Crohn’s Is Not Your Fault

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on September 02, 2022
3 min read

If you have Crohn’s disease, you may wonder why you got it. While doctors don’t fully understand what causes this condition, research shows that Crohn’s is strongly tied to genetic and environmental factors.

One thing that experts do know is that Crohn’s disease is not something anyone is to blame for. While there are certain things that you can do to worsen your condition, you didn’t cause the disease.

Unfortunately, some people still think that they caused their Crohn’s disease through something that they have control over:

Diet. Doctors used to think that a person’s food habits caused Crohn’s disease. But now it’s known that your diet can only affect your condition, not create it.

Stress and anxiety. Similarly, doctors used to believe that nerves could be one of the sources of Crohn’s. But they instead found it to be a factor that affects the disease but can’t cause it. When you’re stressed, your Crohn’s may flare up. But the stress itself didn’t cause the condition.

While these don’t cause Crohn’s disease, there are a few things that can put you at a higher risk for the condition.

Ethnicity. While this disease can affect any race, it’s most commonly diagnosed in white people. But Black people who live in North America and the United Kingdom are diagnosed more often with it than they were in the past. The reasons for that aren’t clear.

Age. You’re more likely to get Crohn’s disease before you’re 30 years old. But this condition can still develop at any age.

Smoking. If you smoke cigarettes, you’re more at risk to get Crohn’s disease or worsen your symptoms if you already have it. Smoking could also cause issues that will eventually require you to need surgery. Since this is one of the few controllable risk factors in Crohn’s disease, it’s important to stop as soon as possible.

Family history. If a close family member has Crohn’s disease, you’re also more likely to develop it. About 1 in 5 people who have Crohn’s also has a relative with the condition.

Location. Things in your environment may cause you to be more prone to develop Crohn’s disease. More people tend to have Crohn’s disease who live in urban areas, industrialized countries, or northern climates than those who live elsewhere.

It’s important to understand what triggers your Crohn’s so that you don’t have a flare-up. Certain behaviors can affect your condition and make your symptoms worse.

Take your medications as directed so that you don’t miss a dose. If you skip or take too much medicine, you can cause your Crohn’s symptoms to intensify.

Similarly, certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and diclofenac, can worsen Crohn’s disease. These drugs can cause inflammation in your bowel and cause a flare-up.

Be mindful of the foods you eat and how they affect your body. Track which foods trigger your condition in a food journal so that you can swap them out for better options. In general, it’s best to stay away from greasy and fried foods, which tend to cause diarrhea and gas. Talk with your doctor about the best ways to keep a balanced diet while you avoid flare-ups.

Stress can also affect your Crohn’s. Practice relaxation techniques, like yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises, to lower your anxiety.