Veterans Managing IBD
Battling inflammatory bowel disease, inc. Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis
Many veterans fight a battle that lies within their own bodies. An estimated 66,000 veterans live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This information can help veterans managing IBD.
Whether your condition is diagnosed while in service or after discharge, you may have questions about the disease, need resources to navigate care options, and want to connect with others who understand what you’re experiencing.
Learning to be an advocate for your health can take time as you complete your transition process into the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) health care system. Being a proactive participant in your health care means arming yourself with more information about IBD and your options. These tips from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation can help.
Learn about IBD
No matter where you are in your disease journey, you may have questions about managing IBC, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Focus groups led by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation revealed many veterans living with IBD want to learn more about their diet and how to manage their disease symptoms.
Managing IBD means paying special attention to what you eat. Your diet needs to include enough calories and nutrients to keep you healthy and avoid malnourishment. Work with a health care team, seek help from a dietitian, make healthy food choices, and avoid foods that make symptoms worse.
Many veterans managing IBD take medications to manage symptoms and help prevent flares.
Living with a chronic illness like Crohn’s or colitis means seeing your doctor regularly. Continuous care helps ensure your needs are being addressed and you’re receiving the care you need.
Working with a primary care doctor and gastroenterologist (ideally an IBD specialist) allows you to focus on targeted IBD and preventive care such as immunizations, cancer screenings, and bone health monitoring.
Keep these tips in mind as you if you’re a veteran managing IBC.
- Seek help from a care coordinator or patient navigator.
- Follow recommendations from your health care team, including follow-up visits.
- Maintain a list of prescribed and over-the-counter medications.
- Sign up for the VA’s health app, Myhealthevet, to communicate with your health care team, access your records, request prescription refills, and access other helpful tools.
Mental health and emotional wellness
People with IBD are two to three times more likely to experience anxiety and depression than the general population, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. However, there are ways to help you cope:
- Practice relaxation techniques and meditation
- Seek help from a mental health professional who can assist you in improving skills to cope with fears, worry, and other emotions.
To find more resources, including perspectives from other veterans managing IBD, visit crohnscolitisfoundation.org/veterans, where you can also find a link to a support group for veterans with IBD on Facebook.