Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include abdominal pain and diarrhea, sometimes bloody, and weight loss. Viruses, bacteria, diet, smoking, certain medications, and stress have all been suggested as environmental triggers, but there is no definite evidence that any one of these is the cause of Crohn’s.
If you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or are looking for more information and resources about the condition, we are here to help. Changes in your diet and lifestyle may help control your symptoms and lengthen the time between flare-ups.
Diet. Soft, bland foods may cause less discomfort than spicy or high-fiber foods when the disease is active. It can be helpful to keep a food diary to keep track of what you're eating, as well as how you feel.
- Limit dairy products. Many people with inflammatory bowel disease find that problems such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas improve by limiting or eliminating dairy products. You may be lactose intolerant — that is, your body can't digest the milk sugar in dairy foods. Using an enzyme product such as Lactaid may help.
- Try low-fat foods. If you have Crohn's disease of the small intestine, you may not be able to digest or absorb fat normally. Instead, fat passes through your intestine, making your diarrhea worse. Try avoiding butter, margarine, cream sauces and fried foods.
- Limit fiber. If you have inflammatory bowel disease, high-fiber foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, may make your symptoms worse.If raw fruits and vegetables bother you, try steaming, baking or stewing them. In general, you may have more problems with foods in the cabbage family, such as broccoli and cauliflower, and nuts, seeds, corn and popcorn. You may be told to limit fiber or go on a low residue diet if you have a narrowing of your bowel.
- Avoid other problem foods. Spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine may make your signs and symptoms worse.
- Eat small meals. You may find you feel better eating five or six small meals a day rather than two or three larger ones.
- Drink plenty of liquids. Try to drink plenty of fluids daily. Water is best. Alcohol and beverages that contain caffeine stimulate your intestines and can make diarrhea worse, while carbonated drinks frequently produce gas.
Lifestyle. Lots of daily lifestyle choices can affect Crohn’s disease.
- Quit smoking. It can improve the overall health of your digestive tract.
- Even mild exercise can help reduce stress, relieve depression and normalize bowel function.
- Breathing exercises. One way to cope with stress is to regularly relax and use tips such as deep, slow breathing to calm down. You can take classes in yoga and meditation at home.
All above tips contain ideas and suggestions based on the experiences of people with Crohn’s and the advice of professionals. Talk to your doctor to see what simple changes along with treatments can help you have the best quality of life.