If you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed or has lived with Crohn’s disease for a while now, you know how life-changing the diagnosis can be. Living a pain-free life while managing signs and symptoms as well as side effects of the disease means knowing what you’re up against. Let’s look at vital information to help you learn how to manage Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease 101
Crohn’s disease is one of the two most common types of inflammatory bowel disease. The second is colitis. It affects the entire GI tract, but most commonly affects the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine.
Common symptoms of Crohn’s disease and similar conditions that are related to the inflammation of the digestive tract include:
- Persistent and/or urgent diarrhea
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Sensation of an incomplete bowel movement
Researchers have not yet identified the causes of Crohn’s disease, but note that increased risk is linked to lifestyle factors (such as smoking, diet, exercise, and stress), an overactive immune system, past intestinal infections, the environment and whether family members have been diagnosed with the disease.
Crohn’s disease affects up to 780,000 people in the United States. There is no higher increased risk for women or for men; both sexes are equally likely to be affected. It can occur at any age, but Crohn’s is more prevalent among those who are 15 – 35.
Living with Crohn’s disease
Crohn’s disease can disrupt your work, social life, and studies. However, well-managed Crohn’s disease can help you lead a normal, active life in spite of the diagnosis.
It is important to talk to your health care team about taking medications and getting vaccinations, as well as any signs of complications. This will help to prevent the development of further complications and ensure a good quality of life.
It’s quite possible to live well with Crohn’s disease. Learn more here:
How to manage Crohn’s disease
There are many treatments for Crohn’s disease. Choosing a treatment depends on the exact location and severity of the disease as well as if there are any complications outside of the intestine. Below are general recommendations of expert organizations on the management of mild to moderate Crohn’s disease:
Improve your nutrition and diet
The goal of nutrition and exercise for the management of Crohn’s disease is to reduce the inflammation that causes discomfort and unpleasant symptoms. The right diet is essential, especially since the condition affects the ability of your intestines to absorb nutrients. It is important that you talk to a registered dietician about the best course of action to take. It is likely you will hear general recommendations that are often effective for people with Crohn’s disease such as:
- Limiting or eliminating dairy products
- Limiting high-fat foods
- Lowering fiber intake
- Avoiding foods that make you feel gassy
- Eating smaller and more frequent meals
- Drinking plenty of water
You may want to keep a food diary to help you identify problem foods and their corresponding symptoms. That way, you and your health care team can work together to build a personalized dietary plan that helps to minimize discomforts.
Learn more about eating well with Crohn’s disease here: