Coping with Crohn’s disease

Coping with Crohn's disease
| Mind & Body > Women’s Health

A guide to living with Crohn’s disease and not totally losing your mind – with a quick look at diet, ways of easing pain, and sending that black dog ‘depression’ whimpering to his kennel.

Most of you have likely never felt the presence of your intestines before. That is, obviously, a good thing. You shouldn’t have to feel your organs the same way you feel external bits and bobs like, say, hands. People without Crohn’s disease go about their day, eating, sleeping, drinking, urinating, defecating, and repeating (not necessarily in that order) while their digestive system hides behind the curtain, pulling the puppet strings. People with Crohn’s disease (who are usually diagnosed as teenagers or young adults) cannot help but feel the presence of their intestines.

Crohn’s disease is what happens when the skilled puppeteer behind the curtain gets shoved aside by a malevolent creature best described as manic sadist or an overenthusiastic three-year-old. Those intestines become a writhing mass of tangled string and puppet limbs. Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, both types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), are usually diagnosed between the 15-24 age range.

About four or five years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which is a type of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s something people who suffer from it don’t talk about very much, because it’s icky and embarrassing and they just wish it would go away.

Crohn’s disease symptoms

Symptoms include intestinal cramping, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and fatigue. Doctors don’t know the cause or the cure, so until they do, all a Crohn’s sufferer can do is learn to live with the disease without punching everybody around them in the face. Here are some tips I’ve found useful in coping with the pain, the diet restriction and the bad times.

Coping with Crohn’s disease pain

Heat is your friend. I cannot stress this enough: if hot packs work for menstrual cramps, they will help intestinal cramps as well. Cramped muscles respond well to heat, and being toasty and warm will do good things for your morale. If you’re inclined, go to a tanning bed during colder months. Even staying in for a few short minutes can settle your guts.

Crohn’s disease diet

Pay attention to what you eat. I can’t drink anything caffeinated, but I only discovered this after a few painful weeks in bed when I did try it. Proceed with caution, and if you know something irritates you, like milk, stay right away from it. Crohn’s is a problem with your intestines’ absorption of nutrients from food, so soft, easily digested food is usually a good bet. Chew your food really well!

Cut down or stop drinking alcohol entirely. If you don’t, trust me, your hangovers will be more frequent, much worse, and they’ll last a couple of days. Getting really drunk on one night can even spark what doctors call a “flare-up”, which will land you on the couch in cataclysmic amounts of pain for a few weeks.

Some people recommend L-glutamine supplements. One study (1) of ulcerative colitis patients showed that feeding 30 grams of glutamine-rich germinated barley foodstuff (GBF) on a daily basis for 4 weeks produced significant improvements. In this study the patients’ condition worsened when GBF treatment was discontinued.

Research in Japan has also suggested that Crohn’s Disease sufferers might benefit from daily consuming of omega-3 fatty acids, like you might get in flax oil. If you make any changes to your diet (and that includes adding stuff like supplements as well as avoiding certain foods), look after yourself, research, and note any changes so you can remove something from your diet if it’s causing you grief.

Crohn’s disease and depression

Ask your doctor about ways to deal with depression and

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