Getting a reprieve from cramps, nausea, or diarrhea could almost make you forget you have Crohn's. The best time to take action to keep flares away, though, is when you're flare-free.
Doctors don't know why Crohn's symptoms come and go. But they know that things like diet, smoking, stress, and drug use can make them worse. Try these tips to keep your symptoms at bay.
Become a Crohn's Expert
Learn all you can about your disease: what causes it, how it's diagnosed, and which treatments work best. Search online for news about Crohn's and its treatments. Go to your doctor visits armed with questions. Learn how to spot the warning signs of a flare and what may help prevent it.
Stick With Your Crohn's Drugs
Even if your symptoms are gone and you feel great, don't stop taking your prescribed drugs unless your doctor tells you to. They may prevent the disease from coming back.
People who don't stick to their drug regimen are more likely to have flares. Having flares over and over can lead to medical problems. Repeated flares can lead to complications such as intestinal narrowing (strictures) or abnormal intestinal connections to skin or other organs (fistulas).
If a drug causes side effects that bother you, don't stop taking it. Talk to your doctor. You might need to take a lower dose, switch to another drug, or get treated for the side effects.
When you have Crohn's flares, it can be hard for you to absorb nutrients from the small intestine. So during the times you're not experiencing symptoms, it's important to eat a healthy diet. You may need supplements to make up for your low levels of protein, vitamins, carbohydrates, and other things your body needs.
Your doctor and a diet expert can help you plan meals so you get foods from all the food groups. You might also need to take supplements of vitamins B12 and D, iron, or calcium, or a multivitamin.
Keep a food diary to find out if some foods make your symptoms worse. For some people with Crohn's, high-fat foods or fiber-rich fruits and vegetables (like beans and broccoli) cause problems. Talk to your doctor if milk or milk products cause you distress.
On top of all the other harmful health effects of lighting up, smoking worsens Crohn's disease and makes it harder to control. The more you smoke, the greater your risk of flares. If you quit smoking, though, you're no more likely to have a flare than a nonsmoker.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can trigger flares or cause symptoms that mimic those of Crohn's. You can discuss with your doctor some alternate choices for muscle aches and pains, such as Tylenol.