The term inflammatory bowel disease is used to describe the conditions — known as autoimmune gastrointestinal diseases — caused by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. The two forms, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, have some differences but are managed similarly. I believe the most important aspect of managing these complex medical disorders is being armed with reliable information from trustworthy medical sources. Developing a trusting relationship with your health care provider and remaining on chronic medical therapy as prescribed are also important.
Patients often ask what they can do to help themselves — including asking questions about nutrition and lifestyle. Although there has not been an established “diet” for IBD, a very balanced diet with enough nutrients, calories and protein is important. According to renowned internal medicine provider, Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, dietary changes can sometimes be beneficial in helping to reduce symptoms. These include:
▪ Eating smaller, more frequent meals
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▪ Avoiding fatty and greasy foods
▪ Minimizing dairy products
▪ Limiting high fiber or high residue foods
People with IBD, particularly Crohn’s patients, can be at risk for nutrient deficiencies due to malabsorption and certain medications that are used in the treatment of IBD. Simply put, your body might not be taking in the nutrients that it needs. Your health care provider will let you know if any additional supplementation is needed, but vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies can occur with this disease.
Research shows less risk of developing IBD in those who regularly exercise. Unfortunately, there is limited evidence to suggest that physical activity decreases disease activity.
Tobacco use is a risk factor for worsening of Crohn’s disease and should be avoided. Additionally, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have been linked to worsening disease activity in patients with IBD. Some common brand name NSAIDs include Advil, Motrin, Aleve and Celebrex. Lastly, closely following treatments prescribed by your health care provider is a crucial step in self-management of IBD. Stopping or missing medications can lead to flare-ups.
IBD can be very frustrating for patients as even with medical treatment, patients can still have difficulty with reaching or maintaining disease remissions. I believe that having routine follow up care with your gastroenterology office and maintaining good lines of communication about symptoms is very important. Joining a local support group can also be a great resource for emotional support and to be able to ask questions with others in the local community sharing similar experiences. Information about support groups can be obtained from visiting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America website at ccfa.org.
Rachelle Hoover is a certified registered nurse practitioner with Mount Nittany Physician Group Gastroenterology.