A break from cramps, nausea, or diarrhea could almost make you forget you have Crohn's.
That's the best time to take action to keep flares away.
Doctors don't know why Crohn's symptoms come and go. They know that things like diet, smoking, and stress can make them worse.
How can you keep flares at bay?
Become a Crohn's Expert
Learn all you can, including:
- What causes it
- Your triggers
- Which treatments work best
- The latest about Crohn's and meds that can ease it
- The warning signs of a flare and what can help prevent one
Your doctor can be a great resource, too. When you visit, come with questions.
Stick With Your Crohn's Drugs
Even if your symptoms are gone and you feel great, don't stop taking your prescribed drugs unless your doctor tells you to.
People who don't stick to their drug plan are more likely to get flares. That can cause problems. Repeated flares can lead to things like narrowing of your intestines. Or you might get fistulas, which are abnormal connections between the intestines and your skin or other organs.
If a drug causes side effects that bother you, don't just stop taking it. Talk to your doctor first. You might need to take a lower dose, switch to another drug, or get treatment for the side effects.
When your Crohn's disease flares, it can be hard for your small intestine to take in nutrients. So when you don't have symptoms, it's really important to eat healthy.
Keep a food diary. It can show you if certain choices make your symptoms worse. For some people with Crohn's, high-fat foods or fiber-rich fruits and vegetables (like beans and broccoli) cause problems.
When you figure out which foods might make you feel bad, let your health care team know. Along with a diet expert, they can help you plan meals that include all the food groups. You might also need to take supplements of vitamins B12 and D, iron, or calcium, or a multivitamin.
If You Smoke, Stop
You already know that smoking is bad for you. Did you know it can make Crohn's disease worse and harder to control?
The more you smoke, the more likely you are to get flares. If you quit smoking, your chances drop to the same as a nonsmoker with Crohn's.
Have you tried to quit smoking before, only to light up again? Hang in there. It can take a few tries to kick the habit for good. Tell your doctor that you're working on it, and ask for advice.
Avoid NSAID Pain Drugs
NSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They include:
They can trigger flares or cause symptoms like those of Crohn's. Ask your doctor about other choices.
Tell Your Doctor How You're Doing
Share any symptoms you have. They could be the side effects of a drug or a sign of a medical problem caused by Crohn's. Your doctor may want to do tests or adjust your treatment so you can feel better.
Take Care of Stress
Everyone has stress. On top of that, your Crohn's disease brings its own stress.
It doesn't cause the illness, but it can make you feel worse. Get regular exercise and do things that help you relax, like yoga and meditation.
You handle problems better when you're rested, so make sleep a priority, too.
People who are both depressed and anxious are more likely to have flares. If you're feeling down or upset about your health (or anything else), let your family and friends know how they can help you.
Don't hesitate to get help from your doctor, or from a counselor who has experience helping people with Crohn's or other long-term conditions. You may want to join a support group, where you get to talk to other people who know what you're going through because they've been there, too.