If you're new to the world of Crohn's Disease, you're now part of a pretty big group. In the United States, there are about 780,000 of us in the Crohn's club, and that number is mostly made up of people between 15 and 35 years old. Of course, there are outliers on either end of the spectrum. It may interest you to know that the country with the highest incidence of Crohn's Disease around the world is Canada. The point is you aren't alone. When you get the official diagnosis, you may be relieved to know there's a reason for what's been going and going and going on. But there's a good chance that you're also feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, and maybe a little frightened.
Symptoms To Expect From Crohn's Disease
Before getting into helpful lifestyle changes, tried-and-true remedies, and some tips for preventing and controlling flare ups, let's talk a little bit about the symptoms of Crohn's. Of course, the list includes things you've already been experiencing, such as sudden bouts of diarrhea that don't respond to over-the-counter medications, pain in your abdomen, and kidney stones. There are a few more symptoms to add over the course of the next several years:
- Bloody stool
- Diarrhea (long-term)
- Inflammation, such as red spots, puffy eyes, and mouth sores
- Kidney stones
- Malnutrition (often from eating less and because your body isn't absorbing nutrients well)
- Pain in your abdomen and around the anus
- Weight loss, generally from a loss of appetite
There's some research linking a vitamin D deficiency to the disease; talk to your doctor about the benefits of taking vitamin D. As you may have already learned from your doctor, some of the most significant symptoms of the disease include inflammation along your digestive tract, such as within the layers of your bowel tissue or near your rectum. This disease can affect either of or both the colon and the small intestine.
Take Control of Your Well-Being
It's true that there's no cure for Crohn's Disease, you can alleviate some of the symptoms. One of the very best things you can do to improve your overall well-being is to simplify your diet. Of course, you should work closely with your dietitian nutritionist and make those recommended changes. Perhaps the best move you can make is to cut out processed foods as much as possible. Next, pay attention to what you eat and what happens on the toilet afterward. If you are strict about avoiding foods that cause trouble, you can avoid a lot of unpleasantness.
Another natural remedy you can use at home is taking probiotics. (As with all recommendations, talk these changes over with your doctor.) These are living microorganisms and are often found in yogurt. Dairy products are often a no-no for the Crohn's Disease club, you can get probiotics from sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and miso. Although the names sound a little funny, you should find all of these at your local supermarket.
These provide food for the helpful probiotics and are important for the function of the healthy intestinal bacteria in your body. Some examples of sources of prebiotics are honey, bananas, onions, artichokes, asparagus, and garlic.
Omega-3 fatty acids offer some relief from inflammation and may relieve intestinal swelling. You can take these in pill form or eat fatty fish including herring and salmon. You could also try turmeric, peppermint, or ginger teas in moderation.
If you're open to alternative medicine, give acupuncture a try. This traditional Chinese practice has provided some people with significant relief. There isn't much scientific research about acupuncture, but there aren't many risks if you have carefully chosen a certified, reputable practitioner.
You'll find that a flare-up is more likely when you're stressed, so anything you can do to relax may help. Exercise, such as walking or yoga, can ease your feelings of stress and relieve your Crohn's symptoms. It's probably best not to try this in the midst of a flare.
Getting outside and enjoying the sunshine is a good way to bring your stress levels down. It may also provide important vitamins. However, skin disorders are a common side effect of this disease, so make sure to protect yourself with sunblock, protective clothing and a hat, or plenty of shade.
Plenty of rest for your bowels and for your body can help you reset during a flare-up. Consider using a liquid diet to give your digestive system a break. During this time, cut as much out of your schedule as you can, limit your activities, and get some extra sleep.
Of course, it's important to get plenty of water. You need to rehydrate often lengthy bouts with diarrhea. In addition to drinking water, think about adding electrolyte-based fluids to your diets, such as coconut water or broths. Drink slowly to avoid taking in too much air and avoid sugary, carbonated drinks.
Getting diagnosed with Crohn's Disease definitely means a change in the way you live, but it doesn't have to mean only living from one flare up to the next. Use these tips, natural remedies, and recommendations to find a new kind of normal.