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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

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        Elena Prokopets

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        Published on November 14, 2018

        Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

        Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

        With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

        For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

        In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

        Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

        Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

        It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

        For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

        Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

        Symptoms of Fatigue

        Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

        • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
        • mental blocks
        • lack of motivation
        • headache
        • dizziness
        • muscle weakness
        • slowed reflexes and responses
        • impaired decision-making and judgement
        • moodiness, such as irritability
        • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
        • reduced immune system function
        • blurry vision
        • short-term memory problems
        • poor concentration
        • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

        Causes of Fatigue

        The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

        • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
        • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
        • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
        • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

        Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

        Medical Causes of Fatigue

        If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

        Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

        Anemia

        Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

        Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

        There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

        Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

        Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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        This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

        Diabetes

        Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

        Sleep Apnea

        Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

        Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

        Thyroid disease

        An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

        Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

        • Lack of sleep
        • Too much sleep 
        • Alcohol and drugs 
        • Sleep disturbances 
        • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
        • Poor diet 

        Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

        • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
        • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
        • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
        • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

        Psychological Causes of Fatigue

        Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

        • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
        • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
        • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

        How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

        Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

        1. Tell The Truth

        Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

        To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

        Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

        The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

        One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

        • How you feel
        • What time of day it is
        • What may have contributed to your fatigue
        • How your mind and body reacts

        This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

        2. Reduce Your Commitments

        When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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        If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

        When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

        Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

        3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

        If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

        Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

        If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

        Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

        Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

        4. Express More Gratitude

        Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

        It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

        Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

        5. Focus On Yourself

        Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

        There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

        But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

        We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

        6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

        Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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        Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

        The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

        Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

        7. Take a Power Nap

        When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

        Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

        This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

        8. Take More Exercise

        The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

        Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

        The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

        You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

        9. Get More Quality Sleep

        To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

        Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

        My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

        10. Improve Your Diet

        Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

        Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

        On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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        To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

        Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

        Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

        11. Manage Your Stress Levels

        Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

        When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

        Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

        My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

        12. Get Hydrated

        Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

        Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

        If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

        The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

        The Bottom Line

        These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

        If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

        Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
        [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
        [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
        [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
        [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
        [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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