The basics of Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammation of the digestive tract. It can occur anywhere from the mouth to the anus. Symptoms vary from one person to another, but they often can include feeling tired and having:

  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • a fever
  • changes in weight

Medical experts don’t know what causes Crohn’s disease, who is most likely to get it, and what you can do to prevent the disease. Until more discoveries are made, you can take steps that can help you:

  • reduce the risk of a flare-up
  • manage symptoms
  • reduce the likelihood of increased discomfort

A one-size-fits-all diet plan doesn’t exist for people with Crohn’s. However, following a few general dietary rules can help the majority of people who have the disease:

Avoid troublesome foods

Learn which foods and drinks can make your symptoms worse. This is especially true during flare-ups. Avoiding foods that have caused you trouble in the past may be helpful in reducing symptoms in the future.

Are you unsure which foods are contributing to your symptoms? Keep a food diary and track what you’re eating, how each food makes you feel, and if eliminating that food from your diet reduces your symptoms. You’ll likely be able to identify troublesome foods by doing this. Eliminate those foods from your diet. If your symptoms decrease, you’ve found the offending foods. Some of the most common foods that make symptoms worse include:

  • carbohydrates
  • dairy
  • high-fiber foods
  • low-fiber foods

Many doctors suggest using an elimination diet in which you remove certain types of foods from your diet and then slowly add them back one at a time to figure out what causes your symptoms.

Limit dairy products

Dairy products may worsen symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas. This is especially true if you’re lactose intolerant, which means your body can’t properly digest the sugar in milk, or lactose. Taking an enzyme product, such as Lactaid, may make digestion easier.

Be wary of fiber

Fiber may help some people keep their digestive system regulated and flowing. This is especially true if you have chronic diarrhea. Fiber can help add bulk to your stool, which increases intestinal mobility and helps food pass through the intestines more quickly. However, if you have any narrow spots or restrictions in your intestines, high-fiber foods may increase abdominal pain and make Crohn’s symptoms worse. Don’t increase your dietary fiber or begin a high-fiber diet without first discussing the possible side effects with your doctor.

Drink plenty of water

Your intestines need fluids to work properly. If you become dehydrated, your symptoms may increase. It’s best to stay away from alcohol and caffeinated beverages. If you drink these types of beverages, you may notice an increase in symptoms.

Consider taking supplements

Because Crohn’s can make nutrient absorption difficult, it’s important to make sure you get adequate doses of vitamins and nutrients. Most doctors recommend taking a daily multivitamin. Your child’s doctor may recommend you’re your children take calcium and vitamin D supplements. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements to make sure you take what’s right for you.

Stress and anxiety can make the symptoms of Crohn’s disease worse. Stress can also trigger flare-ups. When you have an increased level of stress, your body’s normal processes may not work properly. This includes your digestive tract. Stress can trigger symptoms or make existing ones worse. Finding a healthy way to handle daily stress, whether it’s through exercise, yoga, or talk therapy, is important for increasing the number of days you’re in remission and free of symptoms.

A healthy lifestyle goes a long way in helping you manage Crohn’s symptoms. In addition to eating a healthy diet and managing stress, get adequate exercise and quit smoking if you smoke.

Although experts don’t know exactly what causes Crohn’s, dietary and lifestyle changes can help you manage your symptoms and lessen your flare-ups. Making certain changes to your diet, reducing your stress levels, and exercising can help you manage Crohn’s.