat refined grains such as white bread, pasta and rice and low-fiber fruits such as bananas and cantaloupe.
- Avoid trigger foods, which can vary from person to person, but often include high-fiber foods, anything with lactose, fatty fried foods, caffeine, and alcohol, such as fatty foods.
nausea Talk to your doctor if nausea prevents you from eating, drinking, or taking medications. Dr. Higgins says some people may need anti-nausea medications that dissolve slowly in the mouth or are available as suppositories. You can also try relieving nausea naturally with options like ginger or aromatherapy using peppermint oil.
Weight loss A bout of Crohn’s disease can prevent you from eating and drinking enough, and even if you do, your gut may not be absorbing enough nutrients, so weight loss can be a major concern. CCF recommends these steps to maintaining a healthy weight:
- Work with a dietitian on an eating plan for when you’re on a flare.
- Find foods high in calories and nutrients that you can tolerate. Consider peanut butter, bananas, white rice, canned fruit, and cooked fish.
- Make sure you’re getting plenty of protein, because your protein needs change when you’re on fire.
- Keep a food diary to track your calorie intake.
- Not eating enough for more than a few days or rapid weight loss may require medical attention, so inform your doctor.
Fever Inflammation can cause a high fever, but these symptoms will likely decrease as treatment begins. Again, avoid taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) without your doctor’s approval because they can aggravate your digestive system, says Tamboli. Acetaminophen is usually safe as long as you don’t exceed the recommended dose.
exhaustion Higgins says fatigue should improve if you stay hydrated, manage your diet and stick to your treatment plan, which includes maintaining adequate levels of iron and B12.
mouth ulcers If mouth sores are part of a flare-up of Crohn’s disease, ask your doctor about using lidocaine jelly to manage the discomfort, says Higgins. CCF recommends mouthwashes as an option for some mouth ulcers.
eye complications About 10 percent of people with Crohn’s disease experience symptoms such as blurred vision, eye pain, dry eyes, and sensitivity to light, according to the CCF. Make sure your ophthalmologist knows you have Crohn’s disease, and ask if eye drops might help you manage symptoms and protect your eyes from inflammation.
Skin problems Up to 20 percent of people with IBD experience skin symptoms, according to the CCF. Symptoms of a Crohn’s disease flare can include tender red bumps, skin tags, blisters on the shins or ankles, a scaly rash, mouth sores, as well as damage to the sensitive skin around the anus. If you have skin conditions, it’s best to talk to your doctor before trying any over-the-counter medications, just in case it’s severe.
Taking these self-care steps should help you feel more comfortable during a flare-up of Crohn’s disease symptoms.
Additional reporting by Kaitlyn Sullivan.