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A Vicious Cycle

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease, like belly cramps, diarrhea, fatigue, and mouth sores, can cause stress. That can make the pain from of Crohn’s the disease worse and trigger flares. This makes managing your Crohn's even more important.   There are plenty of ways to do that. The trick is to find the ones that work for you.

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friends talking
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Open Up

It can be stressful to hide your Crohn’s disease from those close to you. Talking about it -- when you're ready -- can help them support you. It can also help them understand when you can’t make social events or need time away from work.

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restroom sign
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Do Some Prep Work

The thought of going out can bring stress. Being prepared can make you less anxious about it.  For example, you might bring things like extra toilet tissue and a change of underwear. Doing a bit of research to learn where the bathrooms are in a restaurant or mall before you go can give you peace of mind, too.

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couple biking
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Exercise

Being active is a good way to ease stress. When you exercise, your body makes endorphins -- chemicals in your brain that make you feel better. They also can help you sleep, which can help ease stress. As little as 5 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, like walking, biking, or swimming, can make a difference.

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man relaxing
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Just Breathe

Deep breathing brings more fresh air into your lungs. The more you get, the less tense and short-of-breath you feel. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and then let out as much air as you can through your mouth. If you feel uncomfortable sitting, do it lying down. 

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woman meditating
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Meditate

This practice of focusing on your breathing can help tune out distractions and calm your mind. One study showed that meditation may also help ease symptoms of Crohn’s disease. As little as 10 to 15 minutes a day may be enough to make a difference. 

 
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group yoga
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Try Yoga

This combines meditation with a series of poses designed to boost strength and flexibility. It goes back thousands of years, but Yyoga is still a popular way to manage stress. It also may help with chronic pain, like the kind caused by Crohn’s disease. 

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Think About Tai Chi

This started long ago as a Chinese form of self-defense. It’s now recognized as a relaxing way to exercise that can help fend off stress and anxiety. Tai chi uses slow, flowing movements and deep breathing to help you relax and stretch. If you’re an older adult, or just starting to exercise, it can be a good way to get moving.

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blood pressure check
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Ask About Biofeedback

The idea here is to learn to control some of your body’s functions, like your heart rate and breathing, to help manage stress. You'll wear sensors to measure those functions, then work with a therapist to make small changes, like relaxing certain muscles, to ease pain. Based on what those changes do for you, your therapist will come up with other techniques to help.

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man sleeping
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Get Better Sleep

Studies show that people who have Crohn’s disease also have trouble with sleep. Getting your ZZZs can make you feel more rested and less tense. Both can help you deal better with stress and with your symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you have a hard time getting enough rest. He can show you some things that could help.

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Watch Your Diet

Some foods -- like fatty, fried, or spicy dishes -- can set off symptoms and make you stressed. Alcohol and caffeine can cause issues for some people who have Crohn’s disease, too. But other foods may help ease your symptoms. Talk with your doctor or a dietitian about an eating plan that works for you.

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fresh salad
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Eat Small Meals

Five or six lighter meals a day -- one every 3 or 4 hours -- may be better for your digestion than three larger meals. That can help you avoid stomach pain and cramps. It could also ease the stress and anxiety around mealtime.

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Be Informed

The more you know about Crohn’s disease and the better you understand your treatment plan, the less stressed you’ll be. If you have questions about the condition, or about any of your doctor’s recommendations, don’t be afraid to ask.

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Find a Support Group

Talking to people who are going through the same things you are can help you handle stress. That can make your symptoms easier to deal with. Support groups can give you tips for certain situations. They may help you keep a positive outlook, too.

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Talk With a Counselor

If you have trouble managing stress on your own, a talk with a mental health professional may be a good idea. Your doctor can help you find one who knows about Crohn’s disease and has experience working with people who have it.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 10/10/2018 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 10, 2018

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1) Thinkstock Photos

 

SOURCES:

Mayoclinic.org: “Crohn’s Disease,” “Stress Management: Yoga: Fight Stress and Find Serenity,” “Stress Management: Tai Chi: A Gentle Way To Fight Stress,” “Biofeedback,” “Diagnosis.”

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America: “Living With Crohn’s Disease.”

Crohn’s & Colitis UK: “Crohn’s Disease.”

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: “Understand the Facts: Physical Activity Reduces Stress.”

Helpguide.org: “Relaxation Techniques.”

Howtomeditate.org: “How To Meditate: Breathing Meditations.”

Harvard Gazette: “Meditation May Relieve IBS and IBD.”

Gastroenterology & Hepatology: “Sleep and Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Exploring the Relationship Between Sleep Disturbances and Inflammation.”

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation: “Diet and IBD,” “Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis: Emotional Factors Q&A.”

 

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 10, 2018

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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