4. Practice relaxation techniques
Although stress does not cause Crohn’s disease, it can exacerbate it. In a study published in May 2020 in the journal Plus oneSeventy-five percent of IBD patients report that stress exacerbates symptoms of the disease. Try slow breathing, yoga, tai chi, meditation, or whatever else you find relaxing. Do what works for you, Nesko says. It could be just reading a book in a quiet place, listening to your favorite music, or spending time with friends and family. “The important thing is that it’s something that you want to do constantly and that you get to relax from,” he says.
5. Get enough sleep
When you’re tired, you’re more likely to feel jittery, which can make your symptoms worse. You’ll sleep better at night if you stick to a routine, with a set wake-up and bedtime on weekdays as well as on weekends. Make sure you give yourself enough time to calm down before bed so you can focus on sleep and not other distractions. A small study published in August 2020 in the journal Inflammatory bowel diseases showed that poor sleep is associated with increased disease activity and even hospitalization in people with Crohn’s disease.
6. Ask for support
Find Crohn’s support groups that meet online or face-to-face near where you live or work. “People who join support groups have the same reaction,” Nisko says. “They haven’t met anyone else with the same disease and they can’t believe how similar their experiences are. Having supportive friends and family is great, but their level of understanding only goes so far. People facing the same challenges can share stories of best practices as well as triumphs. This can go a long way.” In terms of motivation and expectations.”
Nesco had surgery for Crohn’s disease at the age of 35. Facing the surgery was scary, and he knew it would require a lot of recovery time. “Talking to someone who’s been through this problem has given me the confidence and security I need to move forward,” he says. After the others help her, Nesco vows to return the favor. “After my surgery, I wanted to do something positive to offset the negatives associated with this disease. So I called the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and told them I wanted to make a difference.” In volunteering his time to help others, he also helped himself.
7. Transmit what you feel is appropriate
Are you nervous about hiding your condition from co-workers or because you don’t know what to tell friends and family? Everyone deals with Crohn’s disease differently, Nisko says, and you have to decide for yourself who to tell and when. Keep it simple with something like, “I just want you to know that I have a digestive disorder that affects what I can eat.” If you get too technical, he says, you’ll lose people in the details.
8. Start with the basics
According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, most people with Crohn’s disease find that they feel better if they:
- Eat small amounts frequently throughout the day, rather than two or three large meals.
- Avoid greasy or greasy foods, especially fried dishes.
- Limit your intake of milk and other dairy products, which can be hard on your stomach.
- Limit high-fiber foods, such as popcorn, seeds, and nuts.
- Increase intake of hydrating fluids, including water, broth, and juices.
9. Work with a registered dietitian or dietitian
You may want to avoid certain foods or food groups if you know they aggravate symptoms during flares, but when you cut out entire food groups, you run the risk of malnutrition. A dietitian or dietitian can help you create a meal plan that avoids jittery foods but is still nutritious.
10. Stick to your treatment plan
You may think you can skip your medication when you feel better, but you risk a flare-up if you do. It is important to take your medications as directed by your doctor. If you feel the need to change, Regueiro says, talk to your doctor first.
11. Avoid over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications
Many people with Crohn’s disease also have arthritis and may want to take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, for pain relief. “But over-the-counter medications, apart from acetaminophen, are generally harmful for Crohn’s disease,” says Reguero. Another reason to avoid these painkillers: They can cause ulcers in the lining of the intestine. Talk to your doctor about your options.
12. Be careful about antibiotics
Antibiotics can sometimes cause Crohn’s symptoms. Do not take antibiotics unless your doctor prescribes them. (They may be needed, however, for a specific reason, such as an infection that doesn’t heal on its own.)
13. Protection against bone loss
Crohn’s disease and some of its treatments can increase the risk of osteoporosis, which makes bones weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how to get enough calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients in your diet to keep your bones strong, as well as whether you should have a bone density test.
14. Get screened for colon cancer
Crohn’s disease increases the risk of colon cancer, so it’s important to have regular colonoscopies to check for any signs of the disease. Talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened.
15. Stay on top of your immunizations
To stay healthy, consider getting vaccinated against influenza, COVID-19, pneumonia, and human papillomavirus, as well as hepatitis A and B.
16. Check in with your doctor regularly
If you’re feeling better, you may only need to see your doctor twice a year. But if you have frequent flares, you may need to make more appointments, possibly to adjust your treatment. (One note of caution: Never change a medication dose, schedule, or any other aspect of your health plan on your own. This can have dangerous consequences.)
17. Quickly evaluate new symptoms
Other complications of Crohn’s disease — cysts, ulcers, anal fistulas, and fissures — are rare, but you should know the signs. If you have new or worsening symptoms such as sharp or throbbing pain after using the bathroom, blood or pus in your stool, burning pain in your stomach, or swelling under your skin, call your doctor right away. You may need prescription medications to help your recovery. Over-the-counter and home remedies, such as topical creams and sitz baths, may also help in some cases, such as relieving the pain of cracks.
18. Start a journal
“One of the ways many people with Crohn’s disease manage their lives better is by keeping a journal,” Nisko says. Include what you eat, when you eat, when you exercise, when you’re stressed, and anything else that affects you and your Crohn’s symptoms. He suggests reviewing your entries regularly to see what makes you feel good and what might be having a negative impact on your health. Then share the information with your doctor so that both of you can use it to adjust your Crohn’s disease treatment plan as needed.
Additional reporting by Ashley Welch.