Crohn’s Disease: 14 Self-Care Tips

Medically Reviewed By Saurabh Sethi, M.D., MPH

Managing Crohn’s disease can include nutrition and stress management, and establishing boundaries with those around you. Self-care tips can play an important role alongside traditional medical treatment in Crohn’s disease management. Crohn’s disease affects people in different ways. Talk with your doctor about strategies and treatments that could support you.

This article discusses self-care tips for people living with Crohn’s disease.

1–3. Adapt your diet 

a person is holding a bowl of salad
Brandon Hayden/Stocksy United

The American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) explains that certain foods may affect people with Crohn’s disease.

Some foods are known triggers for diarrhea, such as:

  • spicy foods
  • sugar
  • corn-based products
  • foods high in fat

Keep a food diary

A food diary can help you determine which foods are individual triggers for you and which make you feel your best. A food diary can include:

  • what foods you ate
  • when you ate them
  • what other activities you did that day
  • other factors, such as the weather or if you were feeling sick

Use supplements

Some supplements may help you manage Crohn’s disease. Consult your doctor before trying supplements.

Vitamin B12

The ACG explains that if you have had surgery as part of Crohn’s disease management, you may need to supplement with vitamin B12. The body cannot absorb B12 without certain parts of the digestive tract. 

Iron

Some people with Crohn’s disease are at high risk for anemia, which is low iron in the blood.

If you do have anemia, your doctor may recommend iron supplements in the form of a pill. In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend iron infusions through an IV. 

Other supplements

According to a 2021 narrative review in Nutrients Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , people with Crohn’s disease may also need to supplement:

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation notes that turmeric and omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be helpful for people with Crohn’s disease. However, more research is needed.

Learn more about diet tips for Crohn’s disease.

Infographic showing self-care tips for Crohn's disease, including diet, stress reduction, and quality sleep.
Infographic by Bailey Mariner

4. Follow your medical treatment plan

A medical treatment plan may include medications, nutritional strategies, lifestyle changes, and lab work to monitor how the plan is working.

Work with a doctor and follow their instructions closely to determine the success of your treatment plan.

Learn the 10 most commonly prescribed medications for Crohn’s disease.

5. Avoid certain medical triggers 

Certain medications can make Crohn’s disease worse, including:

  • some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
  • some antibiotics

Talk with your doctor about pain relief and other treatment options that will be effective for you.

6. Practice stress management

Doctors believe that stress is a trigger Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source in Crohn’s disease flares. Therefore, managing stress is an important part of self-care with Crohn’s disease. 

Stress management for Crohn’s disease can include:

Read our 10 tips for stress management.

7. Get enough sleep

A lack of sufficient sleep can increase inflammation, which may make symptoms of Crohn’s disease worse. 

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation recommends the following sleep tips for people who have Crohn’s disease:

  • Exercise every day.
  • Keep a consistent schedule: wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.
  • Get sunlight every day.
  • Create a calming bedtime environment without screens or bright lights.
  • Avoid heavy meals or drinks before bed.

8. Avoid smoking

According to a study in Taiwan, smoking tobacco influences the risks Trusted Source International Journal of Obesity Peer reviewed journal Go to source of inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, smoking can make existing Crohn’s disease worse. 

If you are interested in stopping smoking or reducing how much you smoke, your doctor can help with resources. 

9. Exercise every day

A 2021 review in Intestinal Research explains that aerobic exercise can decrease cytokines in the body. Cytokines are involved in the inflammation that triggers Crohn’s disease. 

Resistance and strength training may also have positive impacts on Crohn’s disease. However, more research is needed. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation recommends beginning with low-impact exercises, such as walking or swimming. 

10. Explore complementary alternative medicine

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation explains that some complementary therapies may be helpful in managing Crohn’s disease. 

Research-backed alternative therapies include:

Learn about all the treatment options for Crohn’s disease.

11. Plan activities

Some people with Crohn’s disease may benefit from activity planning strategies, such as the spoon theory. 

The spoon theory explains Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that people with a chronic condition such as Crohn’s disease may find it helpful to think of their energy supplies as “spoons”, to help them measure and expend their energy carefully.

Taking care of yourself with Crohn’s disease means choosing which activities you want to “spend” your spoon on. 

12. Seek information

The ACG recommends that people with Crohn’s disease work with their doctor to fully understand their disease. Specifically, knowing which parts of the bowels are affected can help better manage the condition. 

Additionally, the ACG suggests understanding the medications you are on. You should know how they work, potential side effects, and dosages. You also should know when to take medications so that they are most effective. 

13. Plan for appointments 

Planning and preparing for appointments ahead of time can help you better understand and manage Crohn’s disease. 

Some tips to try include:

  • Keep notes of symptoms ahead of time and take them with you.
  • Make a list of questions ahead of time to ask during the appointment.
  • Take notes during the appointment of what the doctor says, or have a friend or partner take notes for you.
  • Ask the doctor if you can record the conversation in case you forget anything they say.
  • Take someone else to the appointment with you for support or to help relay your symptoms.
  • Use electronic portals to streamline paperwork, insurance information, check-in, and follow-up care.

Read our appointment guide for Crohn’s disease to better plan for your appointments.

14. Create a support system

The ACG suggests the following people to support you as you manage Crohn’s disease:

  • family members
  • partner or spouse
  • health coach
  • counselor
  • professional therapist
  • nutritionist

Summary

Managing stress, seeking alternative therapies, and working with mental health experts and nutritionists can help you manage Crohn’s disease. 

Other strategies for living well with Crohn’s disease include identifying food and medication triggers, avoiding smoking, and exercising every day. 

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  1. ACG expert tips on living well with IBD. (n.d.). https://gi.org/patients/gi-health-and-disease/acg-expert-tips-on-living-well-with-ibd/
  2. Anemia. (2020). https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/emr/emr-ibd-education-tool/anemia
  3. Causes of flares. (2020). https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/emr/emr-ibd-education-tool/causes-of-flares
  4. Chen, B.-C., et al. (2022). Effect of smoking on the development and outcomes of inflammatory bowel disease in Taiwan: A hospital-based cohort study. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-11860-y
  5. Exercise. (n.d.). https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/campus-connection/navigating-college/exercise
  6. Mind-body therapies. (n.d.). https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/complementary-medicine/mind-body-therapies
  7. Natale, G., et al. (2021). “Spend your spoons wisely”: Conceptualizations of time, energy and aging invisibly with Crohn’s disease [Abstract]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8968325/
  8. Papadimitriou, K. (2021). Effect of resistance exercise training on Crohn’s disease patients. https://www.irjournal.org/journal/view.php?number=892
  9. Ramos, G. P., et al. (2021). Alcohol use in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8667378/
  10. Sleep. (n.d.). https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/justlikeme/living-with-crohns-and-colitis/sleep
  11. Sun, Y., et al. (2019). Stress triggers flare of inflammatory bowel disease in children and adults. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6821654/
  12. Vitamins, minerals, and supplements. (n.d.). https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/complementary-medicine/supplements
  13. Wellens, J., et al. (2021). Let food be thy medicine: Its role in Crohn’s disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8001864/

Medical Reviewer: Saurabh Sethi, M.D., MPH
Last Review Date: 2023 Jan 31
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