To treat your Crohn’s disease, your doctor will recommend what medicines to take and whether you might need surgery. But you play a big role, too.
There’s a lot you can do to help manage the symptoms, ease the stress of this condition, and feel in control.
Taking your medicine is key. You’ll also want to do these eight things.
1. Nourish Yourself
Crohn’s disease may make it harder for your body to take in calories and important nutrients.
At times, your doctor may recommend that you add to your diet. They may suggest that you take supplements. These may be high-calorie drinks loaded with vitamins.
You may also need to take specific vitamins, like B12 or D, or certain minerals, like iron or calcium. You could also ask your doctor if it would help for you to work with a nutritionist.
Sometimes, with severe cases of Crohn’s, you may need tube feedings. When this happens, your doctor uses what’s called a nasogastric tube, which goes in your nose and stomach.
If the nasogastric tube isn’t an option, the doctor may place a tube directly into your stomach through a cut in your belly. This rarely happens, and in either case tube feeding is almost always temporary.
2. Get Moving
Regular exercise can also help you feel better. So can other simple activities. Try the following:
- Throughout the day, pay attention to your breathing and slow it down.
- Take time to be outdoors.
- Meditate, pray, or practice yoga.
- Spend time with positive people whose company you enjoy.
3. Check Your Mood
Many people feel sad, angry, or upset when they find out that they have a long-term condition. That’s to be expected. But if you feel depressed or anxious, reach out for help.
Your doctor can refer you to a counselor who can help you get some perspective and learn new ways of managing your feelings about Crohn’s. Your family and close friends might also be able to recommend someone.
You may also want to look for a support group, where you can talk to people who can relate to what you’re going through. That can help reassure you that you aren’t alone, and other people with the condition may have tips or tricks to share with you. They may also give you ideas about treatments that you can talk to your doctor about.
If it turns out that you have a medical condition like depression or anxiety, your doctor may recommend medication to help with those symptoms.
4. Seek Support
You can have some tough days with Crohn’s or any other long-term condition. So ask for help and support.
Family, friends, and neighbors are often willing to step up. Sometimes they’re not sure how to do that. So if someone says, “Let me know if I can do anything,” give them some ideas about what would be helpful.
While you may be reluctant to talk about your condition with others, sharing your diagnosis with a few trusted people can take some of the stress out of your social life.
Friends who know you’re sick can offer support, and they’ll understand when you have to back out of activities at the last minute or if you just aren’t feeling up to going out. They can also help you plan ways to stay social without having to go out if you’re not feeling comfortable.
Who you tell is up to you, as well as how much to tell them about your condition.
5. Bring a Buddy
You might want to bring someone with you to your doctor visits — someone who can listen well and take notes. Always ask questions when you’re not sure about something.
Since you’ll need to follow all medical instructions, ask for them in writing if it helps you remember.
Taking your family and loved ones to a support group session can help them understand the challenges you face.
6. Check With Your Doctor About OTC Medicines
Over-the-counter medicines don’t need a prescription. These may help ease some of your symptoms. But some may also make them worse or interfere with your prescription medicines.
Talk with your doctor before you take any OTC medicines. They may recommend that you take certain ones to:
- Lessen diarrhea
- Reduce gas
- Help lower pain or fever
Some pain relievers might make Crohn’s worse. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
7. Keep Up With Your Care
It’s important to make it to all your doctor appointments. When you go, share how you’re doing. This will help your doctor know if your treatment is on track.
Prescription medicines are a big part of managing your condition. They are usually very good at controlling symptoms and will help you avoid flare-ups.
Always ask questions if you don’t understand how to take your medicines. Your pharmacist may also be able to answer those questions.
If you have side effects or can’t afford your medicines, tell your doctor. They may be able to switch you to another medicine that will work better for you.
8. Plan Ahead
A little preparation can help you feel ready to handle sudden attacks of your symptoms when you’re out. Learn where the bathrooms are in places that you visit often, including public transportation like buses or trains.
Keep a Crohn’s kit in your car, in your bag, at work, or other places you spend a lot of time. It should include:
- Toilet paper
- Baby wipes
- Fresh underwear and clothing
- Gloves and large, sealable plastic bags to handle and store soiled clothes
- Hand sanitizer
Sometimes stores, restaurants, and places like gas stations only let paying customers use their bathrooms. Carry identification to give to them. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation offers a restroom request card called “I Can’t Wait.”
If you’re flying, check the Transportation Security Administration’s website for information about traveling with a medical condition. Bring your medications with you in your carry-on luggage.
- American College of Gastroenterology, “ACG Expert Tips on Living Well with IBD.”
- Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America: “Diet and Nutrition,’ “Diet, Nutrition, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” “Everyday Living,” “Facts About Inflammatory Bowel Diseases,” “IBD and Depression,” “IBD Treatments: Finding Your Best Path,” “Living with Crohn’s and Colitis,” “Understanding IBD Medications and Side Effects.”
- Donnellan, C. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, published online May 2013.
- Kulick, D. American Family Physicians, published online on January 15, 2011.
- Strong, S. Diseases of the Colon and Rectum, published online 2015.
- Laurie A. Stevens, MD, associate clinical professor of psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York.
- Mayo Clinic: “Crohn’s Disease.”