The key to living with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic condition for which there is no cure, is to manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease by identifying the best treatment plan for you. Here we explain your options:
What is Crohn’s Disease?
First, what is Crohn’s disease? According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract and is one of the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). Unfortunately, IBD affects an estimated 3 million Americans, and equally affects men and women. While the disease can occur at any age, often it is diagnosed in adolescents and adults between the ages of 20-30.
Treatment for Crohn’s must include a complete approach, incorporating medication, dietary and lifestyle changes. Here are several options that will help you best manage your condition.
The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation suggests a medication regimen designed to treat Crohn’s disease by suppressing your immune system’s abnormal inflammatory response. This is what triggers your symptoms. Medication can offer relief from common symptoms like fever, diarrhea, and pain but it can also allow intestinal tissue to heal. Additionally, medication typically decreases the frequency of flare ups. This means that through proper treatment over time, which can often include a combination of therapies, periods of remission from Crohn’s symptoms can be extended while symptom flare ups will decrease.
Often, your treatment plan will include combination therapy. With Crohn’s, it’s common for a specialist to prescribe a biologic and an immunomodulator. While combination therapy can increase the effectiveness of IBD treatment, it also can increase the risks of additional side effects and toxicity.
It’s important to note what your individual trigger foods are—and avoid them. As discussed in our “How to Have a Crohn’s-friendly Holiday” blog, here are some general guidelines for minimizing triggers at mealtime:
- Limit your intake of greasy foods
- Decrease your fiber consumption
- Keep dairy intake to a minimum
- Avoid nuts and sweets
- Eat smaller meals more frequently
- Stay hydrated and drink lots of water
- If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation
- Make sure vegetables are cooked through to make them more easily digestible
- Limit spices
Remember, Crohn’s disease often reduces your appetite while increasing your body’s energy needs, so maintaining a healthy diet is highly recommended. Because one of the common Crohn’s symptoms is diarrhea, your body can have a reduced ability to absorb protein, fat, carbohydrates, and other key nutrients and minerals that your body needs.
As many as 18 percent of people with Crohn’s disease will require surgery at some point during their lives. Surgery is still not a cure for Crohn’s; however, it can conserve portions of the GI tract, allowing for the best quality of life possible. If your medication and/or diet modifications no longer control your symptoms, or if you develop a fistula, fissure, or intestinal obstruction, surgery may be required. During surgery, the diseased segment of bowel is removed (resection). Then, the two remaining ends of the healthy bowel are joined together, also known as anastomosis. Again, this doesn’t cure Crohn’s. You may experience many years without flare ups, although Crohn’s frequently recurs again later in life.
Additional Help for Mental Health
Unfortunately, people living with chronic illnesses often suffer from mental health issues as a result. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “up to one-third of individuals with a serious medical condition have symptoms of depression.” Therefore, it’s highly recommended you find a way to find peace with your new journey. Here we explain how you can cope with your chronic illness.
Living with Crohn’s requires an individualized treatment plan that often includes medication, diet and lifestyle changes, and mental health care. Specialty Infusion Centers collaborates with your specialist to provide infusion therapy for Crohn’s based on your predetermined treatment plan. Our centers offer private suites, amenities, and flexible evening and weekend appointments. All you have to focus on is feeling better! Reach us to learn more or get started today