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How to Manage the Undermanaged, Sneakiest Symptom of Crohn's Disease

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To the outside world, most of my symptoms are invisible. If I go about my day with a smile on my face and a perky, positive attitude, no one will think twice. That’s kind of how it goes. I’ve never been one to complain about how I’m feeling. No one wants to be a “Debbie Downer.” Plus, most of my symptoms aren’t things I want to talk about with others, especially co-workers and friends. I don’t want to have to quickly walk to the bathroom and have everyone in the room thinking, “Uh oh, I bet she has to poop!”

Unfortunately, my symptoms aren’t invisible to me. I deal, on a daily basis, with something my Crohn’s disease has caused — diarrhea, stomach pains, nausea and so on. There seems to always be at least one moment of every day when I’m reminded of my disease.

However, there is one symptom that doesn’t often cross my mind — fatigue. It’s not that I don’t experience fatigue. It’s actually one of my most debilitating and consistent symptoms, and it often hangs around even when I’m in remission. The thing with fatigue is that it isn’t like the other symptoms. It’s not really triggered by what I eat, it doesn’t involve lengthy trips to the bathroom and it doesn’t cause me pain or discomfort. It’s sneaky, and I often overlook it as a result of overworking myself or not getting enough sleep, which is why it is also my most undermanaged symptom. I typically just try to ignore it and push past it or try to solve the issue by catching up on my sleep on the weekends.

Which leads me to something I learned recently through my own research: fatigue isn’t cured or aided by getting enough sleep or rest. What?! You mean, if I’m tired, getting more sleep isn’t going to fix it? Ugh. What’s the reasoning behind this? Well, fatigue isn’t just tiredness, and it isn’t caused by lack of sleep. Fatigue can occur as a result of inflammation, medication side effects, anemia, quality of sleep, lack of protein absorption or many other factors.

If you don’t experience fatigue, you may be wondering what the big deal is… everyone is tired, right? Well, sure, everyone experiences tiredness, but have you ever experienced an intense, overwhelming and ongoing sense of exhaustion and weakness? Fatigue can, and has, significantly decreased my quality of life. It affects my ability to work efficiently, think logically and interact socially. Many people with chronic illnesses or mental illnesses experience fatigue on a daily basis. Fatigue is something I struggle with constantly. I’m still trying to figure out ways to combat it myself, but I’ve come up with a few things over time that I do to boost my energy and increase my quality of life.

Here are some things to consider for fighting chronic fatigue:

1. Regular exercise.

2. Try it outside! Get some natural vitamin D.

3. Iron supplements.

4. Drink plenty of water.

5. Increase quality of sleep.

6. Eat more than 2 hours before bed.

7. Limit screen time before bed.

8. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and snacks before bed.

9. Talk it out! Stressors can leave you feeling exhausted — make sure to talk with your loved ones regularly and maybe consider setting up regular therapy sessions.

10. Are you experiencing medication side effects? Speak to your doctor.

Fatigue might be sneaky, but don’t let it go unnoticed! More energy equals a better quality of life.

Photo by from Pexels

Originally published: February 23, 2019
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