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Chronic fatigue in Crohn's and ulcerative colitis

Updated: Jan 3

Chronic fatigue in Crohn's and ulcerative colitis

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are much more than just digestive concerns. They have a significant impact on many other systems of our body. One of the prevalent symptoms of these conditions is severe fatigue. Studies have shown, that chronic fatigue is more common in Crohn's patients (54%), compared to Ulcerative Colitis patients (33%). The fatigue may worsen as the disease becomes more aggressive. It affects both the body and the mind, and severely impairs the quality of life.

Dealing with a feeling of constant fatigue is undoubtedly a daily challenge for those who suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative Colitis. There are many reasons for the feeling of Chronic fatigue and lack of energy  in Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, aspecially during flare-ups. In order to address it in the right way, you need first of all to diagnose the true cause of the problem.

Possible causes of fatigue in Crohn's and ulcerative colitis

Lack of sleep

Lack of adequate, high-quality sleep at night is a leading cause of feeling tired and exhausted during the day. A strong link was found between sleep deprivation and worsening of the intestinal inflammation. Crohn's and Colitis play an all-out role impairing sleep quality. You are probably familiar with the frequent toilet visits during the night, abdominal cramps and discomfort and a difficulty to find a comfortable sleeping position.

Malnutrition and anemia

The inflammation that spreads throughout the inflamed intestine can cause a disruption of digestion and absorption of important nutrients. When there is a lack of major food groups like proteins and carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, the body stops functioning properly and getting into a state of malnutrition. It is quite common for Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis patients to be deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, like iron, folate, B12, B6, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, and more. These deficiencies increase fatigue and exhaustion throughout the day. Another possible cause for anemia, is loosing nutrients through diarrhea and intestinal bleeding. In this case, it is important firstly to treat these symptoms, and in due course, to fill the deficiencies.

Stress, anxiety and emotional tension

Chronic stress increases inflammatory levels, and encourage the secretion of various chemicals in the body which cause fatigue. Persistent stress reduces serotonin and dopamine levels, these are hormones which play an important role in regulating our energy levels, mood and motivation. Plus, it makes us make wrong dietary choices, like eating lots of carbs and processed foods, which are also responsible for increasing fatigue.

Side effects of medications

Steroids, painkillers, antibiotics, anti-depressants and immune-suppressing drugs were found to increase fatigue levels throughout the day and impair sleep quality.

How to deal with exhaustion in IBD?

First of all try to identify the cause of exhaustion. It is important to check and rule out active inflammatory, malnutrition and other health disorders. It is also important to investigate other factors in your life that may cause fatigue, such as stress levels, new symptoms or changes in medications.

If there is a lack of vitamins and minerals such as iron and b12, which is not uncommon for those with Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, it is important to take the right supplements.

Performing moderate exercise can help increase energy levels throughout the day. Even with half an hour a day of physical activity, you will feel the difference in your energy, mood and motivation.

Relaxation techniques such as yoga meditation and reflexology massage. Proper relaxation will help the body recover quicker and increase an energy flow to the body.

Time planning. Try to scatter your tasks, and not to assemble them all in one day. If you know you're having a busy day this week, consider removing less important tasks to the next day, or even taking a day off from work.

Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep affects your health and recovery rate. Try to go to bed and get up around the same time, and keep at least 7-8 hours of continuous sleep at night.

Increase your sun exposure throughout the day, if the weather allows it of course.

Try to have a few hours break between supper and sleep, to minimize digestive activity during night.

Avoid stimulants like caffeine and sweet energy drinks. They may give you a boost at first, but it will be followed by an energy crash later on.

Limit your screen time before bedtime. Try to avoid staring at your phone, laptop or tv, at least an hour before you go to sleep.

Don't be afraid to ask close people to help you with household chores or childcare. Your health is far more important than the ego.

Here are some of my favorite energy boosting supplements

Click on the name to open the link:

Complex B by Thorne- A really great synergetic formula of all the B vitamins, which are very important for the supporting the nervous system, reducing stress and improving brain function:

Green superfood powder by Amazing Grass- contains a nice selection of green foods, antioxidants and herbs, which were proven to promote wellbeing and elevate energy levels.

Maca Organic Traditions- Maca is a root vegetable, a powerful superfood, which promotes optimal health and known as the ultimate energy booster. Perfect to take before physical exercise, or just to get a boost of energy throughout the day. There are many sorts of Maca. I like this product in particular, because it contains the black Maca root, which is the most potent:

Remember, in order to to adjust the most optimal and accurate treatment for chronic fatigue, it is important to closely monitor the disease and find the root cause of the problem.

* The recommendations are not replacing medical advice. Each case should be treated on a case-by-case basis.

Interested in reading about the gut-brain connection? Click here!

Chronic Fatigue and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Chronic Fatigue


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