How to Manage Crohn's Flares
A Crohn’s disease flare-up, or flare, is when the disease activity intensifies, increasing inflammation in the body and worsening symptoms. Crohn’s symptoms vary, but can include bloody bowel movements, severe and frequent diarrhea, mouth sores, joint pain, fever, body ache, exhaustion, and severe intestinal cramping or pain. Intense flares may require hospitalization, so Crohn’s patients should not hesitate to contact their doctor if they experience them.
What causes a flare depends on the person, but some common food triggers include dairy, wheat, alcohol, high-fat or high-fiber foods, caffeine, foods with roughage – such as certain raw vegetables and fruits – nuts and seeds. Other factors that can worsen Crohn’s or lead to flares are smoking, stress, rigorous exercise and environmental changes.
Here are measures you can take to lower the risk of developing flares and keep Crohn’s under control:
1. Figure out a diet plan that suits your body by working closely with a gastroenterologist and nutritionist.
2. Relax your mind and body regularly, whether through a yoga or meditation practice, talking to a therapist or perhaps even writing a blog. This keeps your body (and bowels) relaxed and can be a great outlet for stress. Stress can compromise the immune system and trigger a flare.
3. Eat fresh, healthy foods, and stay away from greasy, high-fat foods. You should also eat frequently throughout the day to ensure that your body is absorbing the proper amount of nutrients.
4. Take probiotics to support healthy bacteria in the gut. That’s where most of your immune system resides. These bacteria can help the body absorb nutrients, aid digestion and keep the system working well. Studies have shown that probiotics are beneficial for IBD patients. It’s also a good idea to take supplements to fight off malnutrition, a common complication of Crohn’s due to malabsorption.
5. Get good sleep, which is essential for healing the body, fighting infection, restoring energy and improving well-being.
6. Drink plenty of water to keep your cells healthy, prevent dehydration and flush out toxins.
7. Exercise. You don’t need to push yourself too hard to receive the benefits of exercise– even walking can make the body stronger.
8. Follow your treatment plan, including taking prescribed medications and following your diet. Keep your doctor informed of any changes you notice. The day-to-day maintenance work can be annoying, but it will help keep you healthier longer.
If you do have a Crohn’s flare, see the infographic below on remedies for common symptoms.