For our inaugural Spotlight Series – a series highlighting various individuals with digestive health issues and their personal experiences – we’re sharing an interview with Ashley Freeborn. Ashley was born and raised in Vancouver, BC, and now resides in LA as the Founder & Managing Director of Smash + Tess, a stylish loungewear company – which we posted about on our Instagram page a few months ago. Ashley is a wife and mama; she’s passionate about celebrating women and loves to spend time with her best friends and mom; she loves Beyoncé, vintage motorcycles, camping and dirt-biking; she loves all things chocolate or candy related…and she just so happens to have Crohn’s disease.
The Gut Gazette (TGG): When were you diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease?
Ashley Freeborn (AF): In 2011 – I got super sick the night of my comprehensive exam for my Masters. Six months later and 40 lbs lighter, I was diagnosed.
TGG: How were you diagnosed?
AF: After losing weight drastically and getting sicker and sicker I finally had a colonoscopy and was originally diagnosed with Pan Colitis. Since then, the disease has spread and I’ve been re-diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.
TGG: Do you avoid any foods to help manage your symptoms?
AF: I try to stay away from spicy foods and fried foods… and alcohol sadly.
TGG: Are you currently on medication for your Crohn’s?
AF: Yes – but none is currently working. I went off Remicade after having my daughter as I was in remission and didn’t want to pass the medicine on to her through my breast milk. BIG MISTAKE. I developed antibodies and now am no longer able to use this medicine that worked so well for me. I’m now on Cimzia and a high dose of Prednisone to try to knock down the inflammationn- none of these medications are working sadly.
TGG: How do you cope day-to-day to reduce your Crohn’s symptoms?
AF: Medicine – it doesn’t work entirely but it does help reduce the symptoms. I try to eat for my flare – I steam my veggies and take in a lot of soluble fibre.
TGG: How often do you have flare-ups?
AF: I’ve only had two. One flare-up prior to my diagnosis and early on in my disease that went on for about a year and a half before I could be stabilized and put on proper medication. And now I’ve been in this flare for about six months.
TGG: How do you heal yourself during a flare-up?
AF: Sadly I haven’t found a way to really heal myself – but I find my disease is exacerbated by stress, so I try to stay chill, meditate and do yoga. This has been hard to find time since I had my daughter – but my goal is to get back on track soon!
TGG: What is your pro-tip for living with Crohn’s?
AF: Find great care, don’t settle for anything less and ADVOCATE for yourself. I do a lot of research and communicate my feelings and expectations regularly to my doctor.
TGG: What is one thing you never leave the house without?
AF: My cell phone! I know, not very original. Also my water bottle. I drink water like a crazy person. If I don’t, I get super dehydrated and need to get IV.
TGG: What has been the hardest challenge in living with Crohn’s?
AF: Lately I would say having a family. It was hard managing the disease before I was a mom, but now it’s even harder. I’m so thankful for my husband and family who help me with my baby girl when I get really run down.
TGG: What’s one of your go-to self-care tips for living with Crohn’s to help reduce your stress?
AF: I love my Belleruth Naparstek meditations at night – it helps me ground myself and sleep! Also – I love to laugh. When I get too stressed or down, a little dose of best friends and loads of laughter go a long way!
*A reminder that everyone’s experiences are their own. What might work for one person may not work for someone else. Everyone is on their own journey but it’s always comforting to learn about someone else who is living a similar one.