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    Focus on Food, Fitness, and Medications

    Having Crohn’s disease doesn’t mean you have to deal with frequent flares for the rest of your life. “A healthy lifestyle is vital in managing Crohn’s disease symptoms and staying in remission,” says Torey Armul, RDN, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Certain aspects of Crohn’s disease are out of your control, but other things — like not smoking, reducing stress, getting enough sleep, taking your medication, and avoiding trigger foods — are within your control and can help improve symptoms and reduce chances of a flare.”

    This might seem tough, but it’s not impossible. About half of people with Crohn’s disease experience remission and about 45 percent avoid flares for a year, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). Try these 10 tips.

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    Scale Down Your Meals

    If you want to avoid a Crohn’s disease flare, stop overloading your gut with supersized meals. “Eating smaller meals is less taxing on the gastrointestinal tract and can help reduce certain symptoms, like bloating, gas, and cramping,” Armul says.

    Instead of three meals a day, opt for more frequent, smaller, nutritious meals and snacks as part of your Crohn’s disease management plan. Make sure you get enough nutrients and calories throughout your day — just spread them out.

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    Avoid Problem Foods

    While everyone’s body responds differently, there are certain foods that tend to be problematic for people with Crohn’s disease. Opt for a low-fiber diet, says Amar Naik, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Loyola University Health System in Chicago who specializes in treating Crohn’s disease. Watch out for fiber-rich fruits and vegetables as well as caffeinated foods and drinks and anything high in sugar. The CCFA advises cooking fruits and vegetables thoroughly to make them easier to digest.

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    Keep a Food Diary

    “The foods that people with Crohn’s disease eat won’t specifically cause a flare,” but that doesn’t mean your body will necessarily agree with all food choices, says Raymond Cross, MD, director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and co-director of the Digestive Health Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. “But people with Crohn’s disease may notice that certain foods bother them.” Often, this depends on factors like disease status (during a flare, in remission, etc.). Dr. Cross recommends tracking symptoms to pinpoint and avoid problem foods.

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    Exercise Regularly

    “Exercise can be a great way to control Crohn’s disease symptoms and avoid a flare since it promotes a healthy immune system and reduces stress,” Armul says. “The best exercise is the one that you like to do, since you’re more likely to stick with it.”

    Aim for a combination of cardiovascular activities and strength training at least three to four days a week.  But do what you can — even a short walk several days a week will benefit your Crohn’s disease and overall health.

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    Boost Gut Bacteria

    Gut bacteria may play a role in the inflammation that occurs in Crohn’s disease, Armul says, and probiotics may help. Although research is limited and results are mixed, some studies have found probiotics to promote remission in people with inflammatory bowel disease, according to a review published in February 2015 in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research. Adds Armul: “Using probiotics to establish good gut bacteria is a low-risk, potentially high-reward tactic for people with digestive diseases.”

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    Consider Vitamin D

    People with Crohn’s disease are at risk of low vitamin D and poor bone density, according to the CCFA. “Consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement if you don’t get enough natural sunlight, particularly in colder climates during the winter,” Armul says. Low levels of vitamin D can affect quality of life and disease activity, according to research published in April 2015 in the journal BioMed Research International.

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    Avoid Alcohol

    Excessive and sometimes even moderate alcohol consumption may trigger a Crohn’s disease flare, according to the CCFA. This is particularly true for sugary alcoholic drinks, Armul says. Figure out how your body responds, and either completely avoid alcohol or limit your intake. “If you feel worse after drinking alcohol, you’re better off to avoid itduring a flare,” she adds.

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    Stay Away From Cigarettes

    Not smoking is one of the most important steps you can take in managing Crohn’s disease. “Smoking is more common in people with Crohn’s disease and is associated with worse outcomes,” Cross says. Smokers are more likely to have a Crohn’s disease flare and need surgery and immune-suppressing medications to control their condition, according to the CCFA and the National Institutes of Health. On the contrary, Cross says, people who’ve quit smoking and or have never smoked have decreased symptoms and improved quality of life.

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    Stress Less

    Stress won’t cause a Crohn’s disease flare, but many people find that it worsens symptoms, the CCFA says. “Managing stress is one of the best ways to control Crohn’s disease,” Armul says. “Do whatever it takes — meditation, exercise, talking to friends or your boss — to reduce external stressors in your life.”

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    Sleep More

    It’s also important to get plenty of sleep. “Getting enough good sleep should be a top priority since it affects your energy and stress level and often your ability to make other healthy choices,” Armul says. It’s particularly important to get enough sleep when you’re having a Crohn’s disease flare, Dr. Naik says.

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    Mind Your Medications

    A healthy lifestyle is important, but “lifestyle changes alone will rarely control Crohn’s disease symptoms,” Cross says. This makes it essential to stick with your medical treatment plan. “The risks associated with a flare of Crohn’s disease far outweigh the risks of the medications,” he says.

    Find a doctor and maintain a good relationship so that you can discuss how to manage your disease well. “Also, keep a list of the medications you take as well as the contact information for your doctor with you at all times,” Cross says.

Source:everydayhealth.com

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