Being diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can feel overwhelming. But while IBD – such as Crohn’s disease, the most common form of IBD, or ulcerative colitis – is not curable, there’s lots that can be done to help manage it.
With the right treatment and advice, people with Crohn’s can still live life to the full. Here are 5 things that play an important role in managing IBD:
1: The treatments can vary
Crohn’s, which can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth all the way down to the anus (some people experience inflammation of the eyes, skin and joints as well), is not one-size-fits-all. Symptoms – including abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fatigue, fever, ulcers and weight loss and anaemia – can vary from mild to severe. It’s also common to experience ‘remission’ phases where symptoms are under control, coupled with ‘flare-ups’. As such, treating Crohn’s is approached on an individual basis, with medications including antibiotics and disease-modifying agents. For more severe cases and if complications arise, steroids and surgery might be considered.
2: You’ll probably need to adapt your diet
Diet can play an important role in managing Crohn’s. This includes learning to avoid ‘trigger’ foods that don’t agree with you as well as ensuring you’re getting a good range of nutrients, as people with IBD can be more susceptible to nutritional deficiencies due to problems with digestion and absorption. Finding the right diet for you is vital and may take some time to get to grips with, but there’s lots of advice available and your consultant and specialist dietician will be able to help.
3: Understanding your condition helps you feel in control
Living with a chronic bowel disease can be frustrating, and it’s not unusual for people with IBD to experience low mood from time to time. Addressing the psychological and emotional elements of living with IBD can be just as important as treating physical symptoms, and understanding what’s going on in your body and why managing flare-ups is so vital, can really help you feel reassured and in control. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor any questions you might have, and if anything’s worrying you, make an appointment to discuss it.
4: A healthy, balanced lifestyle can also really help
Having a generally healthy lifestyle is also a great idea – this includes not smoking, being mindful of your alcohol intake, and keeping active. Regular exercise has been found to help lower inflammation in the body, as well as being extremely helpful for boosting your mood and mental health and keeping stress at bay.
5: Managing stress is a big part of it
And the role of stress shouldn’t be underestimated, as it can be a key ‘trigger’ for people with IBD. We can’t avoid stress entirely, but taking a proactive approach to living a well-balanced life, ensuring you allow plenty of time for relaxation, socialising and self-care and learning to listen to your body, can all be beneficial. Lots of people find being open about their condition can help too; this might mean telling your close friends and colleagues so that they have some understanding of what’s going on.
If you’re experiencing symptoms associated with IBD, or have already been diagnosed with Crohn’s but would like more information about the treatments and services we offer, make an enquiry today. Our expert team is here to help.