“It’s such an unfortunate paradox for our [Crohn’s] patients,” Dr. May says. “Because they’ve been hearing all the time that fiber is good, but when they’re having a flare, fiber can actually make the symptoms worse.” When I’m in a flare, I’ve found that I best tolerate fiber when it’s blended or juiced — enter: the Nutribullet. It’s one of the best blenders I’ve ever had when it comes to speed and quality, and I love that I don’t have to use extra spoons cleaning out both a blender and my cup because they’re one and the same. On bad pain days I pretty much live on smoothies, so being able to buy several of Nutribullet’s cups and lids to switch in and out of the rotation is a real energy-saver.
Dr. May stresses, though, that each Crohn’s patients’ tolerance for fiber will be different based on their individual case —s o if smoothies feel like too much fiber for you, that’s okay, too. “We have to balance the benefits of fiber with the fact that it can make the loose stools, the abdominal discomfort, and the bloating worse,” she says.
Supergoop PLAY Everyday Lotion, SPF 50
One of the trickier side effects of the medications I’m on is photosensitivity — I’m at a higher risk than my peers of getting sunburn and developing skin cancer. Nurse Fowler echoes my concern: “A good sunblock for the face because of skin sensitivity is a must.” While wearing SPF is important for everyone, it’s especially vital that I wear sunscreen when I’m outside, even if it seems overcast, and even if I’m not planning to spend a ton of time in direct sunlight. But I also have sensitive skin, which means I can’t use any old product, especially when it comes to my face. My sister introduced me to Supergoop a few years ago, and I’ve been using their SPF 50 ever since. It goes on so smooth it barely feels like a sunscreen, and it qualifies under my Health Savings Account through work, so I’m able to buy it tax-free.
Briogeo Blossom and Bloom Ginseng + Biotin Hair Volumizing Spray
Right now, my Crohn’s symptoms are well-controlled with my biologic infusion, Entyvio. But when symptoms flare up, doctors often prescribe steroids like prednisone. Prednisone has worked wonders in stabilizing my inflammation markers, but that relief comes at a steep cost in the form of side effects like insomnia, hair loss, psychosis, bone loss, and more. I spent a year on high-dose prednisone and often found myself losing clumps of hair in the shower. Marisa Garshick, MD, a New York dermatologist, explains why: “Any new stressor on the body, such as a flare up of a chronic condition such as Crohn’s disease or new medication, can contribute to hair loss in a process known as telogen effluvium.” The good news, though, is that this type of hair loss is temporary—and while there’s limited evidence that any over-the-counter products will actually regrow your hair, Dr. Garshick recommends this Briogeo Volumizing Spray for strengthening the overall look of your hair as regrowth occurs naturally.
Not Pot Vegan CBD Sleep Gummies
When I’m flaring, I often have to nap during the day to make up for restless nights — something the chronic illness community often refers to as “painsomnia.” I’m skeptical of CBD, but whether it’s the melatonin or the placebo effect of eating one of these gummies every night before bed, I feel that these really do calm me down and help me get more restful sleep. Each gummy contains 3 mg of melatonin and 20 mg of CBD, and they’re an actually yummy blueberry flavor that makes it feel more like nightly candy than a sleep supplement. If all of that isn’t enough to help you sleep soundly, a portion of your purchase helps fund the Not Pot Bail Fund, the company’s contribution to resistance in the face of America’s incarceration system for drug offenses.
Port and Polish Pill Box
At the height of my worst Crohn’s flare in 2016, I was taking upwards of 24 pills each day. Between steroids, vitamin supplements, immunosuppressants, and what I call my “regular meds” like birth control and asthma medication, it could be really difficult to keep up — and remember if I’ve taken everything on time. “This is simple, but I love a good and discreet pill organizer,” Nurse Fowler says. Port and Polish makes a version that doubles as a compact with a mirror, and it comes in aesthetically pleasing color palettes like pink, light purple, and mint. With so many medical accessories only available in sterile hospital grays, it’s welcome to have a pop of color when I have to take my pills in the morning — and it draws no attention if I have to grab it out of my purse at a restaurant.
Warmies Microwavable Stuffed Animals
Crohn’s flares can last anywhere from a few days to many months. My worst flare, in 2016, lasted almost a full year. It can be hard to stay cheery when you’re stuck at home in pain—which is why Stankowski recommends the extremely cute and huggable Warmies stuffed animals as a supplement to traditional heating pads. You simply pop them in the microwave for a warm, lavender-scented pain-relief experience that you can take with you anywhere, since there’s no cord like an electric heating pad (making them particularly helpful on car rides). They come in a wide variety of animal friend shapes and sizes, but my personal favorite is definitely the red panda.
Insight Timer App
Because it can be hard to keep your spirits up during a Crohn’s flare, my therapist recommended the Insight Timer App. A meditation app, Insight Timer offers thousands of different meditations to meet every different need and mood, and most of them are free. I never thought I was a meditation person, but it’s because the apps I had been using before were too prescriptive. I love that on Insight Timer I can just type in “sleep” or “under 10 minutes” and get tons of options rated by the community. I have dozens of favorite meditations and teachers bookmarked that I can return to when I am feeling lonely or frustrated during flares, which has been a huge supplemental help to regular therapy and anti-depressants.