How To Prevent Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease may not be entirely preventable, but lifestyle changes can help you reduce symptoms and the frequency of flare-ups.

person making a healthy food bowl of fruits


Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the digestive tract—which is the passageway from your mouth to your anus and includes organs such as your stomach and intestines. The condition produces several painful symptoms including stomach pain, cramping, diarrhea, and in some cases, unintentional weight loss.

Crohn's disease is a chronic (long-lasting) condition that can disrupt your daily life. However, you might experience periods where symptoms worsen (known as "flares" or "flare-ups") and periods where symptoms disappear before eventually coming back (known as "remission").

It’s not yet clear what causes Crohn’s disease. Researchers suspect the condition occurs as a result of a dysfunction in the immune system, causing your immune system to attack healthy cells in your digestive tract by mistake. However, genetics and lifestyle factors may also trigger symptoms.

While you may not be able to prevent Crohn's disease, there are steps you can take to reduce your symptoms and the frequency of your flares.

Who Is Most at Risk?

Immune system function, genetic factors, and lifestyle habits can all increase your risk of developing Crohn's disease. You may be at an increased risk of developing the condition if you:

  • Have a family history of the condition: 15% of people with Crohn's disease also have a parent or sibling with the condition.
  • Are in your 20s: While Crohn's disease can occur in anyone regardless of age, people between the ages of 20 and 29 may be more likely to experience symptoms.
  • Use tobacco or smoke cigarettes: Because Crohn's disease is an inflammatory condition, smoking cigarettes can worsen inflammation and trigger symptoms.
  • Take certain medications: Some research suggests that antibiotics, birth control pills, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin or ibuprofen) can increase risk.
  • Follow a high-fat diet: High-fat foods can worsen inflammation and boost your chances of developing an inflammatory condition, such as Crohn's disease.

How To Reduce Risk

You're not always in control of some of the factors that increase your risk of developing Crohn's disease—namely your age and family history. However, you are in control of your lifestyle habits. If you participate in activities that may increase your risk of the condition, it may be a good time to make healthy lifestyle changes that can decrease symptoms and your frequency of experiencing flares.

Here are some things that you may want to try to prevent flares and reduce symptoms:

  • Quit smoking: If you smoke cigarettes, one of the best things you can do for your health is to quit. Kicking the habit can be difficult, but there are programs out there to help you succeed. Your health will benefit regardless of how long you've been smoking or how old you are when you stop. If you're finding it hard to reduce your tobacco intake, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you find treatment options such as nicotine replacement therapy, mental health support, or other alternatives, based on your needs and goals.
  • Eat anti-inflammatory foods: You may find it helpful to make nutritional changes, especially if you eat a diet that is high in fat. Some studies suggest that eating a Mediterranean diet, which focuses on whole grains, beans, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables, can improve symptoms. Regardless of the foods or diet you choose, it may be a good idea to reduce your intake of highly processed foods and foods that are high in salt or sugar.
  • Follow your treatment plan: Your provider can help you figure out treatment options that are best for your lifestyle. If your provider prescribes you medication, it's important to take your medicine as prescribed and on time. This can greatly help you reduce symptoms as you incorporate lifestyle changes.

Discuss With Your Healthcare Provider

If you think you have symptoms of Crohn's disease or notice new stomach pain or long-lasting changes in your bowel movements, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. A medical evaluation will be able to determine what is and isn't causing your symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is no one test that can diagnose Crohn's disease. Instead, your provider can make an accurate diagnosis based on several things including your current medical history, your family history, and the results of any exams and diagnostic tests your provider orders.

People with Crohn's disease are at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than the general population. That's why it's so important to get a diagnosis and start treatment if you do have the condition.

If you receive a diagnosis for Crohn's disease, it's a good idea to also ask your provider how to prevent flares from happening. They can provide you with individualized tips that match your treatment goals or refer you to other specialists (e.g., a nutritionist) for extra support.

A Quick Review

Crohn's disease causes inflammation of the digestive tract along with some very unpleasant and painful symptoms. While the condition cannot be prevented, you can reduce your symptoms and frequency of flares by following your treatment plan and making lifestyle changes.

You might be at a higher risk for developing Crohn's disease if you are in your 20s and have a family history of the condition. Smoking cigarettes and eating a diet high in fat also boost the likelihood of experiencing symptoms. While you can't change your age or family history, you do have control over your smoking and eating habits. Quitting tobacco and eating anti-inflammatory foods can greatly improve symptoms.

If you think you have symptoms of Crohn's disease or any other issue with your gut, talk to a healthcare provider. Healthcare providers can help you figure out what's causing your symptoms and provide treatment accordingly.

Was this page helpful?
10 Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ranasinghe IR, Hsu R. Crohn disease. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

  2. MedlinePlus. Crohn’s disease.

  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & causes of Crohn’s disease.

  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Definition & facts for Crohn’s disease.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to quit.

  6. American Heart Association. What is the Mediterranean diet?

  7. Reddavide R, Rotolo O, Caruso MG, et al. The role of diet in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases. Acta Biomed. 2018;89(9-S):60-75. doi:10.23750/abm.v89i9-S.7952

  8. American College of Gastroenterology. Inflammatory bowel disease.

  9. Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. How is IBD diagnosed?

  10. Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. The risk of colorectal cancer in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis patients.

Related Articles