When you find out you have Crohn’s disease, you may wonder how it’ll affect your daily life. With the right information, you can learn how to manage your symptoms and keep doing the things you love.
Find a Doctor and Treatment Center
First, you need to find a doctor who treats the digestive tract -- a gastroenterologist. Your regular doctor can help you find one.
You can also find one through the:
- American College of Gastroenterology
- American Gastroenterological Association
- Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America
As you choose a doctor, consider:
How many people with IBD does this doctor see each year? You want to work with someone who sees a lot of people with Crohn’s. They’ll understand what's involved in treating people with this condition and know more about prescription medications to control the disease.
Does your insurance cover the treatment? Call your provider and your doctor’s office to make sure. You may also need to check if your doctor's “in network.” If not, you’ll probably pay more for the visit.
Where is the doctor’s office? What are the hours? If possible, choose a doctor near your home. Knowing there’s help nearby will give you peace of mind.
Does the doctor listen to you and respect you? Crohn's can be hard to talk about. Because it affects so many parts of your life, it's important to choose a doctor you’re comfortable with.
Which hospital or treatment center does the doctor work with? You may want to choose a treatment place at the same time you select a doctor. Not everyone with Crohn’s disease will need to go to the hospital. But you still will need a place to go if you need treatment, especially when you’ve had the condition for a long time. It’s better to pick a place when you feel well than when you’re in the middle of a flare.
Talk With Family and Friends
Tell those close to you about your Crohn’s disease. Let them know it can cause pain and diarrhea. That will help them understand why you need to use the bathroom so often or other things like why you may not feel up to socializing.
When people know what you're going through, you can turn to them for support and reassurance. They can also be there for you during flare ups when you need help with things like grocery shopping, child care, or getting to a doctor’s appointment.
If you work outside the home, you might want to talk to your supervisor and trusted co-workers about your condition. This will help them understand when you must miss work or take frequent bathroom breaks.
Learn about the Family and Medical Leave Act. Then you’ll know your rights if you need to take off from work for a while. Look into the Americans With Disabilities Act, too. It protects you from job discrimination. It also requires your employer to give you the things you need to do your job.
Your doctor can help you find a support group. This will help you meet other people with Crohn's. The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America has an online support group where you can get tips and advice from people who've managed their condition for years.
Pay Attention to Your Body
As you start treatment, keep track of the symptoms you have and when you have them. Do you always get diarrhea after you eat? Do your symptoms happen at a certain time of day? If you know when you're more likely to have issues, you can plan your day around it.
Keep track of foods that affect your bowels. They don’t cause Crohn's, but some dishes may make symptoms worse. For example, many people with Crohn’s have to avoid high-fiber foods like seeds, nuts, popcorn, corn, and raw fruits and vegetables. Some have to stay away from spicy, fried, and greasy foods, too. A food diary can help you track what gives you problems, so that it's easier for you to stay away from them.
Ask your doctor about working with a registered dietitian (RD). They can review your food diary to decide if you're eating a balanced diet. They can also help plan your meals so you get all the nutrients you need.
Stress can make Crohn’s worse, so try to stay relaxed. If you do feel pressured, exercise can help. Tai chi, yoga, or meditation can work, too. Talk to your doctor if you still feel stressed. There are other treatments that can help.
You don’t have to stay at home near your bathroom afraid you may have diarrhea, pain, and cramps. A little planning will help you maintain a daily routine.
Be sure you find out where the restrooms are in public places like restaurants, shopping malls, and highway rest areas. This can help ease your mind, because when the urge hits, you'll already know where to go.
Pack a travel kit that includes:
- Toilet tissue
- Wet wipes
- A couple of zip-top plastic bags
You may never need it. But it will give you peace of mind when you’re away from home.