Crohn's Disease: 54 Tips to Help You Manage

With the right treatment, you can manage your Crohn's disease symptoms. These simple tips can help.

From the WebMD Archives

Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease affecting 500,000 Americans, can overwhelm your daily life. Day-to-day living is especially difficult if you suffer chronic symptoms like frequent diarrhea, gastrointestinal bleeding, anal tears, or bowel obstructions.

Fortunately, treatments for Crohn's disease can make a big difference. Effective treatments range from lifestyle changes to medications, or even surgery in severe cases. The right treatments can reduce symptoms, lengthen remissions, and help you enjoy a happy, productive life.

To get a handle on your Crohn's disease, read these basic facts and tips on nutrition, lifestyle, travel, and treatment.

Fast Facts About Crohn's Disease

  • Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract -- usually the small intestine and/or colon.
  • No one knows what causes Crohn's, but some think it's affected by genetics, the immune system, and environmental issues.
  • There are four types of Crohn's; your doctor will diagnose which you have based on the location and severity of the disease.
  • New research shows that certain genes can lead to an increased risk of Crohn's disease.
  • Remission of Crohn's can last from months to years. Treatment is usually the cause of remissions.
  • There's no evidence that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) eventually leads to Crohn's disease.

Crohn's Disease Symptom Tips

  • Fever and night sweats can be Crohn's symptoms. Talk with your doctor to be sure.
  • Common symptoms of Crohn's disease include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss.
  • Don't feel much like eating? Poor appetite can be a Crohn's disease symptom. Talk with your doctor.
  • Symptoms of Crohn's disease can come and go. Some people have mild or no symptoms.
  • Get a balanced amount of proteins, calories, and nutrients to help manage Crohn's disease symptoms.
  • Experiencing cramps or diarrhea? Anti-diarrheal agents and anti-spasmotics can offer relief.

Treatment Tips for Crohn's Disease

  • Your Crohn's disease treatment choices depend on the location and severity of your disease.
  • When Crohn's disease goes into remission, it's usually due to treatment with medication or surgery.
  • Treatment for Crohn's disease includes anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and/or surgery.
  • Know what's in your medicine cabinet: Aspirin can worsen the inflammation caused by Crohn's disease.
  • Some antibiotics can reduce Crohn's inflammation, though no one yet knows how.
  • Corticosteroids, a treatment for Crohn's, can raise your osteoporosis risks. Talk to your doctor about prevention.

Continued

Lifestyle Tips: Living Better When You Have Crohn's

  • Appetite a little low? Try eating small, frequent meals, instead of a few big ones.
  • When you enjoy a great restaurant meal without irritation or side effects, jot down which items you ordered.
  • Manage symptoms of Crohn's disease: enjoy a balanced diet and proper portion control.
  • Smoking can make Crohn's disease symptoms worse. Now is a good time to quit!
  • Feeling fatigued? Enjoy regular exercise, a healthy diet, and enough sleep. And talk to your doctor.
  • Taking antibiotics for Crohn's disease symptoms? Avoid alcohol, which can worsen some side effects.

Diet and Nutrition for Crohn's Disease

  • Crohn's differs from person to person. Your diet needs to be tailored to suit your specific needs.
  • Weather warming up? With Crohn's you're at higher risk for dehydration. Get plenty of fluids.
  • Try keeping a food diary to track which foods trigger your symptoms.
  • Not tolerating fiber well? Some people with Crohn's disease benefit from a low-fiber diet.
  • Do you need supplements? Ask your doctor if you're absorbing enough calcium, folate, and vitamin B12.
  • Taking corticosteroids for Crohn's? There are side effects to watch for. Talk with your doctor.

Emotionally Coping With Crohn's

  • Want to feel more in control? Knowledge is power. Learn as much as you can about Crohn's.
  • Chronic conditions like Crohn's disease can lead to depression. Reach out and get help if you need it.
  • Is someone you love coping with Crohn's? Lend a hand by lending an ear: Be a good listener.
  • You're not alone with Crohn's disease. Talking with others who share your condition can help.
  • Attending a Crohn's support group? Take your family so they can understand what you're going through.
  • Ask your doctor all about your medication, and do online research. You'll feel much more in control.

Day-to-Day With Crohn's Disease

  • You may benefit from personalized diet tips when you have Crohn's. Talk to your doctor.
  • Trouble remembering your meds? Place your pills beside your toothbrush.
  • Inflammation of the small intestine and colon puts you at high risk for dehydration and diarrhea. You may need more fluids.
  • Is swallowing pills a problem? Ask your doctor if you can crush them over something tasty.
  • Don't want people to know you're taking medicine? Carry pills in a mint tin.
  • A journal can help you manage Crohn's and remember all the questions you have for your doctor.

Continued

Crohn's, Kids, and Family

  • Is your child taking medicine for Crohn's? To help kids remember, place pills beside their alarm clock.
  • Crohn's can occur in anyone, but young adults are most often affected.
  • Help your child with Crohn's to become a partner in his or her own health care; encourage them to ask the doctor questions.
  • If your child has Crohn's disease, let him or her decide whether to tell friends.
  • It's healthy and safe for kids with Crohn's disease to take part in most sports.
  • If your child has Crohn's, let his or her teachers, school administrators, and school nurse know.

Travel Tips When You Have Crohn's Disease

  • When traveling, remember to bring along enough medication to last your whole trip.
  • Leaving home for awhile? Locate a Crohn's specialist in the town you'll be visiting.
  • Traveling by air? Bring your medications, supplies, and insurance information in your carry-on bag.
  • Avoid problems the day you fly: Maintain a regular diet and medication schedule before the flight.
  • Bring along your gastroenterologist's phone number and your insurance card when you travel.
  • If you have chills, fever, pain, dizziness, or bloody diarrhea while away, call a doctor immediately.
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on May 16, 2007

Sources

SOURCES: American Academy of Family Physicians: "Crohn's Disease." Medicinenet: "Crohn's: Managing Crohn's Disease," "Information on Crohn's Disease," "Ask the Experts: Digestion Q&A." Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, "Crohn's Disease Has Strong Genetic Link," "Guide for Parents." Medline Plus: "Crohn's Disease." Disabled World: "Travel Tips for People With Crohn's Disease." About.com: "Inflammatory Bowel Disease: How to Travel By Air." Remicade: "Crohn's Disease and Traveling Tips." Strength for Caring: "Coping With Crohn's Disease." Mayo Clinic: "Crohn's Disease Coping Skills," "Crohn's Disease: Coping With Fatigue."

© 2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

Pagination