Managing Your IBD
There's no one-size-fits-all way to manage Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis (UC). You can work with your doctor to create a personalized management plan that could include lifestyle changes and treatment.
A new diet could make a difference
Unfortunately, changing your diet won't cure your Crohn's or ulcerative colitis. However, certain foods might help make your symptoms a bit more manageable.
One strategy is called a low-residue diet, which limits high-fiber foods, such as whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and raw vegetables. This may help relieve abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Other foods that might aggravate your symptoms include dairy, spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine. Make sure you talk to your doctor before changing your diet or if you experience changes in appetite.
Flares and fries don't mix
Avoid greasy and fried foods when experiencing a flare up
Eat small more often
Try eating smaller, more frequent meals
Write it down
A food journal can help you understand how different foods affect your body
Give exercise a go
For people with IBD, moderate exercise may help diminish some of your symptoms and improve your immune system, mental health, and bone density. That's in addition to the overall benefits of exercise, which can include reducing the risk of constipation and the amount of inflammation in your body.
So which types of exercise should you try?
Well, start by doing what feels right to you. Mild-to-moderate exercise, including yoga, biking, and body weight exercises, can be a good place to start. Make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.
Flare ups got you feeling down?
If a Crohn's or ulcerative colitis flare is causing pain or fatigue, don’t push yourself. Take some time to heal before getting back on your exercise routine.
Keep focused on your mental health
Life can be stressful enough, and the pain and embarrassment of Crohn's and ulcerative colitis can take an additional emotional toll. Plus, stress can lead to flare ups and make your symptoms worse.
It's important to remember that you aren't alone. Approximately 3 million Americans have IBD, and there are community organizations dedicated to helping people like you connect to each other. If you feel anger, anxiety, or stress about your disease, reach out and try to find support and resources.
Emotional health is tied to physical health. Getting on a diet and exercise routine that makes you feel better physically can also be a mood booster.
Breathe in, breathe out
Meditation and other mindfulness techniques may help patients cope with their IBD.
Talk about it
Find someone you can be open and honest with, whether that is a friend, family member, therapist, or healthcare professional.
Why is finding a treatment so important?
Finding a treatment that works for your Crohn's or ulcerative colitis may help prevent flares.
Don't forget that it’s important to talk to your doctor about any symptoms that are bothering you—these could be a warning sign that it might be time to try a different treatment option.
You and your doctor are a team. Be honest about your goals, needs, and what's important to you so they can provide the best recommendations for managing your Crohn's or ulcerative colitis.
IBD treatment options
There is no cure, but there are many treatment options for IBD. That might feel overwhelming, but remember that your doctor will work with you to find the right plan for you. It helps to be informed, though, so here's a brief overview of the types of treatments out there.
Conventional treatments (or medications that are traditionally used) have been around for some time, and your doctor may decide to start with one of these before trying an advanced therapy.
5-aminosalicylic acids (5-ASAs) [UC only]
A type of drug that reduces inflammation in the lining of the gut. They can be used to treat symptoms and as maintenance (long-term) therapy to help prevent relapses.
A type of drug that works quickly to lower the activity of the immune system and decrease inflammation. They are usually only used for a short time because of their side effects.
A type of drug that changes the immune system’s ability to cause ongoing inflammation. They can take several months to improve symptoms.
Advanced treatments are newer than conventional treatments and are usually used in people with moderate to severe Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.
JAK inhibitors [UC only]
JAK inhibitors target proteins called Janus kinases (JAK), which play a role in activating the body's immune response.
S1P (sphingosine-1-phosphate) receptor modulators (UC only)
This type of medicine reduces the body's immune response by blocking immune cells from leaving lymph nodes and moving into the blood stream.
Anti-α4 integrins Biologic
Anti-α4 integrins block inﬂammation-causing white blood cells from entering tissues throughout your body. Some types of anti-integrins work in specific parts of the body, including the digestive tract.
These medicines target and attach to small proteins called interleukins, which play a role in gut inflammation.
TNF⍺ blockers Biologic
A type of medicine that attaches to and blocks a small protein called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) that promotes inflammation in the intestine as well as other organs and tissues.
What's a biologic?
Biologics are medicines made from living cells. They are more complicated and harder to make than other kinds of drugs, but they also represent some of the latest advances in medicine.
Examples of biologics you might be familiar with are BOTOX® (onabotulinumtoxinA) and insulin. Biologics can be easily damaged by the acid in your stomach, so that's why they are given by a shot or an infusion (a needle placed in your vein).
Up to 75% of people with Crohn's and around 23%-45% of people with ulcerative colitis will eventually require surgery. See below for the types of surgery for people with Crohn's and UC.
When surgery might be needed
Some people with Crohn's or ulcerative colitis may choose to have surgery. One reason why might be because medication isn't working for them or the side effects are interfering with their day-to-day activities. Other times, surgery might be required if you have complications, like a tear in your intestines or an abscess.
Ileal pouch anal anastomosis (IPAA) or J-pouch surgery (UC only)
This is the most common surgery for ulcerative colitis. Doctors remove the colon and rectum and form what's known as a J-pouch, which allows stool to pass through the rectum.
Total proctocolectomy with end ileostomy (Crohn's and UC)
Doctors remove the colon, rectum, and anus. Waste exits the body into a bag that needs to be cleaned out.
Strictureplasty (Crohn's only)
A stricture is a narrowing in your digestive system, which can sometimes lead to a blockage. A doctor makes a series of lengthwise cuts and crosswise stitches to shorten and widen the narrowed areas.
Colectomy (Crohn's only)
A doctor removes the colon and joins the lower part of the small intestine to the rectum. This is usually done in people whose rectum hasn't been damaged by Crohn's.
Fistula removal (Crohn's only)
Fistulas happen when deep ulcers create connections between the intestines and other organs. There are a few ways to treat them with surgery, including draining them, closing them with medical glue, and plugging them and allowing them to heal.
Small and large bowel resection (Crohn's only)
Resection is when a doctor removes a damaged area of the intestine and stitches the healthy ends back together. The small intestine absorbs a lot of nutrients from the food you eat, so removing large parts of it can lead to a condition called short bowel syndrome where you become malnourished.
Abscess drainage (Crohn's only)
An abscess is a collection of pus. A doctor will make a cut and put a small tube into the abscess to allow it to drain. The tube can be left in for several days.
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The content on this page has been written and approved by Takeda. LAST UPDATED/REVIEWED ON DECEMBER 2022