You've finally gotten a reprieve from the painful abdominal cramps and diarrhea that had you constantly running for the bathroom. Feeling more like your old self again can come as a great relief, but don't forget about your condition entirely. Crohn's disease can -- and usually does -- reappear in the form of flares. In one survey, nearly one-third of people with Crohn's said they experienced at least one flare a week.
Flares can be brief or long, mild, moderate, or severe. They can include gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as inflammation in the joints, mouth, throat, and eyes.
Doctors don't know why Crohn's symptoms come and go, but things like diet, smoking, stress, and medication use may aggravate flares. To maximize the time you're symptom-free, follow these Crohn's flare avoidance tips.
Become a Crohn's Expert
Learn all you can about your condition -- what causes it, how it's diagnosed, and which treatments work best. Go to the library and search the Internet for the latest information on Crohn's disease, and arrive at your doctor's appointments armed with a list of questions. Learn how to spot the warning signs that a flare is impending, and find out what you can do to prevent it.
Follow Your Crohn's Treatment Plan
Even if your Crohn's disease is in remission and you feel great, keep taking all of your prescribed medications until your doctor tells you otherwise. The drugs you are taking can prevent your disease from returning. This is called "maintaining remission," or "maintenance."
People who don't stick to their medicine regimen are more likely to have flares. Repeated flares can lead to complications such as intestinal narrowing (strictures) or abnormal connections of the intestines (fistulas) to other parts of the intestines or other organs.
If you are experiencing bothersome side effects from your medication, just don't stop taking it. See your doctor. You might need to switch to another medication or get treated for the side effect.
Eat a Healthy Diet With Crohn's
Although there's no evidence that certain foods cause Crohn's disease, and there isn't an official "Crohn's disease diet," adopting a healthy eating plan is a good idea.
It's especially important to get the right balance of nutrition when you have Crohn's, because appetite loss and poor nutrient absorption are hallmarks of this condition. When you don't eat right, and many of the nutrients you do eat aren't properly absorbed, you can become deficient in protein, vitamins, carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients.
Your doctor and dietitian can help you design a diet that contains elements from all the important food groups. You might also need to take supplements of vitamins B12 and D, iron, and calcium, or a multivitamin to ensure that you're getting enough of all the nutrients you need.
Avoid foods that aggravate your symptoms, which for some people (those who are also lactose intolerant) includes dairy, high-fat foods, or fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, such as beans and broccoli. A food diary can help identify problematic foods.