So, you have Crohn’s disease. What do you do next? Try these lifestyle changes to get your body functioning at its best.
One of the most important things to do when you find out you have Crohn’s is to stop smoking. Not only do people who smoke have higher rates of inflammation in the body, but smoking also increases your risk for cancers and slows your body’s ability to heal from surgery or wounds.
While diet alone won’t cure Crohn’s, it can help lessen the symptoms. Many patients find it is helpful to limit dairy, gassy foods, and fiber if you find it bothers you. Eating a diet rich in inflammation-fighting foods like discussed in Mediterranean Diet for IBD and probiotics may help Crohn’s patients to feel considerably better.
Choose low-fat foods
Sometimes during a flare-up people with Crohn’s will find that they are not able to digest fatty foods. This is because the added inflammation in the intestines has decreased their ability to absorb the nutrients from food. Since fat tends to be one of the hardest macronutrients to digest it can also cause painful symptoms in some patients.
Use a food journal
While we have talked about healthy eating and what foods to avoid it is hard to provide clear cut lists of trigger foods because everyone is different. That is where a good food journal can be very helpful. Take some time to log what you are eating as well as any symptoms you might have and you can track down foods that might be contributing to the problem in no time.
Proper hydration is important for every aspect of the human body to function properly. It becomes even more important in Crohn’s because patients can become easily dehydrated. When you are feeling well aim to drink the equivalent in ounces to half your body weight. For example, someone who weighs 150 pounds would aim to drink 75 ounces of water per day.
Limit alcohol and caffeine
Excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate you. This is of even more concern when dealing with diarrhea in an active flare up of Crohn’s disease. Dehydration can range from mild to life threatening so it is important to take it seriously.
Take a multivitamin
As we have discussed, people with Crohn’s have a limited ability to absorb nutrients when their disease is in an active flare-up. This includes things like vitamins and minerals too. A basic multivitamin can help boost nutritional levels. Look for one that provides 100 percent of the RDA or Recommended Daily Allowance. Taking more is not going to make you feel better. In some instances too many supplements can be toxic and at best they will go right through you with out even being absorbed–a total waste of money.
Stress is toxic. This is true for everyone, not just people with Crohn’s. Exercise, meditation, massage and prayer can all help to alleviate stress. If everything you are trying on your own does not seem to help it may be time to enlist the aid of a counselor to help you talk through and deal with what is stressing you out. Read our article on Tips for Coping With Stress and IBD for more great tips.
Exercise is important because it can help to reduce stress and strengthen your body, including your immune system. Even better: exercise outside. People who exercise outside report more boost in mood than those who work out indoors and the sun helps synthesize vitamin D, which is very important in immune function and bone density. For more information read Exercise Has Many Benefits for IBD.
Manage Your Meds
If you are taking medications for your Crohn’s, and especially if you are taking multiple medications, it can be easy to miss a dose every now and then. Managing your medications correctly can help ensure that they work to their fullest potential. Try logging your doses into a phone reminder app or place pills into a weekly container.
Most of these changes are fairly simple ones, but when you add them together they can have a big impact on your Crohn’s disease.
_Jennifer has a bachelor’s degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER). _
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.