Nearly 800,000 people have Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that actually can affect any part of the digestive tract. Crohn’s disease causes inflammation in the tissues that line the digestive tract, most commonly affecting the small and large intestines, and it can affect both adults and children. If you have Crohn’s disease, you can experience a lot of different, uncomfortable symptoms, like cramps and bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, malnutrition and bloody bowel movements. Most people have symptoms that fluctuate, becoming worse during periods called flare-ups and lessening during periods of remission.
There’s no cure for Crohn’s disease, but there are ways to manage it so its effects on your life are minimized. If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, these simple tips can help you learn how to live with your disease without letting it take over your physical and emotional well-being.
Treating Crohn’s disease: Medications
Even though there’s no cure, there are several effective medical treatments for Crohn’s disease. The key is getting the right combination of treatments for your symptoms. Most treatment for Crohn’s disease involves one or more medicines to reduce inflammation and relieve cramps and other uncomfortable symptoms. The most common medications used to treat Crohn’s disease include:
- Anti-inflammatory medicines called aminosalicylates that act to directly decrease inflammation in the bowel (used primarily for ulcerative colitis, but sometimes also for Crohn’s disease)
- Corticosteroids that help keep the body’s immune system in check while also blocking inflammatory responses that cause bowel irritation
- Immunomodulators or immune-system suppressants like methotrexate that help prevent the inflammatory cascade involved in Crohn’s disease
- Biologic therapies, like ustekinumab, for people who haven’t responded to other medications
These medicines focus on limiting the symptoms of the disease and controlling the inflammation that causes those symptoms. Depending on your specific symptoms, you might take other medications as well, like medicines to control diarrhea, reduce cramping or prevent the infections that can sometimes occur. Since Crohn’s disease can interfere with the way nutrients are absorbed by your body, you might need to take vitamin and mineral supplements as well.
Crohn’s disease and your diet
Since Crohn’s disease can affect different people in different ways, there’s no such thing as a “Crohn’s diet.” In most cases, dietary recommendations depend on the individual’s tolerance for different foods and food types. For instance, greasy foods can trigger symptoms in many patients, but other patients may find they can tolerate fried foods fairly well. Other patients may have problems digesting dairy products; in those cases, a lactose-free or low-lactose diet may help.
One of the best ways to manage your diet is to keep a food diary. It might seem like a lot of work to keep track of everything you’re eating and drinking, but keeping a food diary is a really good, effective way to determine if specific foods are contributing to your symptoms and maybe even triggering flare-ups. If your diary indicates certain foods are causing your symptoms to become worse, you can try eliminating them from your diet to see if your symptoms clear up. And of course, during your office visits, we’ll review your dietary habits with you (along with your food diary, if you have one), then make recommendations that are focused on relieving your symptoms while also improving your nutrition and your health.
Get help for your Crohn’s disease symptoms
Dealing with Crohn’s disease on a daily basis can be frustrating, especially when you feel you’re facing your disease alone. Joining a support group for people with Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease (which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) can be a good way to find the support you need to feel empowered and hopeful.
And finally, since there’s no cure for Crohn’s disease, regular doctor visits are important for ensuring your treatment stays on track and your symptoms are properly and effectively managed. Hawaii Gastroenterology Specialists is a top provider of state-of-the-art treatment for people with Crohn’s disease, offering customized care and treatment plans focused on each patient’s unique symptoms and medical needs. If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, we can help you lead a healthier, more comfortable life. To learn how, book an appointment online today.