Crohn’s disease symptoms vary from individual to individual but the most common symptoms include: gut pain, diarrhea, fever, weight loss, anemia, fissures, fatigue, and canker sores in the mouth. Gut pain typically includes cramping and sore to the touch. The cramping usually comes and goes and may become a constant ache as the condition gets worse.
Diarrhea can be as high as 10-20 times per day, including waking up in the night to go to the bathroom. Blood is occasionally in the stool. A high fever may mean that there is an infection, it is recommended to go to the physician. Weight loss can be caused by symptoms such as diarrhea. Anemia can result from malabsorption, due to inflammation of the gut lining, or blood in stools. In addition, since Crohn’s involves the immune system, there may be joint pain, eye problems, skin rash, or liver concerns.
Diarrhea, nausea, and loss of appetite can make it hard to get enough nutrients, leading to weight loss. To maintain a healthy weight, keep track of your weight, stay active, and focus on a healthy diet. Keeping track of your weight and share it with your physician and dietitian. Exercise and activity can be helpful by increasing appetite and building muscle. Aim for lower intensity and consider avoiding intense exercise when experiencing a flare up. Eat smaller, more frequent meals to assist with digestion. Focus on plenty of healthy fluids. Make them interesting by adding a bit of lemon or lime to add flavor. Focus on a wide variety of healthy foods in order to make sure you are getting enough nutrients. If loss of appetite or stomach pain is occuring, consider drinking smoothies or shakes.
Minimizing or eliminating the foods that lead to flare-ups will help prevent weight loss. Limit foods that are high in fiber (nuts, seeds, raw vegetables, beans). Avoid high fat foods (fried, full fat dairy, butter and oil) and dairy (milk, soft cheese, yogurt) that can lead to diarrhea.
Diarrhea and bleeding
Diarrhea is defined as loose, watery stool that happens at least 3 times per day. In Crohn’s the severity can range from mild to severe. It tends to get worse when there is a flare-up and better once inflammation goes down. Inflammation is the main cause, when your intestines are inflamed, they absorb less water, resulting in watery stool. Other causes include difficulty digesting, bacterial infection, fistulas, and post surgery malabsorption. Anti-diarrheal medications, such as codeine, diphenoxylate and loperamide may be recommended by your physician.
Typically, blood in the stool is less common than when compared to ulcerative colitis, but this varies between people. Bleeding can occur from anal fissures (tears in the tissue). With anal fissures, you will see bright red instead of dark red, which would indicate bleeding higher up in the intestines. Long-term anal fissures can be treated by methods including botox, calcium channel blockers, and nitrate ointment. If these treatments don’t work, your physician may recommend a surgery called lateral internal sphincterotomy.
Pain and low energy
Abdominal pain and cramps are some of the most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease. It is typically experienced around the belly button or lower right side of the abdomen, and usually occurs 1-2 hours after eating but can come and go anytime. Experiencing pain can have psychological impacts including anxiety. Keeping Crohn’s in remission for as long as possible, by taking prescribed medications, focusing on stress reduction, avoiding trigger foods, and avoiding smoking will help. If your doctor approves, acetaminophen can help with pain management. For increased comfort, soak in warm salt water baths, for fissure soreness and joint relief.
Fatigue is ongoing sense of tiredness, weakness, or exhaustion, that interferes with the ability to work or do daily activities. When diarrhea or abdominal pain symptoms happen at night, it can be difficult to get adequate sleep. Anemia is a common result of Crohn’s due to malabsorption. It is a condition in which the blood cells do not carry enough oxygen through the body, resulting in fatigue and low energy. About 25% of people with Crohn’s disease are depressed, which is commonly associated with fatigue. Improving the quality of sleep is the goal, including reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption before bed, getting activity, limit television, phone, and computer screens at least an hour before sleeping.