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IBD & Exercise

IBD & Exercise

IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) is a chronic illness affecting the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. There are two main types of IBD, each with their respective symptoms and specific areas of impact in the body. Ulcerative Colitis (UC), for example, is characterized by inflammation of the small intestine and colon, whereas Crohn’s Disease (CD) can inflame virtually any part of the digestive tract.

Both sub-types of IBD involve symptoms such as bloating, abnormal bowel movements, abdominal pain, cramping, and many more. Likewise, both are driven by an abnormal immune response causing inflammation, pain, and digestive symptoms, as well as symptoms beyond the intestines, such as fatigue or headaches.

The Benefits of Exercise with IBD 

Despite these obstacles, it’s important for IBD patients to maintain their physical fitness as much as possible. Regular movement and moderate exercise help reduce inflammation and improve gut bacteria diversity, strengthening the gut-brain connection and the immune system. 

A 2020 study discovered that exercise affects the gut microbiome (the bacteria that live in your gut) so that fewer inflammatory agents are released both during exercise and afterward. In addition, the gut-brain connection grows stronger with appropriate physical activity, increasing the amount and regulation of neurotransmitter elements that regulate how and when inflammation occurs. For the same reasons, exercise also improves mental health.

It is just as vital to balance exercise with rest when needed. Exercise that is too rigorous may exacerbate symptoms rather than reduce their impact. It’s best to evaluate your energy levels and adapt your workout accordingly, especially during symptom flare-ups. Maintaining a sustainable exercise routine will look different for different people. It will help to find a physical activity that suits your lifestyle and energy levels and can be maintained long-term to reap all the benefits. 

Exercising with UC or CD 

As an IBD patient, your symptoms may make it more difficult than usual to exercise. With bloating, cramps, abdominal pain, and abnormal bowel movements (not to mention the other derivative symptoms), it can be challenging to strike the right balance. 

The National Institute of Aging recommends four types of exercise to improve physical health: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. The trick for IBD patients is to find one or two types of exercise that meet these requirements and the recommended level of rigor.

Physicians and physical therapists recommend low-impact/moderate activity for both variants of IBD, which might look like a brisk walk, swimming, or yoga. This allows for a wide range of training capabilities without adding strain to the body. 

Moderate aerobic activity for a minimum of 30 minutes at least 3-5 times a week is shown to reduce inflammation specifically in the colon, as well as a number of other locations throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Since UC patients typically experience inflammation in the colon, this makes these types of exercise an especially beneficial choice. 

Strength training with light/moderate weights is recommended for patients with Crohn’s to strengthen their pelvic floor and core muscles, which aid in the digestive and excretory pathways. It is important to work these muscles, but not strain them to the point of pain; if the exercise hurts, it’s most likely a sign to take a break, slow down, or use a lighter weight.

Staying Active During Flares 

Trainers and athletes like to say “no pain, no gain”, but for most people (even those without IBD), this simply isn’t true. Especially for patients with IBD, it is important to listen to your body– if you are in too much pain, definitely don’t exercise through the pain. Specifically during a flare-up, it is better to allow your body to get the rest it needs to heal and resume exercising after the flare-up is over. When in doubt, consult your physician for guidance.  

Satefy Tips 

  • Discuss with a physician or a physical therapist to figure out which exercises fit your body’s needs and symptoms best.
  • Plan your exercise knowing where bathrooms are located, with plenty of hydration, and breaks as needed.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things! Whether it’s a new yoga class or a new route through a park, explore different options to see what kind of physical activity makes both you and your body happy. 
  • Make sure your nutrition plan reflects your exercise. You may need to eat more/differently depending on a new fitness plan; discuss with a dietician to receive guidance as to how best to proceed. 
Summer-Pitocchelli-Schwartzman
Summer Pitocchelli-Schwartzman

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Summer Pitocchelli-Schwartzman

DISCLAIMER

This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options. The claims made regarding specific products in this blog are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Summer-Pitocchelli-Schwartzman
Summer Pitocchelli-Schwartzman

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