Living with Crohn's disease and Colitis

Living with the symptoms of an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's or colitis can be upsetting. It's understandable if you have feelings of embarrassment or sadness. After all, chronic abdominal pain and diarrhea that force you to isolate from activities you love can affect your daily life in many ways.

However, definitive diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan designed especially for you are the first steps to improving your quality of life. That's the great news! The cautionary news is that conditions such as Crohn's disease or colitis can flare up without much notice. While there is no definitive evidence that any particular foods make the symptoms worse, doctors believe there are some food-related lifestyle changes people with Crohn's or colitis can make to reduce the incidence of symptomatic flare ups.

Additionally, take note of situations that make you feel anxious or stressed and avoid those activities whenever possible. Doctors believe stress can make symptoms of Crohn's and colitis worse.

Here are some lifestyle considerations to think about when managing Crohn's or colitis:

  • Stay hydrated. Try to drink plenty of fluids daily, especially water. However, alcohol and caffeinated beverages can make diarrhea worse and carbonated drinks produce gas. Avoid those as much as possible.
  • Consider limiting dairy. People who experience lactose intolerance should avoid or limit dairy products that induce diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas.
  • Monitor fiber intake. People with inflammatory bowel disease may find that fiber increases gas, pain and diarrhea.
  • Less is more. Sometimes eating several smaller meals a day, rather than the usual larger meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner may ease digestion and make you feel better.
  • Eat smart! This may sound obvious, but it's worth mentioning. You may love certain foods but they don't like you! Avoid gassy foods, acidic drinks, alcohol, carbonated beverages and anything else that exacerbates your symptoms of Crohn's or colitis.

People with Crohn's or colitis may want to speak to our dietician if your diet becomes too limited or if you begin to lose weight due to your diet. Ask about whether taking multivitamins to replace nutrients that your body is unable to absorb due to your condition is a good move for you.

Another Word (or Two) About Lifestyle Issues

In addition to being careful about what you eat and drink, people living with Crohn's disease or Colitis should be mindful that managing the stressors of daily living - managing home, family life and work - are an important part of keeping your symptoms at bay.

While stress doesn't cause Crohn's or colitis, stressful living can make your condition feel worse and even trigger flare-ups.

Breathe... Consider engaging in calming activities such as yoga, exercise or other endeavors you love. Don't allow your Crohn's or colitis to isolate you from the things and people you enjoy.