Can IBD Cause Weight Gain?
Last updated: April 2023
We have been getting a lot of questions in the IBD community about whether living with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis can cause weight gain. I know the more common articles you see on the internet are about weight loss related to inflammatory bowel disease, how to gain weight when you live with IBD, and things of that nature.
I imagine it must make those of you who are having the opposite problem feel like there is something wrong with you.
I am here to tell you, there isn't!
Can Crohn's or UC cause weight gain?
Living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can absolutely lead to weight gain in some individuals.
Despite what stereotypes are floating around the community, the internet, or even your doctor’s office, not everyone with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis is stick thin. We come in all shapes and sizes. There are underweight IBDers, average-weight IBDers, overweight IBDers, and those whose BMI falls into the obese category.
Reasons for weight gain with IBD
Below are just some of the reasons why a person who suffers from Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis may have gained weight or be considered overweight:
Challenges with "healthier" food options
Eating healthy foods can sometimes be difficult for people with IBD. Many have had surgery on their intestines and either live with an ostomy or a j-pouch. Others have had resections of their small bowel.
All of which can make eating fruits, vegetables, and your other typical healthier food groups impossible or dangerous. Blockages and obstructions are very common amongst IBD patients which is why many sufferers look to avoid that at all costs. This leaves safer foods like carbohydrates.
A lot of people who live with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis claim that processed food is easier on their stomach. From personal experience, I can also attest to this.
Finding that balance between wanting to eat healthy foods with that desire to keep your disease at bay can cause a lot of mental angst. Oftentimes, the safer side wins because I am sure as hell would rather ingest something unhealthy than risk a painful obstruction.
Exercise can be hard with Crohn's and colitis
Exercising can be hard for people with IBD. While it has been proven to have amazing benefits for both the physical and emotional body, having the energy and/or ability is an entirely different story. If you are going to the bathroom a lot, are in pain, aren't sleeping, and just need to conserve every ounce of energy you have for your job or loved ones, you aren’t putting in the time to sweat.
Given anxiety, depression, and PTSD are common in people with IBD, the inability or unwillingness to exercise consistently can also be due to mental health challenges. Either way, not exercising can put weight on anyone, including someone with a chronic disease that affects the digestive tract.
Medications that lead to weight gain
Medications can also lead to weight gain. People with IBD sometimes need to take drugs like prednisone which will definitely add to your weight and may even stick around long after you are off of the drug.
In addition, given mental health challenges are prevalent in a lot of IBD patients' lives, some of these medications come with the side effect of weight gain. The same is true for certain pain medications (e.g., Lyrica).
Weight gain is much more common than you'd think
If you are someone struggling with your weight as an IBD patient, I really hope you know you aren't alone. It is so much more common than you think and I know social media and even doctors do a terrible job at portraying it the way it should be. Because Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are invisible illnesses, it stinks beyond words that oftentimes we aren’t believed if we don’t look like we are on the verge of death.
I hear you and understand.
I'd love it if you could share some of your thoughts or experiences in the comments section below. Did this resonate with you at all? Is it something you struggle with? Let's show others they aren't alone and we are all in this together!
Does living with IBD impact you financially?