By Nyaka Mwanza
Crohn’s disease is a chronic gastrointestinal condition. It’s one of the most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s causes inflammation of your digestive tract. Symptoms include abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, and unintended weight loss.
Dietary Tips for Dealing With Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease often causes a decrease in appetite while it increases your body’s energy needs. That‘s why what you eat — and when and how you prepare your food — could either help your Crohn’s symptoms or make them worse.
There is no single diet recommended for people with Crohn’s disease. It depends largely on you and your Crohn’s symptoms. For instance, IBD constipation and other Crohn’s symptoms often go hand in hand. Increasing fiber intake can help alleviate or improve your constipation, but fiber is not always recommended during flare-ups. Hot spices, fried snacks, or foods containing lactose have been known to trigger flares or exacerbate Crohn’s symptoms.
Here are some tips for making good decisions about what to eat when you have Crohn’s disease:
- Keep a food journal. Keep track of what you eat and any resulting symptoms you experience.
- Get to know your body and the foods that contribute to a flare. Avoid your trigger foods, especially when your symptoms are worse. You may find some foods you tolerate better during flares. The foods you can tolerate may also differ from those you can enjoy while in remission.
- Opt for foods cooked with simpler techniques, such as boiling, grilling, and steaming. These are usually a safer choice than rich or deep-fried foods.
- Try to plan meals in advance.
Stress Management To Minimize Crohn’s Symptoms
A chronic disease diagnosis can be stressful. Periods when your symptoms are more severe may also raise your stress levels. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid all stress in your day-to-day life. However, you can control how well you cope with life’s stressors. Stress can negatively impact your mental health, trigger a Crohn’s flare, or worsen your symptoms.
There are several tools and strategies to help you better cope with stress:
- Therapy, individual or in a group, can address the effects of stress on your mental health. Therapy can also teach you skills to manage emotionally taxing situations.
- You can seek out in-person or online support groups for people who have Crohn’s disease. These can offer a community of people who are going through the same things you are and help get you much-needed support.
- Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you reduce stress. Just a few minutes a day of meditation can have a tremendous effect on your mental health. Several apps exist to guide you through meditations of varying lengths.
Keep Active To Control Crohn’s Disease
Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, manage stress, and keep your mood up. Regular physical activity can also strengthen your muscles, bones, and immune system. It is important to ask your physician about the best activity for you, both during a flare-up and while your Crohn’s is under control. During flares, your doctor may suggest you limit exercise until your symptoms are better controlled and your energy increases. Talk to your doctor to figure out precisely how exercise can help you manage Crohn’s disease.
When aiming for the generally recommended 20 to 30 minutes of daily exercise, keep these tips in mind:
- No matter your weight or body type, exercise and a healthy diet are a critical part of avoiding potential IBD complications.
- If you exercise outside, ensure you find routes or are near a facility that gives you access to bathroom breaks when needed
- Remember to stay hydrated and drink lots of water.
- Do physical activity you enjoy. Exercise need not be a struggle or chore.
- Everyone’s ability and fitness levels are different. Do what feels right for you.