Fatigue is a very common symptom of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and is often described as one of the most difficult symptoms to live with, after pain and diarrhoea, by people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.1
Fatigue is an extreme form of tiredness that doesn’t go away with the usual amount of rest or sleep.2 It can affect each person differently, but typically fatigue can feel like never-ending tiredness.
Fatigue can impact your physical and emotional wellbeing and quality of life,3 and is the most common reason for people living with inflammatory bowel disease to be absent from work.4 Even people in remission report feeling fatigued.4
However, there are some things you can do to manage your fatigue and reduce its severity. Learn more below.
Fatigue may also be a symptom of other diseases that people with IBD are more likely to develop, such as other autoimmune disorders.6
Try not to just dismiss the exhaustion you are feeling: you are not lazy for struggling with fatigue. Because fatigue can be caused by any number of things, there are many practical options that you and your healthcare team can explore to help you take control of it.2
Fatigue can be hard to explain to other people, even those who are very willing to listen. To most people, feeling very tired is associated with a long week at work or being out socialising, which is a world apart from what you are experiencing. You can find some support on communicating about your condition and answering questions from your loved ones in Talking about your IBD.
Just finding the words to communicate how you are feeling can be very difficult but talking to your healthcare team about your fatigue is very important.
You can use the Fatigue scale below to pin-point how you are feeling and use this as a support when talking with your doctor.7
Look after your diet and hydration: Although there is no single diet plan proven to help fatigue, a varied and balanced diet can help. Learn more about the importance of nutrition in IBD.
Dehydration is another common culprit, especially during a flare-up. Learn more about how to manage dehydration.
Look after your physical health: Activities that promote increased muscle mass and bone health can be beneficial for people living with IBD.6 Learn more about the benefits of exercise.
Look after your mental health: Some people find cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and stress management helps them with their fatigue, and this may be offered to you by your doctor.
*IBDrelief patient survey data from 167 respondents with IBD in the UK. 74% of respondents reported daily fatigue. 56% of respondents reported a severity of fatigue score of 8 or more on an 11-point scale, where 0 = not severe and 10 = very severe.3
CBT = cognitive behavioural therapy, CD = Crohn’s disease, IBD = inflammatory bowel disease, UC = ulcerative colitis.