Crohn’s Disease sufferers who go into remission may experience months, years, even decades of little to no symptoms, often thanks to medications. For some patients, fear of a recurrence can often affect their well-being and for others, lack of proper care and maintenance causes symptoms to come back in time, so it is important to understand the various maintenance therapies available to Crohn’s sufferers.
In the early days of a Crohn’s diagnosis, a patient will likely be prescribed more intense therapies to lessen symptoms. These therapies are intended to be short-term. Once a patient has achieved remission, the key is to prevent infection and lessen inflammation.
A few popular maintenance therapies for Crohn’s include:
Similar in its chemical makeup to aspirin, 5-ASA agents are usually delivered orally, compounded to reach the colon without first being absorbed by the upper intestine and stomach. 5-ASA helps reduce inflammation and can also be delivered in enema form. The enema doesn’t reach the upper colon, however, so oral delivery is often necessary.
Antibiotics are used to treat a variety of illnesses, including many involving infection. In Crohn’s patients, antibiotics especially help with patients who have fistulas or anus abscesses. Rifaximin specifically is beneficial in fighting bacteria that gathers in the intestinal mucus of Crohn’s sufferers.
Patients may remain on antibiotics throughout remission if the medication appears to be working. Only a few minor side effects are associated with antibiotics, the most serious of which is tingling in the hands and feet. This particular side effect may continue even after the patient stops taking the medication. As always with antibiotics, patients are discouraged from excessive exposure to the sun and encouraged to refrain from drinking.
Steroids—specifically corticosteroids—are used in cases of Crohn’s, usually when 5-ASA agents are ineffective. Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatories, which cut down on inflammation in the intestines. Corticosteroids have several high-risk side effects, however, and should only be prescribed if necessary.
Lifestyle Changes for Crohn's Disease
For those hoping to maintain remission through lifestyle changes, a few organic solutions may provide the symptom-free remission you seek. While these aren’t guaranteed remedies, living a healthy lifestyle can improve your overall health in many ways.
For many Crohn’s patients, excessive trips to the bathroom interfere with being able to live a normal life. By limiting dairy in your diet, you may be able to improve a variety of gastrointestinal conditions, including diarrhea and abdominal pain. Lactose intolerance is not an uncommon problem and can exacerbate Crohn’s symptoms. If limiting your dairy intake doesn’t work, a product like Lactaid can be a simple solution.
Reduce Fat Intake
Aim to lower the fat intake in your diet. If you suffer from Crohn’s Disease, your body may have a difficult time digesting fat. If your body isn’t digesting and absorbing fat properly, it may pass through your intestine, worsening your Crohn’s symptoms, especially diarrhea. Avoid butter and fried foods especially.
While fiber can make irregular bowel movements regular, in Crohn’s patients fiber can create more abdominal pain and worsen diarrhea. By limiting fiber in your diet, you can ease your symptoms.
If you smoke when you’re diagnosed with Crohn’s, you should stop immediately. Smoking is associated with a higher risk of developing Crohn’s and once you have it, smoking is said to block remission and increase your chance of a relapse. By not smoking, you’ll not only improve the condition of your digestive tract, you’ll improve your overall health.
While that early-morning coffee may give you the impetus you need to get to work in the morning, it could be interfering with your Crohn’s symptoms. Caffeine stimulates your intestines, which worsens symptoms such as diarrhea. Alcohol can also interfere with your gastrointestinal functions. By focusing on drinking as much water as possible, you’ll avoid dehydration, which can be a problem for those suffering from diarrhea.
If you haven’t begun an exercise regime, now is a great time to start. Exercising is thought to stabilize your body’s bowel function, in addition to the overall stress relief benefits. Since stress can make Crohn’s worse, this is an added benefit.
While remission is a definite accomplishment for Crohn’s patients, staying as healthy as possible can help ensure you’re symptom-free as long as possible. Through diet and mild medications, you’ll lessen the chance of a relapse and have good overall health, more energy, and an overall improved sense of well-being.