Living with Crohn's Disease

Living with Crohn's Disease

Just because Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition, it doesn’t need to rule your life.

“The thing that will give patients with Crohn’s disease hope is that in the past 10 years, there have been a lot of new medications,” says Carmen Meier MD, a gastroenterologist at the TriHealth Digestive Institute. “We have much more in our medicine cabinet now.”

Crohn’s Disease: What is It?

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition that causes ongoing inflammation of the intestinal tract, at any point from the mouth to the rectum. It is most commonly seen in young adults, between the ages of 20 and 40, but it can strike children and seniors, too.

While the exact cause is unknown, genetics do play a role. About 25 percent of people who have Crohn’s disease also have a close relative with the disease. Smokers and those who eat a diet high in processed foods are more likely to develop the disease, as well.

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

“Crohn’s disease can happen anywhere from the mouth to the anus, so some of the symptoms depend very much on where the disease is,” Dr. Meier points out. Typical symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chronic bloody/watery diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight Loss

Symptoms are not usually constant, but tend to come and go, with the disease being active or dormant several times throughout a person’s life.

Ways to Manage Crohn’s Disease:

#1: If You Smoke, Stop

Smoking is a risk factor for developing Crohn’s disease and may also worsen symptoms in those who have already been diagnosed. If you are a smoker, talk to you doctor about ways to quit or to learn about local or online smoking cessation programs.

#2: Rethink Your Diet

Eating or avoiding certain foods is not a guaranteed way to prevent or manage symptoms, but, in some cases, eating dairy products, fats and spicy foods may aggravate Crohn's. Similarly, eating natural foods, like fruits and vegetables, and avoiding refined foods, like sweets, white breads and pastas, may help.

#3 Relax

“Something happens to the immune system when you’re stressed. It’s as simple as, when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to get a cold,” Dr. Meier explains. Meditation and exercise may help people with Crohn’s manage their stress levels; however, remember that if you’re starting a new fitness regimen, to discuss it with your doctor, first.

#4: Talk with Your Doctor about the Right Medications

“We try to make most management of Crohn’s disease medical – meaning medication,” Dr. Meier says. Some medications may work better than others, at certain times in your life, and therefore, certain medications may need to be added or switched.

She reminds patients to pay close attention to their bodies when they are on one or more medications. "It's really important to have good follow-up with your gastroenterologist and be in good communication with them on what is going on." 

Tags Nutrition and Eating , Miscellaneous

Last Updated: June 27, 2013