Tips for easing stress when you have Crohn's disease

Stress can make symptoms of Crohn's disease worse. Learn how to decrease your stress and reduce your risk of stress-related flare-ups.

When you have Crohn's disease, you can experience flare-ups due to stress. When you're emotionally or physically stressed, your normal digestive process changes. Your stomach empties more slowly and secretes more acid. The mechanism that controls what passes through your small and large intestines can also malfunction, resulting in bowel symptoms such as pain, diarrhea, excess gas and bloating.

Although it's impossible to avoid stress at all times, you can take steps to reduce your chances of experiencing a stress-related flare-up. Try the following stress-reducing strategies. See what combination of activities works best for you.

  • Relaxation and breathing exercises. Take deep, slow breaths while performing a specific set of movements. Go to yoga or tai chi classes, or follow along with exercises at home using books, CDs or DVDs.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. Work with a therapist to examine the relationships among your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The goal is to find ways to change how you think so you're better able to cope with stress.
  • Meditation. Take deep, slow breaths while focusing your attention on your breath or a fixed point in front of you. The goal is to eliminate the stream of distracting thoughts that may be causing you stress.
  • Biofeedback. Biofeedback is a technique you can use to learn to control your body's functions. Ask your doctor to teach you how to use biofeedback to help you slow your heart rate and reduce muscle tension. The goal is to learn how to enter a more relaxed state so that you can relieve stress.
  • Physical activity. Engage regularly in low-intensity physical activity such as walking. Exercise may help you reduce stress and depressive symptoms, improve your quality of life and coping skills, increase your overall strength, and help your digestive functions become more normal. Talk with your doctor about what might be the right exercise program for you.
  • Healthy food and sleep. Eat a well-balanced diet and get enough sleep. Doing both will help you stay healthy and may reduce the likelihood of becoming stressed.
Aug. 13, 2014 See more In-depth