Living with Crohn’s Disease

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Life with a complex, chronic condition such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can be very challenging at times, especially during times of active disease or symptom flare ups. The main priority in treating CD is finding an effective regimen of medications that can manage the disease and reduce its symptoms. However, there are also many lifestyle tips and strategies that people with CD can try in order to help improve their quality of life.

What is the link between diet, nutrition, and CD?

There are many myths and misconceptions about the link between diet, nutrition, and CD.1 Despite what some people may believe, there is no evidence that CD is caused by a person’s diet or that eating certain kinds of foods can make the disease worse. There is also no evidence that any type of special diet can “cure” CD.


However, eating certain types of foods can cause symptoms in the digestive system such as diarrhea, gas, cramping, and bloating. There are a range of different tips and strategies for helping people with CD to limit foods that are more likely to cause these kinds of symptoms.

Furthermore, the inflammation in the digestive tract that the disease causes can make it hard for a person’s body to absorb enough nutrients from digested foods. This means that people with CD can tend to have certain types of nutritional deficiencies. It is important for everyone to try and maintain a balanced diet to make sure that they are receiving enough nutrients from food. There are also supplements that people can take to help bolster their nutrient intake.

What are some ways to deal with stress?

Stress is not a cause of CD.2 However, life with CD can be very stressful at times, and reducing stress can have a beneficial impact on a person’s overall quality of life. Some strategies for reducing stress include:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Keeping a journal

Is there a link between smoking and CD?

Smoking is not a direct cause of CD.3 However, people who smoke are more likely to develop CD, and smoking can increase the frequency of symptom flare ups. It is important for anyone who smokes to take steps to quit the habit, whether or not they have CD. There are many different medications and resources that can help people through this difficult process.

What is the relationship between mental health and CD?

As with many lifestyle issues, there are a number of common myths about the link between mental health and CD.4 Contrary to what people may think, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that negative emotions such as anxiety or nervousness can cause a person to develop CD. But having a chronic disease such as CD can affect so many aspects of a person’s day-to-day physical, emotional, and social functioning, which can lead to feelings such as tension, anxiety, and depression. However, there are many resources available to help people with CD to take care of their emotional and mental health in order to improve their overall quality of life. It is, however, very difficult for many CD patients to take care of their emotional needs when they are constantly battling their physical illness (Crohn’s Disease.)

Does having CD affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant?

Generally, women with CD are able to become pregnant as easily as women their age who do not have CD, although the potential to conceive tends to be lower (though still possible) during symptom flare ups.5 By working together with their healthcare providers to develop a plan and consider all risk factors, many women with CD are able to successfully conceive, have a healthy pregnancy, and breastfeed (depending on the types of medication they are currently taking).

view references
  1. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. “Diet and Nutrition.” Available at: http://www.ccfa.org/assets/pdfs/diet-nutrition-2013.pdf [Accessed October 23, 2015.]
  2. Boye B et al. INSPIRE study: does stress management improve the course of inflammatory bowel disease and disease-specific quality of life in distressed patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease? A randomized controlled trial. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2011 Sep;17(9):1863-73.
  3. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. “February-Smoking Cessation.” Available at: http://www.ccfa.org/science-and-professionals/programs-materials/ibd-nurses/archives/ibd-nurse-tips-february.pdf [Accessed October 30, 2015.]
  4. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. “Emotional Factors.” Available at: http://www.ccfa.org/assets/pdfs/emotional.pdf [Accessed October 23, 2015.]
  5. Crohns & Colitis Foundation of America. “Fact Sheet: Pregnancy.” Available at: http://www.ccfa.org/assets/pdfs/pregnancyfactsheet.pdf. [ Accessed: October 23, 2015.]
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