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Flares and Crohn's Disease

When your Crohn's disease is flaring, you'll want to take quick action. Finding the right treatment can give you relief and help prevent damage to your colon. Medication, diet, and lifestyle changes can help stop inflammation, pain, diarrhea, and other common symptoms.

Antibiotics Can Help Abscesses Heal

Flares can cause painful injury to your intestines. Antibiotics can be used to fight conditions like abscesses and fistulas (breaks in the intestinal wall). The two most commonly used antibiotics for Crohn's disease are Flagyl (metronidazole) and Cipro (ciprofloxacin).

Add Fiber to Your Diet

Crohn's flares and medications can cause diarrhea. Fiber supplements can add bulk to your stool to help ease it. But beware: Sometimes high-fiber foods such as raw fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts can be irritating. Lots of fiber can be especially irritating if you have strictures (narrowing of the small intestine). Need a hand finding the right foods for you? A registered dietitian can help.

Calm Your Crohn's Flares

Powerful and fast-acting, corticosteroids are a common Crohn's flare treatment. They are available as pills, enemas, injections, and intravenous (IV) solutions. Because corticosteroids can have serious side effects, they are typically prescribed for only a short period of time.

Also, a class of drugs known as 5-ASA is used with corticosteroids and antibiotics in mild Crohn's disease.

Control Your Stress

Stress doesn't cause Crohn's disease, but it may make symptoms worse and even trigger a flare. Learn to manage your stress with relaxation techniques, such as slow breathing exercises. Also make sure you get enough exercise and sleep.

Drugs for Crohn's-Related Diarrhea

Over-the-counter medications such as Imodium and Kaopectate can help ease diarrhea. But they can cause dry mouth. Try sucking on ice or hard candies. Check with your doctor before taking medication for diarrhea.

Change Your Diet

Many foods may aggravate your Crohn's symptoms, particularly during flares. Along with high-fiber foods, some of the most common triggers include fried foods, red meat and pork, and spicy foods. For comfort when your disease is active, try soft, bland foods, such as toast, and eat smaller meals throughout the day.

Pain Relief for Crohn's Flares

Avoid taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen for pain and discomfort. These can irritate the stomach and small intestine and make your Crohn's symptoms worse. Instead, try acetaminophen (Tylenol). If you need more pain relief, talk to your doctor.

Drugs for Tough Cases

When standard medications aren't helping your severe Crohn's flares, your doctor may prescribe biologics. They target your immune system to control inflammation. Some used for Crohn's include Cimzia, Humira,  Remicade, Stelara, and Tysabri.

Also, azathioprine, 6-MP, and methotrexate are used for more severe Crohn's disease.

Drink Enough Water

It's important to stay hydrated when you have Crohn's. Chronic diarrhea can cause dehydration and kidney problems. Medications and fiber supplements can also raise your dehydration risk. Be sure to drink several glasses of water a day to stay hydrated. Depending on the severity of diarrhea, you may need to drink more. Your doctor can help you figure out how much fluid is right for you.

Surgery for Serious Crohn's

If medications don't help your Crohn's or if you have other complications, you may need surgery. Fistulas, abscesses, or bowel obstructions may also require an operation. During surgery, doctors work to remove damaged parts of your intestines and preserve as much as possible to try to keep normal digestion.

Crohns Flares

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on November 15, 2013

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