Living with Crohn’s disease is a full-time job that affects every part of your life. Its unpredictability and uncertainty can easily consume your daily activities, making it difficult for you to enjoy yourself or focus on anything else that is going on around you. Despite this, it is possible to regain the life you want and better manage your condition with some simple tips and lifestyle changes.
1. Stay Informed
Finding the right resource and staying informed is a crucial step in learning how to manage your Crohn’s disease. With 1.4 million Americans suffering from Crohn’s around the country, the amount of research and information on the disease is very extensive. Some organizations, like Crohn’s and Colitis, offer free registrations to educational brochures and information on how to get a restroom request card to discreetly communicate your IBM needs for access to restricted bathrooms. These kinds of support tools can go a long way to helping you manage your disease.
2. Join a support group
One of the most difficult aspects of living with Crohn’s disease is learning how to talk about it. For many people, especially those who don’t suffer from the condition, Crohn’s disease is too embarrassing to even consider discussing. That being said, it’s important to recognize the value of being able to talk about your symptoms and difficulties, whether that’s to your family, your boss, your friends, or someone else. Joining a support group, like those offered by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, will help you encounter other individuals who, like you, are taking strides to manage their Crohn's disease symptoms.
3. Diet and Nutrition
While there is no single diet that will work for every Crohn’s disease patient, consulting with your physician about a tailored nutrition plan can help you attain a healthier lifestyle. A good diet plan will reduce your symptoms, replace lost nutrients, and promote healing. Generally, doctors recommend cutting greasy/fatty foods, carbonated beverages, caffeine, and spices. Some other recommended diets include:
Low-salt diet: Used during corticosteroid therapy to reduce water retention
Low-fiber diet: Used to avoid blockages in Crohn’s patients with strictures and to avoid stimulating bowel movements.
Low-fat diet: Recommended during flare-ups when fat absorption may become an issue.
Lactose-free diet: Recommended for those with an intolerance to dairy products.
High-calorie diet: For those who experience weight loss or growth delay.
4. Quit Smoking
Smoking cigarettes is bad for everyone, but it is particularly dangerous for people who suffer from Crohn’s disease as it may result in worsened symptoms, complications and the need for surgery. Smoking cigarettes will also lead to more flare-ups, and reduce the effectiveness of medications while preventing remissions. People who have already undergone surgery are not spared from quitting, as smoking after surgery may cause a recurrence of symptoms and may make them prone to developing colon polyps.
5. Plan Ahead
Getting used to planning ahead will make the process feel more like a helpful habit than an embarrassing task in your efforts to manage your Crohn’s disease. Whether you’re going out of town on vacation or preparing for another day at work, it’s important to have a backup plan in case any unexpected challenges pop up. This can include making sure you have enough medication, extra clothes, wipes, or healthy snacks to avoid falling for trigger foods. Not only will these measures help you in case of an emergency, they will also give you peace of mind.
6. Maintain a Positive Outlook
Managing your Crohn’s disease takes an emotional toll, and it’s common for patients to acknowledge feeling stressed or even depressed by the disease. But, finding a support system and maintaining a positive outlook will go a long way towards helping you manage the symptoms of your Crohn’s disease. While it will not make the illness any better, having a positive mindset about your ability to manage and treat the symptoms will improve the way you feel about yourself, your disease, and your life.
For more information on how to manage your Crohn’s disease symptoms, schedule an appointment with one of our physicians.