Recognizing the Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
Living with Crohn’s disease can bring a host of complications and everyday difficulties. A chronic illness that affects 780,000 Americans, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Crohn’s disease carries a lifetime of gastrointestinal woes. 
It’s important to understand and identify what the most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease are in order to help deal with this illness.
Common Crohn’s Disease Symptoms
When it comes to assessing Crohn’s disease symptoms, every individual experiences different symptoms. Crohn’s is a tricky disease because it changes over time. Symptoms can start out mild and worsen over time, or even begin as severe signs of illness and disappear. Crohn’s disease fluctuates, flaring up periodically, and going into a kind of remission at other times.
According to CrohnsAndColitis.com, the symptoms a Crohn’s disease sufferer experiences will vary depending on which part of his or her gastrointestinal tract is inflamed at the time.  The most common symptoms include:
- Frequent diarrhea
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Rectal bleeding
- Unexplained weight loss
- Reduced appetite
- Lack of energy
Some symptoms of Crohn’s disease are more concerning than others. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, your symptoms are considered severe:
- Abdominal pain
- Tenderness or sharp pain when touching the abdomen
- Continued weight loss
Armed with knowledge of these common and concerning symptoms, you can speak with your doctor if you think you may be suffering from Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s Disease Triggers
One of the reasons the symptoms of Crohn’s disease change and vary individual to individual is the disease itself is unpredictable. Beyond its symptoms, the disease can go into remission and seemingly disappear. The disease can disappear as quickly as it comes on or develop slowly and subtly over time. And doctors aren’t entirely certain what factors cause individuals to develop Crohn’s disease.
What doctors do know, though, is that Crohn’s disease and its symptoms are triggered by certain environmental and medical changes. Symptoms and flare ups can be brought on by different factors happening in your life. Some of the most well-known Crohn’s disease triggers are:
Experiencing stress — especially high levels of stress — can cause a Crohn’s disease flare. This is because stress increases the body’s blood flow to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, stimulating it, and creating inflammation that sets off a new host of symptoms.
What you eat certainly affects your body, but it can particularly affect your GI tract. Many foods contain different types and levels of bacteria, which can interact with the bacteria present in your GI tract. And this can aggravate the part of your body that already experiences inflammation due to Crohn’s disease. Typically, any food that has the potential to cause gas, diarrhea, or stomach distress is a bad idea — like carbonated drinks, fried foods, and beans.
Some of the most common over-the-counter medications are dangerous for Crohn’s disease sufferers looking to avoid flares. According to a Harvard Health Publishing Blog, common medications like aspirin and ibuprofen can be triggers because they’re harsh on the GI tract.  Even some prescribed antibiotics change the balance of bacteria in the intestine, triggering an onset of Crohn’s disease.
Weather and Seasonal Changes
As your environmental surroundings change over the course of the year, the weather and air quality can affect Crohn’s disease and its symptoms. Differences like humidity increases or decreases, an influx of pollen, or the onslaught of colds during different seasons can trigger your body to respond with a flare.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic illness, which means it’s difficult to find relief from your most persistent and frustrating symptoms. While this disease doesn’t yet have a cure, there are plenty of available treatment options and management choices that can help sufferers alleviate their Crohn’s symptoms and live a fuller life.
Common treatment options for Crohn’s disease include:
- Medication: Medications that suppress the immune system and prevent inflammation are often used to treat Crohn’s disease. These medications can heal GI tract tissue, help reduce the frequency of flare ups, and alleviate some symptoms altogether.
- Diet Changes: Because Crohn’s disease can be triggered by certain foods, adjusting your diet with a doctor, or nutritionist can alleviate some flares and reduce symptoms. Diet changes often include switching to softer, more bland foods, increasing protein intake, and adding extra vitamins.
- Combination Therapy: In addition to other treatment options like medication, combination therapy can be effective at sending Crohn’s into remission. This could include taking a biologic along with an immunomodulator or combining IBD treatment with tactics targeting specific Crohn’s symptoms.
- Surgery: Often the last option for Crohn’s disease sufferers, surgery is a treatment that helps those who have been treating their illness for a long time. As the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation explains, between two-third and three-fourths of Crohn’s sufferers turn to surgery in order to keep portions of the GI tract as healthy as possible and to eliminate serious problems like obstructions, fissures, and fistulas. 
It’s important to talk with your doctor or specialist about these and other treatment options. For some Crohn’s disease sufferers, a combination of different treatments and management plans can help to combat symptoms and the frustrating, painful side effects of the disease.
The first place to start, of course, is by recognizing and understanding which symptoms of Crohn’s disease you may be dealing with. Knowing these symptoms, as well as their severity, can help you get the right diagnosis and begin formulating a plan that keeps you as healthy as possible while living with a chronic illness.
- The Facts About Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America , 2014, The Facts About Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/assets/pdfs/updatedibdfactbook.pdf.
- “Crohn’s Symptoms.” Crohn’s and Colitis, AbbVie Inc., www.crohnsandcolitis.com/crohns/disease-symptoms.
- “Crohn’s Disease.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, Dec. 2014, www.health.harvard.edu/digestive-health/crohns-disease-overview.
- “Crohn’s Treatment Options.” Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/what-is-crohns-disease/crohns-treatment-options.html.