Given that we’ve now entered Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week, it seems appropriate to explore some useful tips for managing many of the symptoms that can arise during a flare-up of this often irritating and painful condition known as Colitis.
Colitis, in simple terms, is the inflammation of the lining surrounding the colon. Causes range from infection to bowel disease to allergic reactions. Symptoms include diarrhea and painful abdominal cramps, both of which can make getting through a normal day—let alone a busy week—really quite difficult. That’s why it’s important to know how you can manage this condition and continue to live a happy and successful life…
1. Don’t Neglect your Medication
We get it—taking medication can be a pain. And, in many cases, the more serious your health situation, the more medication you have to take. This can be problematic as some medications don’t interact particularly well with others, meaning they can introduce entirely new and uncomfortable symptoms to deal with.
But the only way medication will work is if it’s taken consistently and according to the schedule prescribed to you by your doctor. This may seem pretty straightforward, but many doctors say they’re shocked by how many patients experience colitis flare-ups simply because they didn’t take their medication.
2. Know your Obstacles
Although people with colitis will experience many of the same symptoms, every colitis patient will have a unique colitis experience. That’s because every person tends to have their own obstacles, or triggers, that set off painful episodes related to the condition.
For example, you may recognize that certain foods lead to more discomfort and pain than others. You may notice that eating wheat products, dairy products, or spicy foods affect you in a different way than other types of food. That’s why it’s important to keep a log of your obstacles, or triggers, and do your best to avoid these foods in most situations.
3. Manage your Stress
It’s becoming well known that stress can have a huge impact on our health. For people with colitis, stress can be particularly problematic, as it can lead people to avoid exercise and eat foods that may trigger painful symptoms.
Of course, avoiding stress can be difficult. You can’t just quit your job and you can’t just abandon your family because of problems at work or in the home. But you can participate in activities that give you pleasure and cause you to relax, such as physical activities, hobbies, or meditation.
4. Don’t Skip Meals
People with colitis know that the symptoms it can bring about have the potential to completely eliminate their appetite, leaving them tempted to avoid food altogether. This issue is often visible when flare-ups occur. Put simply, it’s hard to feel hungry when dealing with a bout of diarrhea or painful cramping.
But skipping meals won’t help alleviate these symptoms—at least, not in the long term. Our bodies demand nutrition, which means that avoiding food can leave us feeling tired, weak and unable to face the challenges of the day, like going to work or looking after the kids. Be sure to always eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables,
and whole grains that you know won’t aggravate your condition.
5. Know your Medications
Taking your medications on time and in the way prescribed to you is very important in managing colitis. But there’s more to it than that: you must also know how all of the medications you’re taking—for colitis and other health issues —interact with each other.
For example, it may not be wise for colitis patients to take antibiotics and drugs designed to fight inflammation. That’s why you must make sure your doctors are aware of all of the medications you’re using. You should also tell them about your lifestyle habits, including a smoking habit or tendency to drink alcohol to excess.
6. Use a Management Tool
Managing your colitis can be a complicated undertaking. After all, it means tracking your diet, medications, and when you’ve had flare-ups. Overall, it means taking in and carefully considering what could be an overwhelming amount of information. For some, it could be a source of stress, only further complicating the struggle with colitis.
The good news is that there are management tools out there than can help you keep track of everything to do with your colitis. For example, The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America has built an iPhone app that can help you track your condition. Called “GI Buddy”, it’s completely free to download.
7. Don’t be Afraid to Consult your Doctor
We get it, doctors are busy people and, for some people who don’t have health insurance through their employer, potentially expensive. But ignoring red flags associated with your colitis—such as blood in the stool or an extended bout of constipation or diarrhea—could be very dangerous.
That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that colitis patients go to the doctor any time they feel a normal symptom (i.e., a brief stint of diarrhea) has become abnormal. Don’t ignore these red flags and shirk going to the doctor because the consequences could be significant.