Fatigue and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Fatigue is commonly reported among people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and can greatly affect people’s quality of lives. Those with severe fatigue may find it difficult to carry out simple, everyday tasks.

What is fatigue and why do you get it with IBD?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness and is associated with many chronic conditions, including IBD. It is thought that around three quarters of people with IBD experience fatigue. It is not exactly clear as to why but there may be a number of things which contribute to it. These include:

  • Poor quality of sleep - this may be due to pain, night sweats or from your medication
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Exhaustion from fighting your IBD
  • Anaemia - it is common for people with IBD to have anaemia which can make you feel tired
  • Side effects of medications


What can you do to help with fatigue?

What you can do to help with your fatigue will greatly depend on the reasons why you are suffering from it (and for many people there isn’t an obvious reason). Some ways include:

  • Get tested for vitamin and mineral deficiencies (such as iron and B12) - deficiencies can can cause you to feel tired
  • Exercise - some people report that doing some exercise helps them to feel less fatigued. Gradually improving your fitness can help with increasing your energy stores which should help you to feel less tired
  • See if adaptations can be made for you at work, school or colleague to help you conserve energy
  • Try using some relaxation techniques such as yoga, massage or mindfulness. Relaxing properly can help your body to recover better
  • Plan your days - if you know you are going to have a busy day one day then try to make sure you have nothing to do the following day so you can rest
  • Ask for help - don’t be afraid to ask people around you to help you out with tasks around the house or looking after your children
  • Avoid using stimulants such as caffeine and sugar to get you through the day. Although they may give you a short energy boost the 'crash' when the energy runs out will be worse

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