6 Tips for Living With Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn's

Learn how to feel better each day with IBD.

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Living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)—whether it's ulcerative colitis or Crohn's—can be painful and frustrating and fill each day with uncertainty. Will your symptoms flare up? Are your medications working? Is there a bathroom close by in case of an emergency? These are common questions that many IBD sufferers have. And while no one knows for sure what causes IBD, a few lifestyle strategies can help you get a better handle on your symptoms, along with the right treatment from your doctor. Take a look at these six tips to help put control back on your side.

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

De-Stress Your Mind and Body

2 / 7 De-Stress Your Mind and Body

Remember that stress doesn't cause IBD, but it can make your symptoms worse. While you can't erase all stress from your life, practicing yoga, meditation and deep breathing are healthy ways to manage stress and get the upper hand on your IBD symptoms. Yoga, for example, can center you with a feeling of calm because it helps stabilize your blood pressure, lowers your heart rate and improves digestion. Yoga also helps you with meditation—another practice that can ease your worries and fears while getting in touch with yourself on a deeper level. Adding some deep breathing exercises into the mix also calms your sympathetic nervous system, and in turn drops your stress levels.

Believe In the Power of Music

3 / 7 Believe In the Power of Music

Think about your favorite songs for a moment. What kind of feelings come up? Chances are you experienced a flood of positive emotions that probably hold a special place in your mind and heart. Music therapy is another way to reduce the stress and pain caused by IBD. In fact, some studies show that listening to music not only helps ease tension but can boost your mood and encourage you to stick with your relaxation techniques. Listening to music can also help you rethink how you experience pain. And that definitely has a big payoff when you're dealing with symptoms of IBD.

Take a Warm Bath

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Life is all about simple pleasures, really. And soaking in a warm bath can do so much for your body and mind. If you're feeling stressed out from symptoms related to ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease—or if you're just having a bad day—wrap up your night by unwinding in the tub. A nice warm soak calms your mind and slowly drives up your body temperature, so that when you're all set for bed—and cooling off in a dark bedroom—it's much easier to fall asleep feeling nice and relaxed. On top of calming your mind and relaxing your body, warm baths also act as a natural mood-booster, too.

Own Your Exercise Routine

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Some days you might not feel up to donning your workout clothes, tightening those laces and getting in some exercise. Whether you're dealing with pain from IBD or you're short on time, it's still a smart idea to just get moving. You probably already know about the benefits exercise has on your total health. But did you know that it also has a positive impact on ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease? Physical activity helps reduce stress, relieves symptoms of depression and also helps regulate your bowel function—especially when you're in remission. Just be sure to check with your doctor about which exercises are right for you, especially if you have any limitations due to IBD surgery.

Keep Track of How You Feel

6 / 7 Keep Track of How You Feel

Your IBD symptoms can be different each day—and may even throw you a curveball at a moment's notice. You might wake up feeling refreshed, rested, healthy and ready to tackle just about anything on your to-do list. But it's not uncommon for IBD symptoms to turn on when you least expect it and you could feel worse as the day wears on. Stress, medication, certain foods and smoking can all affect how you feel. That's why it's important to keep track of your symptoms every day. Whether you write them down on paper or log them on a computer is up to you. Just remember that staying on top of your symptoms can help you and your doctor better manage your IBD in the long run.

Lean on Those Who Care

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Your friends and family know you best and love you for so many different reasons. Living with IBD can sometimes feel like you're alone on an island. But that's not true! When you're dealing with strong emotions spurred on by your disease, don't hesitate to talk about your feelings with those loved ones who care. You can also lean on others who suffer from IBD through support groups you can find online or in your community. By discussing your feelings and sharing your emotions with others, you'll find that support is a positive way to help you cope with IBD and live better.

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