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.
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.
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 their own health care; encourage them to ask the doctor questions.
- If your child has Crohn's disease, let them 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 their 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.