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15 Things to Remember if You Love a Person with Crohn’s Disease

15 Things to Remember if You Love a Person with Crohn’s Disease

Many otherwise intelligent individuals have the rather insensitive view that Crohn’s Disease is simply a nice medical term for an illness that people have because they lack self-control. To them, everyone has bowel troubles, some more than others, and that all it takes is watching what one eats and drinks in order to have normal intestinal operation. They also become frustrated with Crohn’s sufferers, thinking that they exaggerate their symptoms and just need to take a few antacids or anti-diarrhoea pills.

Crohn’s is classified as an autoimmune disease, in which the body is actually producing antibodies that act against itself, much like the more commonly known Lupus. Just getting the fact out that it really is a serious disease and not just a “condition” is truly important, because misinformation makes it hard to develop empathy for a friend or partner with this disease. That said, here are 15 things that Crohn’s sufferers will endure that require understanding, patience, and support.

1. They can’t participate in a lot of sports and other social activities as young people

Imagine you are a 16-year old girl who would love to go out with her friends for the evening. Maybe they want to drive around, stop at a few other friends’ homes, and stop at a fast-food place for burgers and fries. For the teen with Crohn’s, this means not eating all day in order to avoid embarrassing diarrhoea accidents, and certainly not participating in the fast-food stop. Suppose you are a teen boy wearing an excretion bag – how do you shower with your classmates after PE class? Parents and other adults need to be happy to make comforting accommodations for these teens, and that includes the PE teacher-jock who may not have a tendency for a lot of empathy. Wise parents have meetings with school personnel and make certain that all reasonable accommodations have been made, including a quick exit from class without permission.

2. They know it’s better not to consume alcohol

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    So, when everyone is having a grand time at happy hour and putting pressure for the Crohn’s sufferer to have a beer, they wonder why they won’t drink. Are they anti-social; are they a recovering alcoholic? A sufferer with a pretty solid self-image may be able to explain the disease a bit. Good friends and partners understand and make an extra effort to make the sufferer feel comfortable, even in an environment of drinking.

    3. They get depressed easily, because the disease seems to control so much of their daily lives

    As Bethany Townsend, famous model and make-up artist claims, she left her career for years because of her “bag” and only recently was able to put on a bikini and post it on Facebook with the support and encouragement of her husband. Because of the overwhelming support she then received from Facebook fans she is back modeling and over her depression. Most Crohn’s sufferers do not give up public and promising careers, but they do have periods of depression. Making an effort to really understand how the simple things you take for granted can be big hurdles for your loved one will go a long way.

    4. They may skip meals in order to avoid having to go to the bathroom

    Weight is a rather sensitive topic for people with Chrohn’s. Oftentimes it’s easier for them to say they’ve been sticking to some brand new diet plan for weight loss than admitting they don’t want to have lunch with you because they might afterwards get stuck in the bathroom for hours. Skipping meals is one big concern for medical professionals dealing with Crohn’s patients because the potential for severe weight loss and even anemia are always present. A current study involving 3700 patients from over 40 countries is underway to research the efficacy of some new medications that will reduce the levels of the culprit antibodies and thus onset of acute and severe diarrhea is currently underway and does show some promise.

    5. They can suffer embarrassingly severe diarrhea, especially in public places

    They have to look for the nearest restroom when they are out, and this can be irritating to social acquaintances and partners who just don’t have the empathy they should. Being seated in a restaurant for the Crohn’s sufferer is a “huge” consideration, and others need to be supportive and kind about it, even if it means a bit longer wait for a table.

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    6. Being overly tired is a symptom of the disease, not an “avoidance” tactic as some have decided to believe

    Normal daily activities of school and work can be exhausting, and this is a real physical symptom. Friends, family members and partners need to cease complaining or showing irritation when the individual needs a nap or simply does not have the energy to engage in physically-demanding activities after a long day. Plan those activities on weekends when there are no other physical and mental demands on the sufferer.

    7. They may not be able to have the social lives that others do

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      Teens avoid sleepovers, swim parties, and overnight trips with friends; adults may avoid such things as camping trips or picnics and barbecues, or adventurous trips to far away lands where restrooms might not be immediately available.

      8. They may carry extra toilet paper, wear “Depends,” and always have an extra set of clothing with them (for serious cases)

      Again, that’s something they are really embarrassed to admit. Understanding these behaviors is critical for friends and partners who truly want to make life as comfortable as possible for a Crohn’s sufferer. Instead of showing irritation because a road trip may involve more than the average number of restroom stops along the way, the empathetic fellow traveler will take it all in stride, be cheerful and accommodating. Should an accident occur, it is important to know whether the “victim” wants help or wants to deal with the problem on his/her own.

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      9. They are self-conscious about the clothing they wear so that bags don’t show

      If you love this person, make extra efforts to compliment their dress and appearance.

      10. They can’t always sleep well

      There is discomfort a lot of the time, and this is not an exaggeration. Think of times when you have a bad bout of stomach gas with cramps and diarrhea. People with Crohn’s have to deal with this most of the time, even in the middle of the night. Stop complaining about being awakened, and give them a reassuring hug instead. Here are more tips about getting a better sleep if you have Crohn’s.

      11. They may prefer not to go out to eat

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        This can be a “bummer” when friends who are couples invite you to go out to dinner. If your loved one’s symptoms are acute, this is not going to be an option. If they are not acute, and the outing is planned, be certain that the restaurant chosen has mild foods that your loved can tolerate more easily. Several studies currently being conducted by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation are attempting to develop means by which normal microbe activity can be stimulated in the gastrointestinal tract that may ultimately allow those with the disease eat more normally. This would be a huge breakthrough!

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        12. They plan when they will eat certain foods, because they know how they will be affected and will need to be physically in a “safe” place

        Don’t try to “force” your loved one to eat anything or anywhere if they are not truly comfortable with the food and/or the environment. You certainly don’t have to change your eating habits because of their disease, but neither should they ever have to change theirs to please yours. Certainly there a lot of great foods both for you and your loved one to digest normally.

        13. Airline bookings may seem like a minor deal to you, but to the Crohn’s sufferer, maybe not

        Be mindful that seating has to be close to the bathroom, and, if there is an accident because the bathroom is occupied at a moment of crisis, be reassuring and comforting. They are embarrassed enough without your expression of embarrassment too.

        14. They understand that there is no cure and that researchers are looking at multiple causes

        Those include but not limited to genetics, previous infections, immune system failures, and environmental factors such as junk food and too many antibiotics earlier in life. Understand that they are keeping apprised of any research that is ongoing and any new promising treatments, and that they will certainly take it up with their doctor. Instead of resenting, the time spent on reading up on these potential treatments and the conversation that they may want to have about them, be a good listener, be encouraging and be positive.

        15. They have fears that they may seem abnormal to you

        Just walking the dog can cause anxiety, if the walk will be pretty long; they fear that they may embarrass themselves or you. Imagine the anxiety of going to your boss’s home for dinner or a barbecue; imagine the anxiety of going to a child’s soccer or basketball game, sitting up in the stands and not being able to get down through the crowd to reach a restroom in time. You have to validate these fears and be willing to compromise. You can’t truly understand the fears because you don’t have the disease, but you must be willing to validate them with both words and behaviors.

        Featured photo credit: Single woman alone swinging on the beach and looking the other seat missing a boyfriend via shutterstock.com

        More by this author

        Elena Prokopets

        Elena is a passionate blogger who shares about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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        Last Updated on March 30, 2020

        Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

        Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

        Feeling tired all the time?

        Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

        I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

        Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

        If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

        In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

        What Happens When You’re Too Tired

        If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

        Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

        • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
        • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
        • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
        • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
        • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
        • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
        • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

        Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

        Unfortunately, yes!

        Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

        Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

        Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

        Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

        Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

        Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

        1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
        2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
        3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

        The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

        It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

        Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

        Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

        If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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        Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

        Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

        But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

        Symptoms of fatigue include:

        • Difficulty concentrating
        • Low stamina
        • Difficulty sleeping
        • Anxiety
        • Low motivation

        These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

        Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

        How Much Sleep Is Enough?

        The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

        Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

        So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

        The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

        Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

        Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

        If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

        And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

        It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

        4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

        Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

        1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
        2. Exercising regularly
        3. Using stressbusters
        4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

        So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

        After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

        In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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        I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

        Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

        • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
        • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
        • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
        • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

        The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

        And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

        But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

        L — Living Healthy

        Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

        So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

        In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

        As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

        Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

        1. Unplug

        Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

        So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

        2. Unwind

        Do something to relax.

        Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

        3. Get Comfortable

        Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

        Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

        Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

        Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

        If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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        Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

        This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

        E — Exercise

        Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

        That’s what happened in my case.

        But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

        As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

        My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

        That made sense to me.

        So, I decided to swim.

        I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

        Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

        Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

        So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

        If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

        A — Attitude

        Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

        When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

        Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

        Breathing.

        But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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        Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

        1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
        2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
        3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
        4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
        5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
        6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

        This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

        When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

        Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

        N — Nutrition

        Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

        If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

        Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

        For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

        Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

        Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

        1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
        2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
        3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
        4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
        5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
        6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
        7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
        8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
        9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

        Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

        That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

        Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

        The Bottom Line

        If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

        If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

        If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

        • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
        • Regular Exercise You Love
        • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
        • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

        Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

        More Tips to Help You Rest Better

        Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
        [2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
        [3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
        [4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
        [5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
        [6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
        [7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
        [8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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