Were you recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease? Do you suffer from the sometimes debilitating effects?
Your life probably feels upside down. You might even fear that it’ll never be the same.
A Crohn’s disease diagnosis is life-altering. Nothing will help you more than thoroughly educating yourself!
Learn everything important about the illness, including how to reduce flare-ups. Keep reading for the top six things you need to know about living with Crohn’s disease.
1. What Is Crohn’s Disease?
First of all, what exactly is Crohn’s disease? Crohn’s disease is a condition that makes your bowels perpetually inflamed. Read more about inflammation here.
Your inner intestinal lining builds up then erodes. Your deeper intestinal lining can then become inflamed, which sets the stage for ulcers and abscesses.
Inflammation can cause all sorts of issues including ulcers and abscesses, fistula, and ileum damage. These issues can occur anywhere from your mouth down to your rectum.
As you can see, Crohn’s disease can wreak havoc up and down your body. It’s crucial that you fully understand the condition so you can combat flare-ups!
2. Common Symptoms
Here are common symptoms of Crohn’s disease:
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea (often with blood)
- Mouth sores
- Anus sores
- Joint pain
- Painful bowel movements
- Pus in the anal area
- Unintentional weight loss
All of these symptoms are the result of prolonged, severe inflammation. The tricky thing about Crohn’s disease is that the symptoms aren’t always constant: they can come and go, stay away for a long time, then suddenly flare up without warning.
If you have Crohn’s disease, your results might come back abnormal for the following medical tests:
- Stool test
- Blood test
- Intestinal biopsy
- Upper gastrointestinal series
- Autoantibody test
Crohn’s disease is a permanent condition. Your symptoms, however, are not. They flare up and fade away; keep reading to find out why and how to best avoid it.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
The easiest way to combat flare-ups is to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet. If your diet is full of vitamins and the proper nutrients when you feel good, then you’re less likely to suffer from anemia or weight loss during a flare-up.
Some foods contribute to or even cause inflammation. Avoid these foods at all costs! Here are the main culprits:
- Sugar (desserts, sodas)
- High-fructose corn syrup (candy, breads, juice)
- Artificial trans fats (margarine, fast food)
- Refined carbs (white bread, pasta, baked goods)
- Alcohol (especially excessive consumption)
Be sure to add anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, such as berries, salmon, broccoli, avocados, and mushrooms. For more information on adopting an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, check out this article here.
4. Whatever You Do, Don’t Smoke!
Are you a smoker and a Crohn’s disease sufferer? If so, something’s gotta change.
Smoking only aggravates your condition. The smoke and harmful ingredients can make both the inflammation and the symptoms worse.
You know that smoking isn’t good for you. Everyone knows that. But helping alleviate painful Crohn’s disease symptoms could be your good reason to quit.
Here are a few ways to quit smoking:
- Nicotine replacement therapy, like nicotine gum or patches
- Non-nicotine medication
- Alternative medicine (some people swear by acupuncture!)
- Don’t forget that it takes a village! Enlist the help of your family, friends, coworkers, everyone you’re surrounded by every day. Trust them to help hold you accountable.
You can do it! Anything to help relieve your Crohn’s disease, right?
5. Manage Your Stress
Work, commute, bills, family obligations, kids, birthdays, dirty dishes — your life has more stresses than you can count. Stress makes everything worse, Crohn’s included.
In a 2010 study of adults with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), one of the only factors found to be significantly related to flare-ups was stress. So you can count on stress being a main factor in your future flare-ups.
Managing stress seems near impossible. But it’s actually doable! It can greatly benefit your health.
Here are some simple things to try:
- Write things down, keep a detailed planner
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine
- Increase your physical activity!
- Practice time management
- Study proper breathing, thinking, and communicating
- Talk to someone
- Cut out unnecessary obligations — learn to say “no”
6. Get Your Beauty Sleep
It’s no secret: life is terrible without sleep. People are terrible without sleep! Why do you think sleep deprivation is a legitimate form of torture?
That’s because sleep affects every aspect of life: mood, decision-making, physical health, mental health, hormones, appetite, blood pressure, immune system, and stress. It makes sense, then, that Crohn’s flare-ups happen when you’re low on sleep.
When you’re deprived of sleep, your body had elevated levels of CRP. CRP is also a main protein screened for in inflammatory bowel disease checks. So there’s a direct link between low sleep levels and increased inflammation!
Try these suggestions to get better sleep:
- Set a bedtime for yourself
- Stop looking at blue light at least an hour before bed (TVs, phones, etc.)
- Avoid caffeine afternoon
- Put up blackout shades (light signals your brain to wake up)
- Practice relaxation techniques before bed (breathing, muscle work, visualizations)
Your Life Can Be Everything You Dreamed Despite Your Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis
If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, that means you’ve suffered from its awful symptoms for awhile. You don’t have to live in pain, fear, or worry anymore.
There are safe, helpful, effective ways to avoid flare-ups. Make these simple changes in your life and you’re sure to feel a difference. No, it won’t cure you, but it can improve your well-being.
A Crohn’s disease diagnosis doesn’t have to ruin your life. You can still have a beautiful, fun, happy life if you do everything you can to avoid flare-ups.
Check out our health and vitality page with multiple links and articles about Crohn’s disease. Try this article about the important differences between Crohn’s disease and UC.