Can an App Help Your Manage Crohn’s Disease?

4 min read

Crohn’s disease can have a huge impact on your quality of life. A mobile app can help you manage your condition, so you can feel better mentally and physically. But with at least at least 165,000 health-related apps available for Apple and Android devices, you may have a tough time deciding what to choose.

Many of these health apps are general in nature; for example, they track foods, symptoms, or other generic health topics. That’s not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to Crohn’s. In fact, any app that tracks medications, provides appointment reminders, and helps you learn food-symptom triggers can help you get control over Crohn’s disease, explains Shiraz Khaiser, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Illinois Gastroenterology Institute in Peoria.

However, there are also Crohn’s-specific apps, which may include news and education, as well as access to an online community.

Most people are first diagnosed Crohn’s disease in their 20s or 30s. Khaiser’s practice sees a lot of Crohn’s patients who are even younger. “This is definitely a population that uses technology and could benefit from an app to manage their disease,” he says.

It isn’t just that younger people are more likely to use technology like mobile apps. When you’re newly diagnosed, Khaiser says, your path to remission -- or even fewer symptoms -- will involve “some trial and error, since there are three huge classes of medications, different methods of drug delivery, and different considerations, like whether you plan to have a baby.”

Apps can help you figure out what’s working -- and what isn’t. They can also provide a clear picture of your progress. In addition, research suggests that apps increase the odds that you’ll:

  • Track progress on health goals
  • Make health-promoting decisions
  • Discuss health concerns with a doctor

Before you download a health app to manage your Crohn’s, think about how much time you want to spend using it. If you want an app that helps you learn about and manage multiple aspects of your disease, you may want a Crohn’s specific app. If you just want to track one or two things, look for an app that helps you do this quickly and easily.

And if you aren’t sure what to look for in an app, Khaiser suggests you choose one that tracks your symptoms as well as:

  • Medication, which helps your doctor know if you’re taking it correctly
  • Food, since some foods can worsen your symptoms
  • Medical appointments, both routine and infrequent (including annual dermatology visits, since immune-modulating drugs may increase skin cancer risk)

In addition, you may want to try an app that helps you reduce stress in a way that appeals to you, such as meditation or yoga. Stress contributes to depression and anxiety. People with Crohn’s are at a higher risk of both, especially when their disease is active.

Apps can help you manage your Crohn’s, but they aren’t a substitute for medical advice. One study found that a majority of apps for irritable bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, have these important downsides:

  • Lack of medical professionals in the apps’ development
  • Limited coverage of established IBD guidelines
  • Incomplete information from evidence-based statements

Limited access is another problem for some Crohn’s apps. That means the app may be great, but it isn’t available to you. One example is SonarMD. The app helps monitor your Crohn’s and sends important updates to your gastroenterologist. For now, it’s available only in some areas, and only to doctors who participate in the app’s program.

Although there are many apps that can track individual aspects of your disease, there are just a handful of quality apps designed with Crohn’s in mind:

My IBD Manager

Free, available for Apple and Android

Features: Food log, journal to enter detailed information about your health, symptom and medication trackers, patient education materials

Why you can trust it: Developed in collaboration with the American Gastroenterological Association, HIPAA compliant login

Gut Health Storylines

Free, available for Apple and Android

Features: Tools to track symptoms related to your IBD, including bowel patterns and moods; medication and appointment reminders; online community; syncs with other health apps

Why you can trust it: Scientifically validated metrics, ranked No. 1 app for IBD management by Canadian researchers in 2019

My IBD Care

Free, available for Apple and Android; some subscription-only features

Features: UK-developed app; symptoms and lifestyle trackers and graphs; medication and appointment reminders; IBD-tailored news feed; patient education library

Why you can trust it: Content from gastroenterologists, pharmacists, UK’s National Health Service (NHS), Crohn’s & Colitis UK