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Wellness Tips for People of Color Living With IBD

Wellness Tips for People of Color Living With IBD

This article is for people of color living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and their care partners, or anyone who wants to learn more about IBD. The goal of this activity is to help people of color living with IBD engage in shared decision-making with their doctors about their wellness and care.

You will learn about:

  • What IBD is and its symptoms

  • Seeing a doctor or specialist for IBD

  • Managing IBD

  • Ways to prevent IBD flare-ups

  • Diet and lifestyle tips

  • Questions to ask your doctor

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What Is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, includes 2 different chronic inflammatory (long-term swelling) conditions of the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract -- ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease.

IBD is thought to be an autoimmune condition where your immune system -- your body's natural defense system -- reacts to triggers in your environment incorrectly and causes inflammation. It's also thought there may be inherited causes since IBD can sometimes run in families.

Chronic inflammation from IBD can damage your body and may lead to complications (additional problems) that can be serious, and even life-threatening for some people.

Symptoms of IBD

IBD symptoms can range from mild to severe, and often happen as episodes where they get worse (flare-ups), then get better or go away (remission).

Some common symptoms that may happen with IBD can include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal (belly) pain, cramping

  • Blood in the stool, bleeding in the rectum

  • Fatigue (tiredness)

  • Loss of appetite, unintended weight loss

Not Sure if It's IBD?

If you have IBD symptoms, contact your doctor. Many people may first see their primary care doctor or go to a clinic. But you may also be referred to a doctor, called a gastroenterologist, who specializes in treating GI conditions.

Be persistent and don't be afraid to ask questions. Be open about your symptoms, even if it seems embarrassing or uncomfortable. Seeing a doctor or gastroenterologist as soon as possible can be important to rule out or confirm if it's IBD and help you get the right care. If it is IBD, early treatment can help lower the chances of complications and may improve your quality of life.

Dorian talks about his personal journey while living with IBD and advice for getting care.

Managing IBD

There's no cure for IBD, but there is treatment that can help manage it, including medicines, surgery, and lifestyle changes.

One of the best ways to help manage IBD is to take steps to try to prevent flare-ups that can be triggered by factors such as certain medicines or taking medicines incorrectly, infections, smoking, and stress. Sometimes, though, flare-ups can happen without any known or identified cause.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms, and be sure to track them in a diary so you can record any changes, flare-ups, and triggers.

Tips for Preventing Flare-Ups

  • Follow your IBD treatment plan. Take medicines as directed and don't stop or change them without talking to your doctor first

  • Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin

  • Take antibiotics only as directed. Taking antibiotics incorrectly may alter the healthy bacteria that normally live in your GI tract and result in inflammation

  • Prevent infections. Handling food properly and washing your hands often can help prevent GI infections that can cause inflammation

What You Eat Can Make a Difference

For people living with IBD, diet can be important. But no specific diet prevents or treats IBD, and no one diet is right for everyone. So talk to your doctor about your diet and ask if you should see a dietitian or nutritionist.

Diet doesn't cause IBD, but certain foods and drinks may aggravate IBD symptoms, so it can be helpful to track what you eat in a diary. If something makes your symptoms worse, try removing it from your diet.

Proper nutrition affects not just IBD symptoms, but can also help healing and is important for your overall health. IBD can make your body low on essential fluids, nutrients, and electrolytes, so following a well-balanced diet is key.

Dietary Tips

Talk to you doctor or dietitian before making any dietary changes, but some general guidelines that may help manage IBD include:

  • Eat smaller meals. Try 5 or 6 small meals a day, instead of 2 or 3 big ones

  • Cut back on dairy. Limit how much dairy you eat or drink, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, or ice cream

  • Drink lots of liquids. Drink plenty of fluids -- such as water -- and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks

  • Ask about vitamins. Ask your doctor if a multivitamin or mineral supplements may help

Tips for Keeping a Healthy Lifestyle

Having a healthy lifestyle can also help manage your IBD and protect your quality of life.

Ways to do this include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight and stay active

  • Get enough sleep

  • Quit smoking

  • Develop coping strategies to reduce stress

  • Keep all medical appointments and get recommended tests, screenings, and vaccinations

  • Tell your doctor about all medicines you take -- including those you get without a prescription -- and herbals and supplements  

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Questions you can ask your doctor about staying healthy while living with IBD can include:

  • Are there any diet or lifestyle changes I should make?

  • What treatments are available?

  • How will I know if treatment is working?

  • Are there other doctors or specialists I should see?

  • How can I have the best quality of life possible?

  • Is there a support group I can join?

  • What should I do if I start to feel stressed or depressed?

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You have successfully completed the program: Wellness Tips for People of Color Living With IBD

View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful:

Patient Handout

Transcript Download: Spanish

American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) GI Patient Center

What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

Crohn Disease

Ulcerative Colitis (UC)

IBD Resources for Patients

Color of Crohn's & Chronic Illness Community

Authors and Disclosures

Clinician Reviewer

Karen Badal, MD, MPH

Senior Medical Education Director, Medscape, LLC.
Disclosure: Karen Badal, MD, MPH, has disclosed the following relevant financial relationships:
Owns stock, stock options or bonds from: Kallyope, Inc.


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Associate Director, Content Development, Medscape, LLC.
Disclosure: Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


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