Tips for living with Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The disease usually affects your small intestine and colon. It can also affect parts of your entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from your mouth down to your anus. Living with Crohn’s disease can be a challenge. It affects your abdomen, stool and the general quality of your life. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but you can learn how to manage the symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
There are usually early symptoms of Crohn’s disease. They can develop slowly. Some of the signs worsen as the disease progresses. Symptoms don’t just suddenly develop. Crohn’s symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Joint swelling
- Anal drainage
- GI ulcerations
- Blood in stool
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal cramps
- Frequent bowel movements
- Shortness of breath due to anemia
Some of these symptoms can look like other conditions, such as food poisoning or a food allergy. If the symptoms persist, see your doctor. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease also look like ulcerative colitis (UC), another IBD.
Diagnosing Crohn’s disease
Your doctor will likely use a few different tests to figure out if you have Crohn’s disease. These tests might include:
- Blood test for anemia
- A colonoscopy to view your entire colon
- CT scan to view your entire bowel in detail
- MRI to evaluate your anal area and small intestine
- Fecal occult blood test, which is a stool sample to test for hidden blood
- Capsule endoscopy in which a tiny camera takes photos of your small intestine
Your doctor will determine if your symptoms are Crohn’s disease or UC. UC only affects the colon. It also affects only the outermost layer of colon tissue called the mucosa. Crohn’s disease can affect deeper colon tissues.
Crohn’s disease treatments
Crohn’s disease doesn’t have a cure. There are medical treatments to ease symptoms and reduce inflammation that may trigger a flare-up. Medical treatment options include:
- Antibiotics: Certain treatments, such as ciprofloxacin and metronidazole, may reduce the amount of drainage and may heal sores.
- Anti-diarrhea supplements: Psyllium powder or methylcellulose relieves diarrhea.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: Short-term use of prednisone and budesonide reduce inflammation inside your body.
- Immunosuppressant drugs: These keep your immune system from causing flare-ups and also reduce inflammation in your immune system.
If your symptoms are getting in the way of daily life and traditional treatments haven’t worked, surgery may be an option. Surgery may repair your digestive tract. A surgeon removes the part of your digestive tract that Crohn’s disease has damaged. Fistulas and abscesses are closed and drained. Surgery isn’t a cure. It’s a temporary solution until the disease enters another part of your GI tract.
Reducing Crohn’s disease flare-ups
Over time, you may find that certain lifestyle changes help to ease symptoms and reduce the number of flare-ups you have. Remedies may include:
- Exercise: Gentle movement stabilizes the way your bowels function and eases symptoms.
- Quitting smoking: It’s unclear why, but smokers have an increased risk of developing the disease. Smoking makes it worse.
- Diet: Reduce fiber, spicy foods and dairy products that may inflame your GI tract. Increase lower-fat foods so your intestine can digest fat better.
- Eating habits: Eat smaller portions and drink clear liquids (water is best) throughout the day. Decrease alcohol and caffeine. They may inflame your GI tract or produce gas.
- Alternative medicine: Probiotics, prebiotics, fish oil and other herbal supplements may ease symptoms. You should always discuss possible drug interactions with your doctor.
Medications and other remedies may ease your symptoms. Reduced symptoms make it easier to go about your daily life without worrying about a flare-up.
Preventing Crohn’s disease
Doctors can’t yet prevent Crohn’s disease because the cause is still unclear. If you live a healthy lifestyle, it may keep your body from triggering inflammation. You can also try the following to stop inflammation:
- Eat more fish
- Avoid smoking
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
- Reduce the amount of red meat in your diet
- Drink lots of water to keep your gut lubricated
- Reduce the amounts of trans-fats and refined sugar in your diet
- Avoid processed foods and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives
- Increase the amount of fermented foods in your diet to balance the ratio of good and bad bacteria in your gut
Are you or a loved one may be living with Crohn’s disease? If you’re looking for help managing Crohn’s, our team is here for you. Reach out today.