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Self-Care For Crohn's Disease

Posted on May 28, 2024 by Henry Ford Health Staff

Getting diagnosed with Crohn’s disease can feel overwhelming. But it’s also the first step toward taking control of your health and learning how to manage your symptoms.

“With the right medication and lifestyle changes, many people can go into remission and be symptom-free,” says Jessica Jou, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Henry Ford Health. 

Even when Crohn’s is well-controlled, you may still have occasional flares when symptoms return. That’s why living an overall healthy lifestyle is critical for helping you manage symptoms and the emotional toll of having a chronic condition. Creating a self-care routine—and making it a priority—can make Crohn’s disease easier to live with during times of active disease and remission. 

Work With Your Doctor To Make A Self-Care Plan

Your care team understands that managing Crohn’s disease requires not only medication, but also lifestyle changes. “It’s very important to take a holistic approach to Crohn’s disease treatment,” says Dr. Jou. “The pillars of a good self-care plan should include nutrition, exercise, mental health and strong community support.”

Be sure to keep your doctors up to date on your symptoms, your concerns and how you’re managing with Crohn’s disease. “Share with them if you’re worried about things like going on a trip because you’re afraid you won’t be able to find public restrooms when you need them,” says Dr. Jou. “They can help you figure out what changes you can make to daily life so that all aspects of it are more livable.”

Good Nutrition Can Help You Manage Crohn’s Disease

If you’ve been living with Crohn’s disease for a while, you probably already have a good idea of what foods trigger a flare-up of symptoms. When your symptoms are under control you may be able to ease up on those restrictions. The key is to pay attention and be aware of when you need to be more vigilant with your diet. 

Although triggers can be different for everyone, some things that you may need to limit or avoid include:

A healthy diet for people with Crohn’s disease isn’t just about what to avoid. It’s equally important to make sure your diet is packed with nutrient-rich foods. “Outcomes for people with Crohn’s disease are better when you have good nutrition,” says Dr. Jou. 

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Staying Active Has Multiple Benefits

It’s no secret that getting regular exercise is good for your health. And that holds true even for people coping with Crohn’s disease. Exercise can help reduce inflammation in the body (including your digestive tract) and improve regularity. 

Listen to your body and only do what feels comfortable to you. During flares, that might mean cutting back on exercise or switching to something less intense—like a yoga class.

Exercise can also improve your mental well-being. “Even just getting out for a short walk can be really beneficial,” says Dr. Jou.

Mind Your Mental Health

“It’s very common for people dealing with a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder to feel some symptoms of anxiety or depression,” says Dr. Jou. You may worry about how your symptoms will affect your daily life, your ability to go to work or go out with friends. You might avoid social outings for fear of embarrassment. “A diagnosis of Crohn’s disease is a big adjustment and it’s completely normal to have all of those thoughts and feelings,” she says. 

Not only can coping with Crohn’s disease cause feelings of anxiety and depression, being anxious or depressed can also worsen your Crohn’s symptoms. “People often report a flare in symptoms during times of stress,” says Dr. Jou. “GI disorders and mental health have a very strong bi-directional connection.” 

Enlist Lots Of Support

Finding a therapist or counselor—especially one with experience helping people with GI disorders—is a critical part of a good self-care plan. They can help you navigate any fears and anxieties you have about living with Crohn’s disease. 

An in-person or online support group allows you to connect with others coping with similar challenges. Together, you can help each other strategize and manage life with Crohn’s. 

Don’t forget to include your friends and family in your circle of support. “Share what’s going on as well as your concerns with trusted people who care about you,” says Dr. Jou. Also, she urges her patients not to be too hard on themselves. “Give yourself a break when you need it and make adjustments to your daily routine when you have a flare or need a little extra self-care.” 

With the right support, lifestyle changes and coping strategies, Crohn’s disease doesn’t have to stop you from living a full and active life. 

Reviewed by Jessica Jou, M.D., a gastroenterologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Henry Ford Medical Center - Fairlane, Henry Ford Medical Center - Columbus and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. 
Categories : FeelWell

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