Patients, and Providers, With IBD


As physician assistants in the Section of Gastroenterology at Rush, Jenna Ottenheimer and Emily Harmeier often diagnose patients wtih ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, the two forms of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD.

But their experience with these conditions isn’t just professional: Jenna has ulcerative colitis, and Emily has Crohn’s disease. Both are lifelong, chronic inflammatory disorders of the digestive tract that are treated with medications and often with surgery.

Recently, Jenna and Emily sat down to talk about their unique positions, and how their personal lives inform their work with patients.

Jenna: I’ve been a physician assistant at Rush for almost three years now. My decision to work in this field was strongly influenced by my own diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. After spending many years as an IBD patient, I felt that I could relate to my patients as a provider, and that’s why I decided to work in gastroenterology.

Emily: I had similar reasons for joining our practice as a PA nearly two years ago. While the majority of my patients don’t know that I have Crohn’s disease, I think I bring a unique perspective on topics that can oftentimes be both embarrassing and personal. Having been a patient myself for over a decade, I have learned to be the type of provider who I would want to take care of me.

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Managing Stress and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Exercise, relaxation and breathing exercises, yoga and meditation are common stress management techniques when dealing with inflammatory bowel disease.

Exercise, relaxation and breathing exercises, yoga and meditation are common stress management techniques.

By Sharon Jedel, PsyD

Here are 10 tips for managing stress and IBD from Sharon Jedel, a psychologist with the Section of Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Rush University Medical Center.

1. Identify and manage major stressors in your daily life. While stress does not cause inflammatory bowel disease, research has demonstrated that it may trigger flare-up. It is therefore important to recognize what causes significant stress in your life and take action to decrease these stressors.

2. Reach out to family and friends for ongoing social support. Do not isolate!

3. Educate yourself about your disease. The more you know about your IBD, the more you can advocate for yourself. Stay informed about new developments in treatment, including medications.

4. Find a doctor you trust. Not every doctor is for every patient. If your doctor is not meeting your needs, do not hesitate to seek a second opinion.

5. Connect with other IBD patients. As supportive as family and friends may be, they may not be able to relate to exactly what you are going through and what you are concerned about. It may be helpful to speak with other IBD patients, either in-person or online.

6. Adhere to medication. Make sure to take your medication exactly as prescribed. Do not make changes to your medication without consulting your doctor first. Continue reading