The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing with IBD in College

Coping with inflammatory bowel disease as a college student can feel extremely overwhelming at times, but with the right management you can still go on and have a fruitful, fun-filled college experience. National Youth Leadership Council member and college junior at the University of Connecticut Abby Searfoss shares her experience as an active college student dealing with Crohn’s and a few tips she has learned over the years on handling IBD while away at school.

Watching what you eat  

“If you have specific dietary restrictions, meet with dining services to discuss them. Check the menus ahead of time so that you can choose food that you will enjoy and not have to worry about it causing symptoms,” says Abby, who was diagnosed in her senior year in high school. “Also, keep some foods in your dorm room that you know you can eat if you aren't feeling well or can't find much to eat in the dining hall.

Getting involved  

“Know your body. If you are not feeling well, whether it be having a flare or just feeling worn out, pay attention to that and know when to take it easy. The hardest part for me at first was deciding when to stay home and lay low when my friends were doing other things, but don't allow the fear of getting sick limit your involvement at school.”

Get familiar 

"Enroll with and get to know the people at your Center for Students with Disabilities, health services, as well as your professors and advisors. Really get to know the wonderful people at your health services. Find a nurse or doctor who you really feel comfortable with and establish a relationship so that you have a go-to person if you need anything. Professors and faculty will be very understanding, especially if you let them know about your IBD at the beginning of the semester so that it is not a surprise if something happens.”

Making new friends 

“My advice would be to wait until you have become comfortable and gotten to know each other before bringing up your IBD. You don't want a roommate or new friend to think that IBD is the only thing that defines you, so let them see and hear about the other aspects of your life first. Handling flares and finals “My first bad flare was during my first college finals week. The key to handling this is to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Make sure you are allowing yourself to get an adequate amount of sleep, no matter how late you stay up to study. Don't give into the junk food finals craze, especially if you know that those foods will upset your IBD. Scope out the buildings that you have classes in and figure out where the bathrooms are located. If you are having a flare, try to get in touch with your professor before class either by email or meeting in person, to let them know what is going on if you are not participating, getting up often to use the bathroom, or not able to make it to class.”

Visit CCFA's Campus Connection website and connect with other college students dealing with IBD!


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