Researchers say about half of folks with Crohn's -- even those in remission -- go through bouts of it. No one has exact numbers, but consider that more than half a million people in the U.S. have Crohn’s. If half of those or more are fatigued, that’s a lot of tired people.
What causes this? And what can you do to fight it off?
Why You're Tired
Wrestling with any chronic disease can be physically and psychologically tough. It’s important to work with your medical team to manage all of that.
Crohn’s fatigue can be from any number of things, some related to flare-ups of the disease, some less so.
Anemia: If you have Crohn’s, you can have intestinal bleeding. The disease can also make it tougher for you to take in iron and other nutrients. That can lead to anemia, which means you have less blood to carry oxygen to the rest of your body. That brings fatigue.
Inflammation: Studies show that when your Crohn’s is at its most active, fatigue is a bigger problem.
Side effects of your medication: Some medicines you take to treat Crohn’s, like corticosteroids, can cause fatigue, either directly or by messing with your sleep. Some immunomodulators -- medications that ease inflammation by turning down your immune system, can cause fatigue, too.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and you’re constantly feeling tired, you can get help.
Work with your doctor. If you can’t shake that run-down feeling or it keeps coming back, a good health care plan is the first step. Maybe you’ll need to change medications. Maybe a new diet is in order. Whatever the case, you and your doctor need to talk it over and maybe include others on your health care team.
Whoever comes aboard, it’s your responsibility to work closely with everyone, be honest about how you feel and what you need, and take charge.
Eat well. Your diet is key to staving off fatigue. Remember, many with Crohn’s find that eating smaller meals (go easy on lunch) more frequently helps you get what you need nutritionally. It’s also best to avoid greasy foods, insoluble fiber, and anything that may trigger a flare-up for you.
Get your sleep. Go easy on the caffeine before bedtime. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night. Stay away from long, daytime naps. Watch what you eat (especially before bedtime). Set up a place to hit the hay that helps you get a good night’s sleep, without a TV or phone. Get a little exercise during the day, too.
Exercise. Not only will it help you sleep, it can help you -- as counterintuitive as it may sound -- beat that fatigue. Research is ongoing on this, but some suggest that regular exercise releases a protein that has anti-inflammatory effects, further helping you live with Crohn’s. Before starting any new exercise, though, check with your doctor.