Ways to cope with Crohn’s disease – personal tips for when you’re gut sick of it all
Crohn’s disease is a type of IBS and if you have to live with it, it’s important to find ways to cope. Get those triggers out of your life…
Most of you have likely never felt the presence of your intestines before. 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.
Crohn’s disease is what happens when the skilled puppeteer behind the curtain gets shoved aside by a sadistic maniac or an overenthusiastic three-year-old. Pretty soon the intestines become a writhing mass of tangled string and puppet limbs.
Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, which are both types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), are usually diagnosed between the 15-24 age range. 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:
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.
Pay attention to what you eat and drink.
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.
Ask your doctor about ways to deal with depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Many IBD sufferers also have depression on their already loaded plates, because, well, if you’re sick most of the time, particularly during winter, why wouldn’t you be depressed? Even if antidepressant medications aren’t for you, consider investing in a Happy Light. Do something every day that will bring your morale up and keep you from stressing and making your illness worse.
Mook community member Tamara has shared her month-on-month SAD diary which may help you recognise if SAD is something you also get.
Try meditation and other stress-relieving practices.
Stress is definitely a factor in Crohn’s, so anything you can do to lessen it will help you out in the long run.
Get a really good specialist.
It’s important to be able to trust and communicate well with all of your doctors, but particularly the ones who are monitoring your IBD. You need to be able to be up front about what treatments are or aren’t working, how bad your symptoms are, and what your next step should be. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up, and if you want a second medical opinion, by all means go to someone else.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s or any other type of IBD, it doesn’t need to be the end of the world, but it might mean the end of the lifestyle you’ve become used to. Try to see it as an opportunity to start living in a more healthy and mindful way–and listen to your body! If you do, it will eventually give you far better tips for living with your condition than I could ever give.
Best of luck.