• Molly Dunham-Friel, MPH

Lifestyle Tips for Living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)



Just like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), our lifestyles change as our life changes. Whether you have just been diagnosed or have been living the IBD warrior life for decades, here are some tips that can be adapted to wherever you are in your IBD journey.


GET YOUR 8 HOURS

Sleep is important for all people, but it is critical for people living with IBD. There are many reasons patients with IBD may have trouble sleeping, including the obvious such as running to the toilet throughout the night. Nocturnal bowel movements keep IBD patients from getting the regenerative, uninterrupted sleep they need. If you are always getting up in the night to use the loo, or due to any IBD symptom, speak with your healthcare team to see what lifestyle or treatment changes you might need, to help you get 8 hours of shut eye. Regardless of whether running to the toilet during the night is a problem for you, focus on creating an environment conducive to quality sleep.


Take note of your sleeping environment and consider the following tips:


  • Temperature: generally, a cool room is best for getting a good night’s rest

  • Darkness: create a dark space for sleeping to help balance your circadian rhythm

  • Turn off technology: turn off all forms of technology and get away from your screens hours before you plan to sleep.

  • Schedule: creating a regular sleep schedule includes the time you go to sleep and the time you wake. Get creative and find the best routines that work for you.

  • Caffeine: be mindful of how much and when you consume caffeine

  • Got Worries? If worrying is what keeps you from sleeping some suggest scheduling a time to worry during another part of the day.


STRESS MANAGEMENT

IBD is a stressful disease to live with and studies are beginning to show that stress is closely related to IBD with an increase in evidence suggesting that stress and IBD influence each other. Whenever stress occurs in life, IBD can be affected to some extent, which is why stress management is a critical life skill to learn when living with IBD. The best tip is to find what works best for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Listening to music

  • Deep breathing

  • Finding a therapist

  • Walking

  • Getting outside/being in nature

  • Time with family/friends

  • Alone time

  • Prepare ahead of time

  • Get organized


HYDRATION

Considering the human body is made up of 60% water, it isn’t shocking that staying hydrated is critical to being well. It is even more important to stay hydrated if you are actively having diarrhea, vomiting, or living without a colon. In general, it is recommended to drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, each day.


PLAN AHEAD

Preparation is key because it can reduce stress and as mentioned above stress can aggravate IBD. Here are a few ideas of ways to plan:

  • Prepare for the next day the night before

  • Keep an eye on when you need to refill any medications you need so that you refill before running out

  • Read the restaurant menu before agreeing to eat there

Pro Tip: Advocate for your own health! You know your body best, so speak up for it.


EXERCISE

The best fitness routine is the one you enjoy, look forward to, and will complete. There is increasing evidence that exercise may improve symptoms for people living with IBD, along with quality of life, including but not limited to improvements in psychological wellbeing and prevention of comorbidities like colon cancer. Try out different types of exercise and see what feels best in your body. Not sure where to start? Stretching and walking are a great start!


DO WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY

IBD life is hard, but it is still a life full of beauty. Making time to do what brings you joy is a lifestyle skill that feeds the soul. Do things that make you laugh, make time to have fun, and surround yourself with people that make you feel good. Follow your heart, do what you love even if it’s just “a side thing,” and don’t be afraid to give new things a try.



About the author:

Molly Dunham-Friel, MPH, is an IBD & IBS Patient Advocate, Advisor, Blogger, and Content Creator living with ulcerative colitis and IBS. Molly Founded Better Bellies by Molly, LLC, a business focusing on improving quality of life for patients living with IBD and IBS. Molly supports patients via social media, partners with patient-centered organizations, and advises companies creating products, services, or technology for IBD and IBS patients. Join the community by following along on Instagram.










References:


Engels, M., Cross, R. K., & Long, M. D. (2017). Exercise in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases: current perspectives. Clinical and experimental gastroenterology, 11, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.2147/CEG.S120816


Sun, Y., Li, L., Xie, R., Wang, B., Jiang, K., & Cao, H. (2019). Stress Triggers Flare of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Children and Adults. Frontiers in pediatrics, 7, 432. https://doi.org/10.3389/fped.2019.00432

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