Growth and Nutrition with IBD
Are Your IBD Symptoms Just the Tip of the Iceberg?
See Your IBD Specialist Regularly
Doctors have many tools to help them spot inflammation that may be lingering in your GI tract. These include testing your blood and stools for proteins that hint at inflammation, as well as colonoscopies, CT scans, and MRIs to look for ulcers or other signs of damage in your GI tract. Together with your symptoms, these tests help give doctors a clearer picture of what is going on in your abdomen and recommend a treatment plan that fits your needs.
“As doctors, it’s important for us to understand how you are feeling. But we also want to be able to look at your GI tract to see what condition the tissue is in,” says Dr. Ahmed. “This helps us put the pieces together and determine the best course of action.” Ultimately, the goal of all therapy is for patients with IBD to be feeling their best and to ultimately heal the lining of the gut.
How often you should see your specialist will depend on how severe your condition is. Most people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis should see their gastroenterologist every three to six months. Dragging your feet about going to your next appointment? Keep in mind that these check-ins help your doctor to catch problems early on before they develop into complications that might land you in the hospital or put you at risk for surgery.
Find a Treatment Plan That Works for You
Treatment for IBD has really advanced over the years with newer therapies targeting the gut. New biologic therapies are particularly good at decreasing inflammation in people with moderate or severe IBD because they work by blocking specific parts of the immune system that cause inflammation. Armed with effective treatments, doctors are now trying not only to make you feel better, but to also eliminate other signs of inflammation.
People who have gone without IBD symptoms for a prolonged period and whose GI tissue shows signs of healing are said to be in “deep remission.” It’s not clear yet whether reaching deep remission should be the goal for everyone with IBD. There are trade-offs between therapies that work really well and the potential safety concerns that come with dampening the immune system. It’s important that you understand the pros and cons of your treatment options, and that you talk about your goals with your care team. Some of the benefits of treatment include: missing fewer days of work, sleeping better at night, enjoying certain foods, traveling without worry, and engaging in more social activities with friends and family. Your doctor will want these same things for you, but he or she may also have other goals, like lowering your GI inflammation.
Discussing your treatment goals and options with your care team can help you work together to arrive at a personalized care plan that will get you where you want to be. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, check out the IBD.care web app to explore your treatment goals, concerns, and preferences. Using the web app, you can create a personalized handout to take to your next appointment to help you share your thoughts with your healthcare provider.
Stick With Your Treatment, Even When You Are Feeling Fine
Remembering to take your medications when you are feeling sick is a lot easier than doing so when you are feeling healthy and staying busy. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic conditions. Missing doses of treatment can allow inflammation to rear its head again and send you running for the bathroom. Make your medications a part of your routine, set reminders, and stay motivated by thinking of the things you enjoy doing when you’re at your peak.
Inflammation can be tough to beat. But if you work together with your care team to find the right treatment plan for you, and then keep up with your medications and appointments, you'll have the best chance of feeling your best for years to come.
Video: When Your Student Has Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis
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