How the hell is it Thanksgiving week already? The doors to the Christmas season will soon be thrown wide open, though they’ve been cracked since Halloween, the candy and costumes on clearance the last week of October, while Christmas trees and garland fight for space on the shelves. I’m getting off track here, I suppose.
Remember the joy of making out a Christmas list when you were a child? How fun it was to think about what gifts you wanted, the anticipation of what would be under the tree? I’m the first one to admit that that is completely NOT what the season is about, but the reason I’m mentioning it is that, as someone with IBD or a related condition, there are some really useful items you can put on your list this season just in case friends, family or good old Saint Nick happen to ask. Many have been extremely helpful to me, particularly during the course of a flare. A few items to think about this season:
Vitamix – to call this thing a blender is really doing it a disservice. What can’t it do? It will blend anything in a matter of seconds, can be used to puree fruits and veggies into more easily digestible forms (soups, smoothies, etc) and can pulverize a wheel of parmigiano reggiano into a fine dust in a matter of seconds. It’s amazing, and it will last you forever. In my family, graduates of high school were given not laptops or collegiate prep items, but a Vitamix; I would love to tell you that my family chose to do this for health and wellness reasons, but really it was because it makes the most kick-ass margarita of your life. That being said, I tend to use mine for more practical things (sorry, Mom), such as soups, smoothies, my banana “ice cream”, and all kinds of other goodies.
It’s not cheap, I will say that up front, but you can even get decent refurbished ones on auction sites, and the thing is built like a German car. I’ve had my same base unit since age eighteen, and it works as good as the day I got it. Depending on the model you choose and whether its new or refurbished, expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $500 or so.
It makes it so much easier to maintain a balanced diet, since certain fruits and vegetables can be murder on some of our systems. Still all these years after my surgeries, I have a very difficult time with things like raw carrots, spinach, peels and seeds, and try to avoid them in whole form if I can. It’s super easy to throw in a few handfuls of raw spinach into a smoothie (don’t knock it until you try it), and using tricks like this is a great way to enhance the basic nutritional content of bottled dietary aides like Ensure.
This is one item that will remain on your countertop all the time, and will come in handy on almost a daily basis, whether you’re healthy as a horse or in the midst of an awful flare.
Juicer – This pairs nicely with the Vitamix mentioned above, though you can get a decent juicer for under $100. How much you want to invest will depend on how often you’ll be using it. For those who are really struggling nutritionally and will make it a daily habit, there are higher end centrifugal models that will extract more juice and nutrients than the basic units; these can run upwards of $250. Juicing is a great way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, particularly those with tough skins or seeds that don’t digest well. The possibilities are endless, and there are a million recipes out there; I tend to add juices to some of the smoothies I make for additional nutritional impact and flavor. Having one of these can really make “eating” a bit more palatable during those times when the only things you are ingesting can be sucked through a straw. I mean, Ensure is fine and well for a day or two, but after that I want something that doesn’t remind me of that god-awful barium drink you need to ingest before a small bowel series. I’ll put a link for one or two models on the Resources page for more info.
Massage gift certificate – there are quite a few alternative therapies out there for you to try if you happen to be interested; massage therapy is something that has been tremendously helpful to me over the years, most recently to help with the pain from adhesions and the general wear and tear on my lemon of a body. There are various massage techniques offered, everything from the more relaxing Swedish and shiatsu massages to the more intense (and not always pleasant) deep tissue therapy, which is what I use. Deep tissue work can be intense and is painful at times, but I find that the after effects are always worth it for me. My range of motion is better, my low back pain relieved and my joints more mobile after my bimonthly sessions.
While you may find luck with a chain and a membership program (such as Massage Envy), it can take some time to find the right practitioner for you, given your needs and preferences. For bodies with unique needs, I have found that the massage therapy offered through some Chiropractic offices to be much better than traditional spas. Many of these masseuses work in tandem with the Chiropractor to ensure functional motility of the body, and in my opinion, tend to have a higher skill level in dealing with chronic pain and disease related effects. Regardless of what you choose, a couple of massage sessions can do wonders for joint pain, relaxation and the release of toxins.
Salves/Soaks – these items are all already listed on my Resources page, and if you want some stocking stuffers, they are great to add on to your list. Many people are familiar with salves like Biofreeze for joint and muscle pain (which I deal with daily); my own preference is a company called Little Moon Essentials, based out of Colorado. Their Dream Cream is the best for muscle and joint pain, and paired with one of their bath soaks (I like the Ironman Bath Salts, given my issues with anemia as well), they are a great way to soothe aches, pains and a crampy gut. Another product of theirs that I have found helpful is their Crampy Belly Rub; while designed to combat PMS related symptoms, I use it when I have bad Crohn’s-related pain and seen results from that as well. And fear not, gentlemen – though it was originally designed for PMS, you will not experience the spontaneous growth of female parts should you choose to try it.
Heating pad – now, you could just go pick up any old heating pad from your local drugstore, and that will certainly suffice, but they do offer tricked-out infrared models now; while a bit on the pricier side, I can personally vouch for the effectiveness and the durability of the Therasage infrared heating pads. They range anywhere from around $100 to $400, depending on the size, but the type and quality of heat therapy they offer can’t be beat. Mine was actually a gift from my mother about three years ago and is large enough to cover my back from my neck to my pelvis. After almost daily use, it is still working like a champ, and it would be one of the things I would save from my home in the event of a fire (after my husband and my dogs, of course). It is a bit on the heavier side, so if you’re looking for one to travel with, I would definitely pick a smaller one, but it is well worth the money you (or someone else) will spend on it.
Hopefully this gives you a few ideas for practical gifts this holiday season; I will put links to the products on the Resources page if they aren’t already there. Each of these products can make life with IBD a bit more comfortable, and that’s really what this website is all about.
On that note, I wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!!!!!!