Living Life on Your Own Terms with Crohn’s Disease
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

Living Life on Your Own Terms with Crohn’s Disease

If you are one of the more than half-million Americans living with Crohn’s disease, you are likely all too familiar with the unpredictable nature of the chronic condition.

From the symptoms that can vary dramatically from person to person, to flare-ups that can seemingly come out of nowhere, living with Crohn’s takes a physical and mental toll. While prescription medicines can help you manage your condition, there are other steps you can take to promote symptom control and ease the stress of living with Crohn’s.

Here is where to start:

Nourish Yourself

Because Crohn’s can make it hard to get the calories and nutrients you need, you may want to work with a nutritionist or registered dietitian to create a personalized meal plan. A tailored meal plan can improve gut health, reduce inflammation, and help you avoid flare-ups.

Common healthful eating habits for those living with Crohn’s include:

- Incorporating easily digestible foods

- Identifying trigger foods that worsen symptoms

- Eliminating foods that contribute to inflammation

- Adjusting the diet during flare-ups to minimize digestive stress and maximize nutrient absorption

TIP: Visit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s Gut-Friendly Recipe page for free access to hundreds of recipes you can filter by diet, foods to exclude, type of meal and more.

Exercise

Countless studies have demonstrated the benefits of regular exercise. In addition to reducing stress and improving heart and bone health, physical activity triggers the release anti-inflammatory chemicals that reduce gastrointestinal symptoms.

The key is choosing an exercise routine that you enjoy and that agrees with your body. In addition, time your exercise to work with your body’s natural digestive cycle. If you experience frequent diarrhea, try to stay hydrated. This means drinking fluids before, during, and after exercise.

In addition, pay attention to your body and adjust your exercise or movement to what your body can tolerate. This may mean slowing down or reducing the intensity of your exercise session or even sitting out for a few days. Once you are feeling well, ease yourself back into exercise and enjoy the benefits.

TIP: For help choosing an exercise program, visit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s Exercise page.

Manage Stress

Living with any chronic condition is stressful. The challenge with Crohn’s is that stress and anxiety can trigger flare-ups, which can trigger stress and anxiety, which can… you get the idea.

The good news is that practicing mindfulness, like meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and more, can help you stop the vicious cycle.

TIP: You can find free videos for yoga and meditation exercises specifically designed for people with irritable bowel disease from the GI Research Foundation here.

Learning to prioritize your health and how to manage Crohn’s has the potential to give you some control over your condition. From reducing symptoms to boosting your mental health, the quality of your life with Crohn’s is within your control.


David Furman, MD,  is a gastroenterologist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

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