Home Remedies and Insider Tricks to Help You Cope With Crohn’s
Crohn’s disease treatment is designed to send you into remission or lessen the severity of your symptoms, and it can be quite effective. But medication isn’t the only weapon in your arsenal against Crohn’s disease. Certain strategies, products, and home remedies may help you deal with the pain, discomfort, and embarrassment of a gastrointestinal tract disease — or they may simply make your life easier.
Because everyone’s Crohn’s disease is different, not every complementary and alternative therapy will work for you. “You really have to modify Crohn’s treatment from person to person,” says Stefany Swartz, RD, LDN, an outpatient clinical dietitian with the Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Illinois. Start with these strategies people with Crohn’s use to feel better.
Turn the Tables on Gut Bacteria
You might think that having a gut-wrenching disease like Crohn’s means you should avoid bacteria, but some bacteria support healthy digestion. Prebiotics, a special form of dietary fiber that promotes the growth of those healthy bacteria to combat bad bacteria, may be a good idea for people with Crohn’s disease, says Rajiv Sharma, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Digestive Care Center in Evansville, Indiana, and author of Pursuit of Gut Happiness.
Indeed, according to a review published in 2014 in the journal Digestive Diseases, a prebiotic may positively influence the bacteria that’s in your gut. Prebiotic foods include asparagus, bananas, honey, and oats, according to Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Crohn’s and Colitis Center. However, it may take one to two weeks of eating more of these foods before you notice a difference, the center reports.
Wear Adult Incontinence Products … Backward!
If you’re worried about accidents happening, don’t overlook adult diapers, says Frank Sileo, PhD, a psychologist in Ridgewood, New Jersey, who has Crohn’s. “When traveling, doing a presentation, or just going out, wearing a diaper can take away some of the anxiety of having an accident,” he says. “Plus, nowadays really comfortable diapers that look and feel like underwear are available.” An additional tip: Put on the diaper backward, as the more absorbent part is often in the front and Crohn’s patients need it in the back.
Get Creative When Plotting Out Bathrooms
When an emergency strikes, finding an available bathroom — pronto! — can be problematic. If an establishment’s restroom is marked for patrons only, order a cup of coffee or water and you’ll be allowed to use the restroom, Sileo says. (You can promise to order as soon as you come from the loo.) Another idea is to stay on the lookout for hotels when you’re walking around town, since hotels often have restrooms in the lobby. “They will typically let you in,” Sileo says, adding that, as a plus, “hotel restrooms are usually clean and comfortable.”
Another way to find a clean, usable bathroom in a hurry? Download an app such asBathroom Scout or Where to Wee. These helpful smartphone apps use your current location to locate nearby restrooms, saving you time and effort.
You can also request an “I Can’t Wait” card from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, which can be used to quickly explain that you have a medical condition and need immediate access to a bathroom.
Drown Out Embarrassing Noises
When you’re using a public restroom, having Crohn’s symptoms can be embarrassing. Sileo’s solution is to take out your smartphone — play with apps that make lots of noise, watch a loud YouTube video to drown out any sounds you’re making, or just select raucous music from your playlist. Keep in mind that you may need to turn the volume up a little louder than usual.
Get More Active
Sarah Kubicki, who’s in her early 40s and has been living with Crohn’s disease since 2001, says her surprising trick is a very healthy one — to exercise 45 to 60 minutes a day, five to six days a week. That includes training for the half-marathons she runs near her home in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “Given the medications I take that suppress my immune system, I have to do all I can to stay healthy, and exercise helps,” she says.
Not a jogging junkie? According to a study published in BioMed Research Internationalin 2014, plenty of types of exercise may have beneficial anti-inflammatory effects on people with Crohn’s. Kubicki also makes sure she gets eight hours of sleep each night. The combination of sleep and exercise strengthens her immunity, she believes.
What you wear can make a difference in how you feel, says Victoria Bowers of Fort Benning, Georgia, who has had Crohn’s since 2011. She doesn’t wear any clothes that are tight at the waist because constricting her belly can cause cramps. And the American Institute for Preventive Medicine confirms: Tight-fitting clothes are a no-no for people with abdominal pain. Bowers prefers A-line dresses to pants, even on weekends. When she does opt for pants, she goes for styles made of soft, stretchy material.
Eat Less, More Often
When you’re plagued by Crohn’s symptoms, the thought of food can sound anything but appetizing. “Food can turn you off or you may be scared that eating will cause you more discomfort,” Swartz says. But eating is a must: If you don’t get enough calories or nutrients, you could become malnourished and dehydrated. The key, she explains, is to eat small amounts every two to three hours throughout the day rather than the typical three big meals. You’ll better tolerate what you eat and better absorb the nutrients in your food.
Add Some Spice to Your Diet: Turmeric
Spicy foods may be on your “do not eat” list — too much spice can give some people with Crohn’s excruciating pain, Dr. Sharma says. Still, he suggests sprinkling a tablespoon of the Indian spice turmeric on your vegetables and in soups as often as you like because it contains curcumin. Sharma even drinks tea made from powdered turmeric sweetened with honey.
A report published in 2011 in Alternative Medicine Review found that curcumin shows promise as an anti-inflammatory for people with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s. More study is needed, so be judicious with the amount (but according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, it’s safe for most adults).
Eat Like a Baby
Some adults might find this throwback to infancy surprising, but Sileo has discovered that when he’s experiencing a flare, baby food can be a lifesaver. Baby food is easily digestible and gives your bowels a chance to rest while you’re still taking in the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy, he explains.
Some final food for thought: Since there’s no Crohn’s diet that’s right for everyone, Swartz suggests keeping a food diary to track how certain foods affect you personally.