A person with a worried expression juggles different shapes symbolizing multiple conditions with IBD.

Managing IBD When Other Health Conditions Take Precedence

As someone who’s lived with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) for nearly 15 years now, I’m not stranger to the fact that Crohn’s disease is often on my mind. There have been really hard seasons where it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last think I think about before I go to sleep. It pops into and out of my thoughts during the day about as frequently as I pop into and out of the bathroom.

This year has been a bit different for me, health wise.

I’ve struggled with several other health conditions and challenges that have nearly pushed my IBD to the back burner.

IBD with other conditions

I say nearly, because I’ve learned that even when I’m not thinking about my IBD, it’s thinking about me.

This was very much the year of infections - pneumonia, the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and most impactfully, bacterial meningitis. There were hospital stays for each one, requiring IV antibiotics, testing, therapies, and recovery.

There was also a surgery to repair a rather large hiatal hernia, one that caused me to struggle to eat for weeks on end.

There have been intractable migraines, cognitive deficits, fatigue, lethargy, fevers, body aches and other symptoms dominating my everyday thoughts, and mostly keeping me inactive and on the sidelines of my own life.

But each of those things had something in common - they impacted my gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

GI symptoms

From lengthy, heavy duty courses of antibiotics to limited diets to increased stress, I found that my GI symptoms were ebbing and flowing much more often than usual due to the other health conditions I was experiencing.

Over time, I learned that I had to manage my IBD even when it wasn’t the primary problem I was facing - because ignoring it only caused it to become a bigger problem.

How did I do this?

Bare minimum IBD tips

Here are a few suggestions I want to share of things that worked for me when I had very limited mental and physical capacity.

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It is always best to consult with your doctor for what will work best for you:

  1. Focus on water intake. Regardless of what I was facing, when I was better hydrated, my GI symptoms were somewhat easier to navigate. I am also lucky enough that routine IV fluids were an option that I elected - meaning that even when I was having frequent diarrhea and vomiting, I was not having to face emergency care for the related deficits.
  2. Mindful eating. With IBD I've always had a diet or subsection of food that has been easier for my body to digest, even if it hasn't tasted good or been ideally what I'd want to consume. With so many conflicting variables affecting my body, sticking to safe foods gave me a bit more predictability.
  3. Use "as needed" medications. This is something I struggle with sometimes, remembering that I have these prescribed as needed medications to help me when my symptoms flare. And that I don't need to be on the verge of a hospitalization to acknowledge that my symptoms have increased, and that those medications are necessary to help me return to a baseline.

If you're an IBD patient dealing with additional health challenges, how do you keep an eye on your IBD?

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