Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes stomach pain, diarrhea, bloody stools, unintentional weight loss, cramping, and fatigue.
Because living with these symptoms can be stressful and even overwhelming at times, it’s important to know that you’re not stuck trying to manage these symptoms on your own.
Eric Ibegbu, MD, and our team at Atlantic Medical Group are experts when it comes to helping our patients find relief from Crohn’s disease. Whether you need medication or surgery, we are with you every step of your journey.
In this blog, Dr. Ibegbu shares some of the lifestyle adjustments you can make to further reduce your symptoms of Crohn's disease.
1. Exercise regularly
Exercise is undeniably good for everyone, whether you have Crohn's disease or not. But if you have any irritable bowel disease, exercise can help improve your quality of life by reducing stress.
Stress is a common trigger for GI upset, and studies show that regular exercise reduces Crohn’s disease flare-ups by managing stress.
2. Eat a healthy diet and avoid your triggers
Paying attention to what you eat not only helps prevent flare-ups, but it can also help ensure that your body gets the nutrients it needs. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recommends the following if you have Crohn’s disease:
- Eat four to six smaller meals each day
- Focus on hydration (water, broth, and tomato juice are good options)
- Refrain from using straws as they can lead to gassiness
- Substitute deep frying with other cooking methods: steaming, poaching, boiling, and grilling
- Eat lean protein, including fish, white cuts of poultry, eggs, and firm tofu
- Eat grains, including oatmeal and sourdough bread
- Avoid high-fat foods, including deep-fried food
- Avoid insoluble fiber foods (such as raw cruciferous vegetables) during a flare
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks
Keeping a food journal can help you track your specific triggers.
3. Quit smoking
If you smoke, now is a good time to consider smoking cessation. Although smoking is notorious for its effect on your lungs, it affects all parts of your body, including your GI system.
Studies show that smoking increases your risk of developing Crohn’s disease and, for those who already have the disease, can make it worse.
If you need help stopping, don’t hesitate to talk to Dr. Ibegbu.
4. Consider vitamin supplements
Chronic diarrhea can sabotage the amount of nutrients that your body is able to absorb. Depending on your specific needs, Dr. Ibegbu may suggest:
- Calcium supplements
- Vitamin supplements, including vitamin D
- Iron supplements
If you need help remembering to take your vitamins each day, set a reminder on your phone. While you might not feel an immediate difference when taking vitamins, staying diligent with your supplements can prevent malnutrition.
5. Manage stress and anxiety
Your stomach and stress levels are linked. Intense stress can trigger an upset stomach in anyone, but for those with Crohn’s disease, unmanaged stress can trigger a flare-up.
Stress management techniques include exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling, listening to calm music, and talk therapy.
Beyond lifestyle adjustments
Although all of these lifestyle adjustments support healthy GI function, there are times when you may need medication and/or surgery if conservative treatments aren’t enough.
If you need help managing the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, call our office in Kinston or Jacksonville, North Carolina, to explore your treatment options.