10 Challenges Facing Men With Crohn’s Disease — and How to Cope

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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease, affects approximately 1 in 500 people in the United States and occurs at the same rate in men and women. Although Crohn's can affect people of any sex in countless ways, understanding common challenges you may face as a man living with Crohn’s can be helpful. Read ahead to learn about what activities your Crohn’s may impact and tips that can help you cope.


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Discussing Crohn’s with your doctor

It would be great if we could just tell our doctor everything was fine and get out of the office as quick as possible. But everything is probably not fine if you are living with Crohn’s disease. It can be uncomfortable to talk to your doctor about your symptoms, and as a man, you may feel extra social pressure to put on a brave face. But it’s important to remember that you have a serious disease, and as a professional, a good doctor will be understanding and help you address any issues.


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Your sex life and Crohn’s

If you are living with Crohn’s disease, your disease and its treatments can impact your sex life, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. You many also have body image issues. As a result, there may be times when having sex isn’t possible or top of mind. But remember, a healthy relationship will be more dependent on intimacy — not just sex — to help you and your partner stay connected. If you have concerns, discussing them with your partner can help you both stay on the same page.


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Social and work events with alcohol

After-work events can be helpful to your career and social life. But unfortunately, these events usually involve alcohol. Alcohol can cause an increase in diarrhea and interact with medications, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Luckily, you can manage this dilemma with preparation. For example, check out the menu online first. Look for non-alcoholic drink options to try, and remember to drink water for hydration.


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Lack of control in your life

Crohn’s disease can vary over time, with periods of remission and periods when your symptoms are at their worst. Unfortunately, this means you may have no idea how you might feel from one day to the next. This lack of control can add to the stress you experience with Crohn’s disease. Talking to your doctor can be helpful; they will help make sure you have the tools you need to get your flare-ups under control as quickly as possible.


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Golf and other sports outings

Golf is another activity that can help your career and social life. However, golf is not a timed game and can involve being away from a bathroom for hours. Planning ahead is key. Before the outing, chart out on-course restrooms. Opt for nine versus 18 holes whenever possible. Additionally, dehydration is a risk, so bring plenty to drink with you on the course. These tips can apply to other sports you may play, too!


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Depression and Crohn’s disease

If you have Crohn’s disease, you have an increased risk of anxiety and depression compared with those without the disease. This should come as no surprise based on the frequent discomfort and uncertainty Crohn’s brings. Fortunately, depression is treatable. Talking to your doctor and your support system is key. Through lifestyle modifications, such as an increase in exercise, or treatment options, such as talk therapy or short-term antidepressant medication, you can feel better.


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Travel with Crohn’s

While it can be a non-negotiable job requirement, traveling can be tricky with Crohn’s. If a business trip is in your future, tell your doctor’s office when you’ll be traveling. This will give them a heads up if you call and need quick advice. If you’re flying, bring enough medication for your entire trip and carry it on the plane with you. Keep your insurance card in your wallet in case an unplanned trip to the hospital is required. While on the go, eat the foods you know your gut can handle.


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Stomachaches aren’t a sign of weakness

While everyone experiences Crohn’s differently, many people suffer from severe stomach pain. Unfortunately, stomachaches are often associated with weakness, and as a man, you may be subject to unfair stereotypes and cultural pressure to appear strong. However, abdominal pain associated with Crohn’s can be related to serious issues beyond your control, such as swelling, an obstruction, or an abscess. Staying educated about your condition will give you the confidence you need.


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Male infertility and Crohn’s

The Crohn’s population has normal rates of fertility. However, there can be subgroups that are at risk for reduced reproductive capacity. According to a 2015 article in the Journal ofGastroenterology & Hepatology, certain medications can have a negative impact on fertility in men. If you are planning to become a parent, talk to your doctor about the medications you are taking and the risks to your fertility.


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Going out to eat with Crohn’s

From work meetings to date nights, dining out is often a necessity. While eating out can be fraught with potential health hazards, there are ways to manage. When possible, pick a place that you know will have menu items you can safely choose. Once you are at the restaurant, exercise self-discipline to eat only a small amount. Check out HealthCentral's tips for dining out with Crohn's for more helpful strategies.


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The bottom line

Living with Crohn’s can present many challenges, no matter your gender. In fact, most of these issues can affect anyone with Crohn's — not just men. Don't let unfair gender stereotypes stop you from seeking help. Learning to prepare for these different scenarios and talking to your doctor about any problems that may arise will help you stay healthy in the long run.