10 Ways to Help Manage Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects an estimated 500,000 Americans. The disease is characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and symptoms may include frequent diarrhea, gastrointestinal bleeding, anal tears, and bowel obstructions. The causes of the condition are unknown, but scientists have theorized that both genetic and environmental factors play a role.

Although there is no known cure for Crohn's disease, there are several treatments, including drug therapy, nutritional supplementation, and surgery. In addition, the following steps may help patients to manage the condition:

  • Limit dairy products

    Many people with inflammatory bowel disease can reduce diarrhea, abdominal pain, or gas by limiting or eliminating dairy products. Substitute yogurt or low-lactose cheese for milk, or take an enzyme product to help break down lactose.

  • Ditch the cigarettes

    Smokers are more likely to develop Crohn's disease, and lighting up after diagnosis can exacerbate symptoms.

  • Exercise regularly

    Even mild exercise can help to normalize bowel function. As an added bonus, exercise may also relieve depression or anxiety.

  • Be choosy about headache remedies

    Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium can all worsen the inflammation caused by Crohn's disease. Most doctors recommend acetaminophen instead.

  • Experiment with fiber

    Some people with Crohn's don't tolerate fiber well. Experiment with a low-fiber eating plan to see if it helps.

  • Try to control stress

    Stressful events can make the symptoms of Crohn's disease worse and may trigger flare-ups.

  • Monitor alcohol intake

    If you're taking antibiotics for Crohn's, minimize or avoid alcohol, which can make the side effects worse.

  • Stick to "safe" foods

    Although everyone's safe foods are different, mild foods, such as skinless chicken, mashed potatoes, white rice, and vanilla pudding, are generally helpful during a flare-up. Experiment with different foods to find out which ones are easy to digest.

  • Get support

    Although support groups aren't necessarily beneficial for everyone, it may help to talk with others who have had similar experiences. Members can swap travel tips or eating ideas to help manage the condition.

  • Plan ahead

    When you're away from home, knowing where to locate a restroom can reduce the stress of worrying about what to do in case of a sudden flare-up. Eating frequent small meals instead of a large meal may also help if traveling where there isn't easy access to a restroom.