Tips to Avoid Crohn's Disease Symptoms

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.

And if it seems like your medicine isn't working as well as it used to, speak up. Crohn's is an evolving disease, and your treatment may need to change with it.

Eat Healthy

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.

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If You Smoke, Stop

You already know that smoking is bad for you. It can also make Crohn's disease worse and harder to control.

Scientists are studying why. It may be because smoking lowers the intestine’s natural defenses, hampers blood flow to and from your intestines, and causes changes in the immune system that lead to inflammation.

If you have Crohn’s disease and smoke, you’re likely to:

  • Have up to 50% more flare-ups than nonsmokers
  • Have more severe complications, such as a fistula
  • Need surgery and follow-up surgery
  • Need more medicine to control the disease

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.

The drugs work by lowering the levels of hormones in your body called prostaglandins. These chemicals can cause pain and inflammation when your body gets damaged or infected. In your gut, they do two things: They help control how much acid your gut makes to digest your food, and they help the mucus on the walls of your gut provide protection from acid. With fewer prostaglandins, you have more acid and less protection, and that irritates and inflames your gut.

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. Try different techniques to see what helps you relax, like:

You handle problems better when you're rested, so also make sleep a priority.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on October 08, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Cosnes, J. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, November 1999.

Merck Manual Home Edition: "Crohn's Disease."

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation: "About Crohn's Disease," "What is Crohn's Disease?" "Types of Medications for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis," "Intestinal Complications," "Understanding IBD Medications," "Managing Flares and Other IBD Symptoms."

Bolge, S. Clinical Therapeutics, February 2010.

Korzenik, J. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, October 2008.

Mittermaier, C. Psychosomatic Medicine, January-February 2004.

Raymond Cross, MD, associate professor of medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology; director, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Mayo Clinic: "Crohn's disease."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Symptoms & Causes of Crohn's Disease," “Smoking and the Digestive System.”

PLOS ONE: "Genomic and Clinical Effects Associated with a Relaxation Response Mind-Body Intervention in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease."

Crohns.org.uk: "Stress and Inflammatory Bowel Disease."

Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology: "Exercise and inflammatory bowel disease."

Psychology & Health: "Effects of guided imagery with relaxation training on anxiety and quality of life among patients with inflammatory bowel disease."

Breastcancer.org: "Guided Imagery."

Clinical & Investigative Medicine: “Role of endogenous prostaglandins in gastric secretion and mucosal defense.”

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: “Role of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs in Exacerbations of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.”

 

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