This is the third part of our mini-series about the condition based on our patient booklet “Fast Facts for Patient and Their Supporters: Inflammatory Bowel Disease”.

What Can You Do to Help Yourself?

  • Don’t despair when told the condition cannot be cured. Doctors don’t cure most conditions, they control them.
  • Take responsibility for your IBD. Don’t deny the diagnosis – defy it!
  • You can’t do it all alone. Choose a doctor who is interested in your condition and who is committed to long-term follow-up. Resist “doctor hopping”.
  • Stay in touch. Your doctor needs to get to know you and needs to see you when you are in remission as well as in relapse.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking aggravates Crohn’s disease. Although stopping smoking can trigger a relapse of ulcerative colitis, the disadvantages of smoking outweigh any benefit from continuing to smoke.
  • Know your tablets, including the doses and how often you take them.
  • Don’t compare symptoms or treatments with others. No two patients are alike.
  • Know your immunization status/vaccination history. This is important because your doctor may want to treat your inflammation with drugs that suppress the immune system.
  • Be wary of what you read on the internet. Find reputable balanced sources of information.
  • Look after your general health.
  • Learn to accept uncertainty but know that it can be reduced by participating in the planning of your own care with your doctor’s team. Stick to the plan.

How to Stay Healthy

Healthy lifestyle advice given to the general public also applies to people with IBD.

Eat Well

Your diet may change at different stages of the disease and may depend on any complications that you have. Nutritional deficits are less common in ulcerative colitis than in Crohn’s disease. When disease is active, most patients will resort to fluids and a light diet that they can tolerate. This is acceptable in the short term (days) until you regain control.

IBD: What should I eat?

Sun Protection

Wear sunscreen every day on exposed areas of your body. Some drugs used to treat IBD (e.g. mercaptopurine/6MP [Purinethol]) make skin more sensitive to the sun.


Exercise is no less important in IBD than it is for the rest of the population. Your doctor can advise you on appropriate levels of exercise, but you should suspect that you are doing too much if it becomes like work, excessively competitive or unenjoyable.

IBD: Why should I exercise?

Don’t Smoke

IBD: Why should I stop smoking?

Tips to Help You Quit Smoking

  • Make a list of reasons to quit, then promise to quit, set a date and stick to it.
  • Think about what you eat and drink. Some foods make cigarettes taste horrible (e.g. fruit and vegetables), so eat more of those. Some drinks are more likely to make you reach for a cigarette (e.g. alcohol, tea, coffee), so avoid those.
  • Exercise more – even a short walk can help to reduce cravings.
  • Try to avoid situations where others are likely to be smoking.
  • Think positively – even if you have tried before, you are going to do it this time!
  • Get support from family and friends.


Please check out the other posts of our mini-series here:


Information based on Fast Facts for Patients and their Supporters: Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Karger, 2019).

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