Getting diagnosed with any chronic condition can be scary, and hearing “Crohn’s disease” or “ulcerative colitis” or “inflammatory bowel disorder” is no exception. But for those who have been suffering persistent GI discomfort, and other debilitating symptoms, it can also provide a sense of relief. Knowing the cause can help patients move forward with therapeutic and lifestyle changes that help ease discomfort and manage the condition over the long term.
Here are seven tips to get your started on your path towards reclaiming your health:
1. Increase your gut flora: Often people with IBD have an imbalance in gut bacteria. Boost good bacteria by incorporating a combination of fermented foods and probiotics. Finding the right balance is very individual, so take your time experimenting with what feels good. Fermented drinks like kombucha may be easier to stomach. Yogurt and kefir are sometimes recommended, but can be problematic for those with dairy issues. Look for coconut water-based kefir (or make your own), and talk to your clinician about a high-quality probiotic supplement.
2. Feeling fatigued? It’s ok: Whether you are having a digestive symptomatic day or not, it’s normal to feel extremely tired and lethargic. While frustrating, it can also be an opportunity for relaxation and self-care. Go see that movie you’ve been wanting to check out, have a friend over and enjoy an herbal soothing tea together, or practice Yoga Nidra, a meditative sleep yoga.
3. Eliminate caffeine and alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol are common triggers for those with Crohn’s and colitis. In addition, these substances can contribute to malabsorption of nutrients, damage the intestinal lining, and lead to intestinal permeability. As tempting as coffee, soda, and dark chocolate are, it generally makes things worse in the long run. Same goes for that after-work cocktail. While happy hour may be tempting, the hours of discomfort afterwards aren’t.
4. Be careful with nuts, popcorn, and seeds: All three are known triggers that can irritate an already inflamed intestine, and, if you are prone to obstructions, they can also be the cause. Some people can tolerate nuts and seeds, so test them out, and listen to your body.
5. Grab Some Vitamin B12: Crohn’s can interfere with the absorption of B12, which is an essential nutrient. Be sure to have your doctor monitor your blood levels to see if you you need supplementation.
6. Test! Experiment! Find What’s Right for You: Food tolerance for those with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis is individual. Some people can tolerate what are often considered “problem foods” such as dairy, raw fruits and vegetables, fried foods, gluten, and spicy foods. Because IBD interferes with your nutritional status and has increased nutritional requirements, you want to have the most varied and liberal diet you can. It’s best not to eliminate a group of foods without discovering if they in fact cause you problems.
7. Be proactive and get support: The above are things to be mindful of, but only you can determine which apply to you as an individual. Build a team of support around you, and do your homework on the condition, therapies, and your own experience. Connect with a good doctor and GI dietitian; they can help you change the balance of your gut flora, prevent or reverse intestinal permeability, educate you on pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods, and help you figure out which foods cause symptoms and which don’t. Keep them accountable by being your own advocate. Above all, make sure you stay nourished, and take care of yourself and your body!
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.