Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel condition that can affect any part of a person’s gastrointestinal tract. Living with crohn’s disease is a journey.
It’s a lifelong and chronic disease that tends to alternate between periods of symptom flare-ups and relatively stable periods. The flare-ups can last for days, weeks, and sometimes months.
When treating Crohn’s disease, the goal is to get the patient into that remission period and keep them in that state.
Unfortunately, almost every person living with Crohn’s disease will experience a flare at some point or another. By understanding what triggers these flares, we can better anticipate, prevent, and minimize them.
Continue reading to learn more.
There are a variety of components that can trigger a flare-up. Some of these factors include using new medications, changes in the underlying disease itself, antibiotics and infections, changes in one’s diet, and stress.
Sometimes, doctors are able to identify the specific trigger of the flare. However, most of the time, the trigger remains a mystery.
Crohn’s disease’s symptoms can vary greatly. Most people end up having diarrhea and pain in the abdominal area. Other people may experience abdominal distension, nausea, and loss of appetite.
Some people living with the disease experience mouth ulcers, joint pain, fatigue, and eye issues.
Patients should try to establish what their baseline symptoms are when they’re in a period of remission. They should try to see what happens with those symptoms as they become more prominent.
There are several smartphone apps including myColitis and Oshi: IBD tracker that can help patients better monitor their symptoms. These apps work by having patients track things like medications, symptoms, and bowel movements. There’s also a tracker that’s available through the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
By providing these kinds of records to your gastroenterologist, you and your doctor can more effectively track how the disease is affecting you and come up with a strategy to control it.
Contact Your Doctor
If you think you’re experiencing a flare-up, you should contact your doctor. This way, he or she can test you to see if the flare is because of an infection. They can also see if it’s because of new medications, such as antibiotics.
If there is no infection and no way to reverse the effects of the flare, your doctor may recommend that you undergo a treatment regimen of corticosteroids. These medications can be systemic (body-wide) or topical. Topical corticosteroids are applied to the lower colon either by suppositories or enemas.
Experiencing a symptom flare can also mean there’s a change in your body’s response to your treatment course.
For example, there are many patients every year who take either biologic medications or immunomodulator who stop responding to their treatment.
When a person experiences a major symptom flare, this can mean that their current medications are no longer working. Your gastroenterologist can perform tests to see if this is what’s happening and then switch your medications if necessary.
Adjust Some Lifestyle Habits
Luckily, there are several measures you can take to control and mitigate the effects of flares when they come up.
Stop smoking. Smoking is absolutely terrible for your body. It’s also a well-known risk factor for developing Crohn’s disease and can also trigger flares.
When you quit smoking, you will likely experience fewer flares, reduce your medication requirements, and lower your chances of needing surgery.
Avoid NSAIDs. NSAID stands for Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Aleve (naproxen) and Advil (ibuprofen) can make it difficult for your gastrointestinal tract to heal and protect itself.
Taking NSAIDS can increase your likelihood of experiencing a flare. If you’re experiencing pain, it may be better for you to take Tylenol (acetaminophen) instead of an NSAID.
Reduce stress. It is true that stress doesn’t directly cause a person to have Crohn’s disease. But it can have a significant impact on your IBD symptoms.
Most people who suffer from the disease find that regular use of stress reduction techniques and stress management is very helpful. These techniques can include deep breathing, yoga, meditation, biofeedback, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Simplify your diet. There is no specific food or diet that is going to cure or prevent symptoms of Crohn’s disease. But you can pay attention and try to determine which foods are triggering your symptoms.
There are also a couple of general rules that you can follow to feel better when you’re going through a flare:
- Avoid fried and greasy food
- Avoid foods that can give you gas (cruciferous vegetables, beans)
- Avoid dairy
- Limit foods that have a lot of fiber. These include whole grains and uncooked vegetables
- Try to eat more cooked vegetables
You would also benefit from avoiding or minimizing your consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
Living With Crohn’s Disease? Follow These Precautions and Guidelines
It’s not easy for people living with Crohn’s disease—but although it may seem like a lot of work, it is possible to avoid flare-up triggers and reduce the severity of symptoms when they do occur. Being able to do that is always worth putting in the extra effort.
Each person’s situation is unique. That’s why it’s so important that you do your best to track and understand your body’s responses so that you and your doctor can figure out the best way to control your Crohn’s disease.
Are you suffering from Crohn’s disease and looking for more helpful information?