Waiting on the various triggers for symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be like living next to train tracks: Things are often quiet, but every so often something comes along to disrupt your life.
But while Crohn’s symptoms can manifest without warning, there are some cases where you can determine specific causes of these flare-ups.
Everyday Health offers these tips on how to identify some common triggers for symptoms of Crohn’s disease:
Even though the connection between stress levels and Crohn’s disease isn’t fully understood, doctors say there is a link.
“We know that stress can affect gut function in healthy people who do not have Crohn’s,” Dr. R. Balfour Sartor, chief medical advisor at the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, told Everyday Health. “Stress increases blood flow to the gut, which increases motility and stimulates contractions in the intestines. That leads to diarrhea and nausea.”
Stress can exacerbate these symptoms in people with Crohn’s, and Sartor adds that there is evidence that stress can increase inflammation and stimulate a flare-up of the disease.
If you’re experiencing a lot of stress, whether it’s at home or at work, try some activities that can lessen stress: yoga, meditation, exercise, or even counseling.
Medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen and antibiotics can lead to Crohn’s flares. Even people without Crohn’s disease can experience diarrhea when taking antibiotics, which alter the balance of bacteria in the intestine. Talk to your doctor about taking pain relievers with acetaminophen. These medications will not act as triggers for Crohn’s disease.
What you eat might end up being among your triggers for Crohn’s disease. Foods that cause gas and/or diarrhea – cabbage, beans, carbonated beverages, greasy/fried foods – should be avoided. You may also want to steer clear of raw vegetables, peanuts, popcorn, watermelon seeds and harder, chunky foods, especially if you have a narrowing of the intestines. But no one type of food triggers Crohn’s for every patient, so be sure to keep track of your diet to find out your personal triggers.
A cigarette habit can increase the risk for more frequent Crohn’s surgeries, while also acting as one of the common triggers for Crohn’s disease.
“One theory is that smoking causes constriction of blood vessels and leads to inadequate oxygen flow and nutrition in the intestines, which causes injury to the area,” says Sartor.
There is some evidence that infections can trigger Crohn’s in people who have otherwise never shown any symptoms. Sartor gives the example of people who contract an E. coli infection while on vacation. Although most travelers will recover without much trouble, people who are susceptible to Crohn’s may develop the disease because they lack the ability to shut down the inflammation.
6. Changes In Season
Last on our list of triggers for Crohn’s disease are seasonal changes. Some people may experience flare-ups at different times of year, which Sartor says could be tied to pollen allergies.
Triggers for Crohn’s disease can differ from person to person, so you may want to keep track of what was happening when you experienced a flare-up.
- What – if any – medications or antibiotics was I taking?
- Have I had any infections?
- What was I doing just before the flare up?
- What was I eating?
- Did anything stressful happen?
By keeping track of your routine, you can discover common threads that lead to your Crohn’s flare-ups, and hopefully reduce them.
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