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How to Have a Confident Social Life With IBD

By Amanda Gardner
WebMD Feature

Chances are your inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is under good control thanks to effective medicine. But even if you're in remission from Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, you may fear having sudden cramps or worse when you're out and about. The good news: You don't have to give up your social life. 

People who've been there share their advice:

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Scout Out the Bathrooms

Not only is this good sense, but knowing where the nearest bathroom is can also make you feel more secure.

"If you're stressing [about where the bathroom is], it makes it worse," says Lauren Erbach of Chicago, who has Crohn's disease.  

There are bathroom locator apps for that. Some use GPS and can tell you not only where the nearest bathrooms are, but also rate them, too. Many states also have passed bathroom-access laws that require businesses to allow people with medical conditions to use their bathroom.

Bring Your Own Food

When Erbach was first diagnosed with Crohn's, she was afraid to go to work or out with friends and family for fear that there wouldn't be any food she could eat. Now she has a solution: Taking along her own tasties. "It's easy to bring something you can eat, and you make a contribution to the party," she says. "It's all good."

There isn't a diet proven to help treat IBD, but some people find that avoiding greasy or fried foods, cream sauces, meat products, spicy foods, and high-fiber foods may help. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about what you might need to avoid or limit.

Choose Restaurants Carefully

Trigger foods vary widely from person to person, but a lot of people with IBD say spicy foods and some ethnic foods are problems. "[If you're] a little more cautious about what you eat, you can make it through the night with your friends and not have to go home and be in pain and be sick," says Jen Longley of Ithaca, N.Y. Longley, who has ulcerative colitis, also checks restaurants and menus online before going on vacation.

Hang Out With Supportive Friends

Telling your friends or at least some friends that you have Crohn's or colitis can ease the stress of social situations and actual emergencies. Kelley Chenier of Kalamazoo, Mich., is fairly open about her Crohn's. When she's out, this means she'll "have the support so [friends] understand, and if there ever is an issue, that they're a help rather than freaking out or panicking," she says.

Plan Your Route

Do this on simple walks around the city and long road trips, too. Erbach feels healthier when she walks, but she makes sure her routes are planned around where the bathrooms are. "It's more of a security thing," she says.

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