Do you feel overwhelmed trying to manage your Crohn's Disease on your own?
Since the symptoms of Crohn's are (under usual circumstances) felt internally, this disease is one of the many chronic illnesses that is a silent battle for those who have it.
It can feel very isolating to have your body feel so wrong while looking fine on the outside.
Day-to-day life is full of stress, but a chronic illness like Crohn's is a heavy burden that affects more than 3 million Americans.
OnPoint Nutrition has helped more than 3,000 clients with unique health hurdles, and hundreds of them specifically suffer from an IBD (irritable bowel disease) like Crohn's.
OnPoint's approach to managing Crohn's Disease provides the expertise to help you feel better!
Here is the full rundown of how we help our clients manage Crohn's Disease and its symptoms.
What is Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's, a type of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is characterized by an immune response that causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (mouth to anus).
Under normal circumstances, good bacteria in the gut exist without issue. Still, with Crohn's, these bacteria are mistaken for hostile invaders, and your immune system attacks them, thus causing inflammation and subsequent problems.
Several things are known to aggravate the inflammation, such as:
- NSAID medications
Causes of Crohn's Disease
No one knows exactly what causes Crohn's disease.
Diet and stress were suspected in the past, but now doctors know that these factors may aggravate Crohn's disease, but they are not the root cause.
Several factors likely play a role in its development.
- Immune system- A virus or bacterium may trigger Crohn's disease. However, no such trigger has specifically been identified.
- Heredity- Crohn's disease is more common in people who have a direct family member (mother or father) with the disease. However, though genes seem to play a role, most people with Crohn's disease do not have a family history of the disease (meaning no long generational history).
As you can imagine, these unknown and unclear circumstances create a situation where you cannot avoid or prevent Crohn's.
A delicate balance of managing symptoms and trying to avoid the agitators (stress, diet, smoking, NSAIDs) becomes the name of the game in managing this disease.
Some of the usual symptoms of Crohn's include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Blood in your stool
- Mouth sores
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Pain or drainage near or around the anus due to inflammation from a tunnel into the skin (fistula)
People with severe Crohn's disease may also experience symptoms outside of the intestinal tract, including:
- Inflammation of skin, eyes, and joints
- Inflammation of the liver or bile ducts
- Kidney stones
- Iron deficiency (anemia)
- Delayed growth or sexual development in children
See your doctor if you have persistent changes in your bowel habits or if you have any of the extreme signs and symptoms of Crohn's disease, such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in your stool
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea lasting more than two weeks
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fever, in addition to any of the above symptoms
Though there is no test for Crohn's, in most cases, a doctor will conduct an examination to look for telltale signs of Crohn's via colonoscopy, MRI, or CT scan.
It's essential to address these issues when they arise so you can manage the problem with non-invasive intervention (like diet and lifestyle changes) before a more severe form, such as surgery, becomes necessary.
How Can An Online Dietitian Help With Crohn's?
After receiving your diagnosis, follow a conscious diet that appropriately nourishes your body while avoiding foods that aggravate your Crohn's disease, which can lead to inflammation.
Finding this balance can be challenging for those lacking training in dietetics and knowledge of this chronic illness.
To lead a happier, healthier life, a knowledgeable nutrition coach, such as a registered dietitian, will take into account all of your particular circumstances as they relate to your Crohn's.
Upon receiving a Crohn's diagnosis, you must determine whether you are prepared to commit to a healthier lifestyle.
It is no easy task to undertake a lifestyle overhaul, but step-by-step learning more about better nutrition and new habits will bring you closer to avoiding flare-ups and feeling better.
If you have read this far, you are prepared to take charge of your health and adopt a lifestyle that will help you be the best version of yourself.
You are not helpless in the face of your diagnosis.
At OnPoint Nutrition, our team of online nutrition coaches takes a systematic approach to holistic nutrition counseling. To get you started on the road to better health, our team of qualified professionals is here and ready to assist you.
Fine-tuned diet and lifestyle are the keys to better health and wellness.
Our 3 step approach to Crohn's Disease management is science-based and tailored to your circumstance!
Step 1: Assessment
There are two stages of Crohn's Disease: active flare and remission.
During an active flare, inflammation is heightened, and symptoms are active. During remission, there are no symptoms present.
The goal of Crohn's Disease treatment and management is to achieve and maintain remission.
Crohn's Disease symptoms range from mild to severe, each with discomfort. The disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms may change or worsen over time.
Symptoms also vary from person to person, depending on what part of the GI tract is inflamed.
Diet therapy plays a significant role in Crohn's management; precisely how your Onpoint dietitian can help!
According to Kaitlyn Willwerth, MS, RD, CLT:
"Assessing what foods cause flare-ups is the first step in treating and managing your symptoms!"
Here is a list of foods that increase the chances of experiencing a flare-up:
- Fruits with seeds and skins
- Spicy food
- High-fat foods: fried food, red meat, fast food
Some other factors that can impact a Crohn's Disease flare are:
- Missing, skipping, or wrong medication dose
- NSAIDs can lead to bowel inflammation
- Antibiotics alter the bacteria in the intestine. They can cause diarrhea or inflammation
Kaitlyn goes on to say:
"To determine the proper treatment, it's critical to determine how severe your symptoms are and evaluate your overall disease severity. Your doctor and dietitian will guide you through this process."
Working with your doctor and dietitian can help you better understand what's happening inside your body and build the right treatment plan for you!
Step 2: Program Personalization
After determining the best treatment plan for you, your online dietitian will create personalized materials to help get you started and guide you on your health journey.
Because everyone with Crohn's Disease experiences different symptoms, we customize your treatment to manage your flares successfully!
Crohn's Disease management is handled dependent on the Active Flare stage and the Remission stage.
Active Flare Stage of Crohn's Disease
OnPoint recommends a low-fiber diet during flare-ups.
Kaitlyn Willwerth breaks down how this works:
"Following a low-fiber diet during an active flare limits the stress on your digestive tract as much as possible.
The goal is to rest your digestive system- this is especially important during a flare-up!"
Low-fiber foods include:
- White bread, pasta, rice (foods made with refined white flour)
- Low fiber cereal
- Small amounts of well-cooked fresh vegetables or canned vegetables
- Tender protein sources such as eggs, tofu, chicken, and fish
- Low-fiber fruits such as canned fruit, melons, nectarines, papaya, peaches, plums, and fruit juices without pulp
- Low-fiber vegetables, such as well-cooked vegetables without skins or seeds. Potatoes without skin, carrots, beets, asparagus tips, string beans, lettuce, tomato sauces, pureed spinach, strained vegetable juice
Foods to avoid during a flare-up:
- Raw vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Swiss chard, kale, brussels sprouts)
- Onion and garlic
- Potato skins
- Beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds
- Some raw and dried fruit high in fiber (apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries)
- Whole grain bread, rice and pasta
- Wild or brown rice
- Anything spicy, fried, or tough
- Processed or tough meat
OnPoint also recommends drinking plenty of fluids and staying hydrated. We also suggest eating 5-6 small meals rather than 2-3 bigger meals throughout the day.
Once you figure out the active flare, you move into the smooth sailing of remission.
Remission Stage of Crohn's Disease
The ultimate goal of Crohn's treatment is to achieve and maintain remission.
The key to remission is controlling inflammation.
Kaitlyn hashes this concept out:
"Symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bloody stools should become milder or disappear entirely in remission. Periods of remission can last from a few months to several years.
You can best maintain remission through diet therapy!
We recommend a varied, nutrient-dense diet when your Crohn's is in remission.
Once flare-up symptoms have subsided, we recommend introducing high-fiber foods back into the diet to ensure your body is getting adequate nutrition."
Once it seems like you are in the clear, you must increase fiber-containing foods slowly and carefully to avoid new irritation.
Foods to re-introduce during Crohn's remission:
- Whole grains: oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread
- Legumes/nuts: beans, nuts, seeds
- Fruits and vegetables: Reach for colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables. It can be helpful to remove the skin and seeds to avoid symptoms.
Some other ways to maintain remission are to manage stress, avoid NSAIDs, limit antibiotics, quit smoking, and continuously watch your diet for triggers.
Along with diet therapy, the treatment includes medications such as aminosalicylates (5-ASas), Immunomodulators, and biological drugs.
Once you have the treatment plans in motion, it's just a matter of seeing what is working for your situation and knowing your triggers.
Step 3: Monitor Outcomes
Whenever possible, try to eat a diet rich in fiber and nutrients.
However, when managing a condition like Crohn's Disease, sometimes it's important to make temporary dietary adjustments to relieve symptoms.
Kaitlyn explains how your dietitian will make decisions about your individual needs.
"The key is to change your dietary intake based on your evolving circumstances. We will continuously monitor your symptoms and ensure that you have the proper guidance and help to manage your personalized treatment plan.
Each situation is different, so the benefit of having personalized care is having someone to watch the treatment plan directly and make adjustments as needed.
Throughout your program, your nutritionist or dietitian will constantly check in to ensure that your program serves you well!"
Once you have developed your best approach, it's simply a matter of recognizing how great you feel and using it as the motivation to stay well by maintaining your new lifestyle.
Taking the Next Steps
Disrupted daily routines and lost opportunities for pleasure are only two ways in which Crohn's disease can take a toll on a person's quality of life.
Crohn's wreaks havoc on your digestive tract creating disruption and discomfort in your life; at the moment may seem like something that cannot be conquered.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
By now you know that a dietitian can be the answer if you are ready to commit to a sustainable health journey where your symptoms are under control and you are free of the vice grip Crohn’s has on your life.
But Crohn's disease can be managed, and we know that the key to long-term success is stability and perseverance.
During your online nutrition program, a registered dietitian will monitor your progress to ensure you see positive results.
Our team of experts has helped more than 3,000 clients on their health journey. We keep an eye on the most up-to-date research and adapt our methods in light of what is effective in the medical community.
We'll keep an eye out for improvements in your symptoms and ways to tailor this experience even more closely to your preferences.
You can expect long-term symptom relief, prevention of complications, and an improvement in your quality of life with the help of the information gleaned from these observations.
Learn more about our comprehensive guide to Crohn's Disease management and how we can help you improve your quality of life!
Getting in touch with a trained expert, such as OnPoint Nutrition's team of registered dietitians available online, can help you live a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Let's put you in a position of strength to pursue the healthier lifestyle you deserve.
Abby Aikens is a Content Manager who works with OnPoint Nutrition to spread the word about better health. With an arsenal of Dietitians and Nutritionists at her finger tips, Abby aids the mission of improving access to valuable information about how nutrition can change lives. Abby knows well the power of good nutrition and believes in the mission of OnPoint to educate and bring better health to their clients.