Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which – even if well managed – can result in occasional flare-ups. As there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, it is a lifelong condition that a patient must live with. There are management techniques and treatment options available, but these do not guarantee that a patient will never experience a flare-up in the future.
Crohn’s disease flare-ups can be sudden and consist of diarrhea, abdominal pain, and an urgent need to pass a bowel movement, just to same a few symptoms.
Crohn’s disease, unlike ulcerative colitis, can affect all areas of the gastrointestinal system from the mouth all the way to the rectum, so symptoms can vary depending on where the flare-up occurs.
Below are Crohn’s disease flare-up triggers, symptoms, measures you can take during a flare-up, and preventative measures for the future.
Crohn’s disease flare-up triggers
Crohn’s disease flare-up triggers can vary from person to person, but the most common triggers are, consuming a food or beverage that results in an upset stomach, smoking, and disruptions or changes in medications. Although stress may not necessarily be a Crohn’s disease flare-up trigger, it has been shown to worsen and prolong flare-ups.
Signs you may have a severe flare-up
Usually, flare-ups are short in duration and can be well managed at home. In some cases, during a severe flare-up, you may require hospitalization and immediate medication to better manage the flare-up and get rechecked for any changes that may have occurred in your disease.
Here are some signs of a severe Crohn’s disease flare-up.
- Crohn’s disease severe flare-up symptoms
- Severe abdominal pain and tenderness
- Profuse diarrhea over the course of days with or without blood
- Persistent vomiting
- Severe dehydration
- Weight loss greater than five percent
- A pulse greater than 90 beats per minute
- Low hemoglobin (anemia) and high CRP (C-reactive protein)
Steps to take during Crohn’s disease flare-up
During a Crohn’s disease flare-up, you may experience intense pain and discomfort along with making frequent trips to the bathroom. There are steps you can take during Crohn’s disease flare-ups to help shorten duration and better manage the symptoms you are experiencing.
Firstly, have a working relationship with your doctor. Ensure you can speak openly with them so that they have a clear image of your disease and can take the necessary steps to offer you improved treatment. Furthermore, having easy access to your doctor can help you manage a flare-up as they can coach you through what you need to do.
You should be mindful of your medications. Your doctor can prescribe you many short-term and long-term medications to help with your disease, but always inform them before you begin taking any over-the-counter medications or supplements as they may interact with medications you are currently on. If you experience symptoms like joint pain during a flare-up, opt for natural remedies like heat packs or massage as opposed to over-the-counter painkillers that may worsen your flare-up.
Furthermore, pay close attention to your diet as it can cause greater inflammation, which can lead to a flare-up. If you are aware of your trigger foods, avoid them as best as possible. During a flare-up, stick to bland food and clear liquids, which are easiest to digest. Drinking plenty of water is also important to prevent dehydration, especially if you are vomiting or have diarrhea.
Lastly, try to reduce stress as much as possible. As mentioned, although stress may not be a cause for a Crohn’s disease flare-up, it can worsen it, so don’t panic or get overly stressed during a flare-up.
Crohn’s disease flare-up diet
As mentioned, some foods can trigger a flare-up so they are best to be avoided at all costs. If you are amidst a flare-up, here are some foods to consume that can help ease your symptoms.
- Plain yogurt – but only consume if you can tolerate dairy, if not avoid
- Oily fish
- Fruits and vegetables – if raw fruits and vegetables trigger a flare-up, then avoid. Bananas and applesauce are more easily digested
- Cooked carrots
- Low-fiber cereal
- Liquid meal replacements – check ingredients for dairy in case you have a hard time digesting it
- Skinless potatoes
Choose foods that you know you can digest easily and that are well cooked so your stomach doesn’t have to work hard to break it down. Speak to you doctor as well about a Crohn’s-specific diet.