If you aren’t sure what your triggers are, a doctor or a registered dietitian can help you pinpoint them—every person’s body is different, but as a rule of thumb, high-fiber fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, and full-fat dairy tend to aggravate the GI system the most. It’s probably best to save cocktails for when your flare-up stops, Ashkan Farhadi, MD, a gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells SELF.
Prepare for accidents, just in case.
There’s no sugarcoating it: Bathroom accidents can, and often do, happen with Crohn’s disease. “Mentally, it can be really difficult for people,” Dr. Chen says. “It’s hard to go out if you don’t know if you’re going to soil yourself.”
When Hayden treks to the beach or a park, she likes to scope the bathroom situation ahead of time. Even if you go someplace where facilities are common, like a restaurant, Dr. Chiplunker suggests locating the toilet before you get settled. “It’s all for peace of mind—if you need to go to the bathroom, you know where you’re going,” she says. Bathroom-finder apps like Flush Toilet Finder, We Can’t Wait, and Bathroom Scout Pro can also help.
Be prepared with what supplies you’ll need if you just can’t find a restroom in time. While it’s impossible to plan for every bathroom snafu, Dr. Chen recommends having a change of clothes handy in your bag, car, or work desk—including fresh underwear. Disposable wipes, toilet paper, and other cleanup supplies are also clutch.
Thinking ahead can offset some stress associated with bathroom emergencies, Dr. Chiplunker says. She recommends consulting a doctor if you’re dealing with frequent accidents to see if your treatment plan needs to be changed.
Do a few nice things for your body.
Many things can exacerbate Crohn’s, but “the disease is, in part, connected to stress,”2 Dr. Farhadi says. De-stressing looks different for everyone, but Hayden says being active often makes a big impact for her. “Going for walks and taking light jogs, doing yoga, and strength training are my favorite, low-impact ways of moving [and reducing my] stress,” she says.
Hayden also writes out what tasks she needs to handle each day. “I find it helpful to make a to-do list each morning, by priority—what needs to be done and what’s coming up, and needs to be done in the near future,” she says. “Juggling inflammatory bowel disease and motherhood can be a lot, so I just try to take one day at a time and not worry about what tomorrow will bring.”
If you’re feeling up to it, Dr. Farhadi sometimes suggests that his patients go on gentle 20-minute “meditative” walks to soothe their nerves. “Take the same route, go at a slow pace, and don’t talk to friends or look at your phone,” he says. If walks are too painful during a flare-up, consider just stepping outside—Hayden says that even a short period in nature helps to clear her mind.