With some simple lifestyle changes, patients with IBD can experience long-lasting relief from their symptoms.
About 1.6 million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a set of conditions resulting in chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Patients with IBD experience a variety of debilitating symptoms, including moderate to severe abdominal pain, recurring diarrhea or constipation, and unusually frequent bowel movements. These symptoms can create significant personal challenges, preventing patients from functioning and finding help for their condition.
IBD is currently incurable, but it isn’t untreatable. With some simple lifestyle adjustments, most patients can enjoy lasting relief from their symptoms. As you research possible treatment plans, we’ll outline some simple measures you can take to alleviate your symptoms and dramatically improve your quality of life.
Research Your Condition
IBD is a set of conditions, each of which requires a specific course of treatment. Patients with Crohn’s disease, for example, can experience pain in any region of the gastrointestinal tract, while patients with ulcerative colitis will likely notice symptoms only in the colon or rectum. Understanding what causes and aggravates your symptoms can help you develop a course of treatment that’s best suited to your condition.
Recent research suggests that regular exercise may minimize inflammation in patients with IBD, in addition to its usual effects on the musculoskeletal system. While current studies on the subject are still in progress, it’s likely that exercise at least improves a patient’s mental health, making it a worthwhile treatment option for anyone afflicted.
Avoid Trigger Foods
As a gastrointestinal disorder, IBD can be exacerbated by your diet. While patients should continue to follow as rounded a diet as possible, they should avoid foods or beverages that promote bowel movements such as prunes and coffee. Patients should also refrain from particularly sugary products such as juice and candy, since they can worsen diarrhea and constipation. Some patients may also benefit from eliminating lactose and alcohol.
Eat Smaller Servings More Frequently
Many patients with IBD find that their digestive system responds best to smaller meals eaten on a frequent basis. Moderating your eating habits can also help your body absorb nutrients.
It’s always a good idea to carry some emergency medications whenever you leave the house. While you may not need it, having some imodium or an anti-inflammatory on hand can give you the confidence you need to go about your day.
Build a Support System
Inflammatory bowel disease can be isolating. Since public awareness of it remains low, many patients struggle to find sympathetic listeners among their friends and colleagues, and many are unable to maintain employment for extended periods of time. Fortunately, there are numerous online support groups in which patients can speak with fellow victims, share their challenges, discuss treatment plans, and find the mental and emotional support they need. A reliable supporting network can provide you with the strength you need to manage your condition.
Find the Right Providers
Before you begin your treatment program, schedule an appointment with your doctor to receive a formal diagnosis. An experienced and empathetic professional will help you develop a treatment plan that’s designed to address your specific condition and remain a constant resource as you work to manage your symptoms. Your doctor can also refer you to clinical trial opportunities that might prove particularly beneficial to you, allowing you to find the care you need while helping the medical community test and refine treatments and potential cures for inflammatory bowel disease.