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Managing IBD in Older Adults For a Better Quality of Life

September 28, 2018

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term for autoimmune conditions diagnosed as either Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, which both cause severe discomfort from chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  Most people with these conditions often feel embarrassment and a reluctance to talk about them, but if you or a loved one struggles with either of these conditions, there are some important things to know that can help retain or regain a better quality of life.

An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body. With IBD, This abnormal immune reaction causes the body’s good bacteria to “turn on” the gastrointestinal tract of the individual, which brings on severe symptoms, especially difficult for seniors.

David Forman, President of Visiting Angels a company that helps seniors and disabled adults remain independent in their own homes says the disease takes an emotional toll.

“IBD symptoms can make otherwise healthy people feel they need to remain in or close to home; and for those with mobility problems or other health issues, it often robs them of their dignity. Those with IBD are at risk for depression amd anxiety, and struggle with social isolation and negative self-image.” Forman said.

The Crohns Colitis Foundation offers the following self-help tips.

  • Diet: Certain foods may worsen symptoms. Your doctor or a dietitian may outline a diet that meets your specific needs. It is important to stick to this plan to ensure your nutritional and caloric needs are met and flares are kept to a minimum.

  • Hydration: Seniors are less able to withstand dehydration, which may occur with diarrhea. It is advisable to drink plenty of fluids, even with infrequent diarrhea, and even when not feeling thirsty.
  • Medication: One of the easiest ways to manage IBD is by regularly taking prescribed medication. Unfortunately, it’s just as easy to forget. Stick to a routine, set reminders, and utilize pill counters or calendar containers.
    Also, other medications may interact with, or worsen IBD symptoms. It is important to share with your doctor or pharmacist all of the medications you are taking, and alert your physician if you suspect a problem.
  • Journaling: Keep a daily journal for a period of time, recording meals and activities, along with specific details regarding each flare you experience. In time, patterns may help you and your doctor understand why they happen, and how to avoid them.

  •  Medical Knowledge and Records: It is important to maintain a complete and current file of medical records including copies of doctor’s notes and laboratory, endoscopy, pathology, and radiology reports. You should know what part of the GI tract is involved; all other diseases and illnesses; past and current medications, their interactions, and any side effects.

An innovative treatment that shows promise treating autoimmune diseases including IBD is Ozone Therapy, which studies show calms the body’s immune system.  The process, which has been used for more than 85 years, uses oxygen atoms to heal at the cellular level and breaks through membranes of viruses, yeasts, bacteria and abnormal tissue cells to destroy them naturally. Renewed Medical Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Millsboro, DE offers this treatment.

Another effective choice that has been very effective relieving symptoms are cannabinoids from CBD oil or marijuana.  Patients report successful relief from cramping and abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, poor appetite and weight loss. New studies show that cannabinoids from CBD oil or cannabis induce the same anti-inflammatory effect that those our body creates. They also send molecules to the “intestinal epithelium,” the single cell layer that forms the lining of both the small and large intestine (colon) of the gastrointestinal tract, helping to heal cellular damage and restore gut homeostasis.  CBD oil can be obtained legally online and through several retail stores throughout Delaware; Medical marijuana (Cannabis) requires a medical card from your physician.

Forman says having compassionate help for just a few hours a day, or even a few hours per week can increase a person’s quality of life in a multitude of ways.
Visiting Angels provides personal care, light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, errands, transportation and appointments, medication reminders, and joyful companionship 302-329-9475 or go to visitingangels.com/sussexde.

Some materials reprinted with permission from Caregiving101.com, a leading source of information and help for family caregivers and from crohnscolitisfoundation.org. Inclusion of material from either organization does not represent an endorsement of Visiting Angels. Information about therapeutic use of cannabis in IBD can be found here, and a scientific peer-reviewed journal article with detailed physiology may be found here .