Last night I posted a spontaneous story sharing how I was feeling as I go through a bad patch with my Crohns Disease. What started as a raw moment of honesty ended up with me somehow ended up going off on a tangent, stating the fact I still take medication for my Crohns Disease and I am not ashamed to say so. The replies and outpouring of people thanking me for being so honest was incredible. A couple of people told me they had fought against taking medication themselves, because it seems like a ‘goal’ to be med free and this got me thinking. What world do we live in that there is a whole tribe of people boycotting medical intervention? And not only that, there are people on social media who are willing to tell us we are wrong to take medicines, based on absolutely no scientific evidence? In fact, in response to the story I posted I received a message telling me I should try another natural remedy and if I did, I wouldn’t need medication. That literally sums up the entirety of the problem we are facing. It really has me scratching my head and feeling desperately sad and worried about the way the ‘wellness’ word is shaping how we feel about meds…

It seems bizarre to me that I even have to state that it’s okay to take medication when you have a chronic illness and when I said it on my Instagram story; I really wasn’t expecting such a reaction. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is an autoimmune, which literally means your body is attacking itself. It is completely irresponsible to think that no medical intervention for such a venomous disease is needed. This has really made me quite concerned that anyone reading or finding my story online might be lead to believe that I have ‘cured’ my Crohns through diet alone, because this is absolutely factually incorrect. I won’t recap my life story, but please do read my whole Crohns story here.
So here are the facts. I have been on medication pretty consistently and in some form since I was four years old, even since I have done my liquid diet and since I had my ileostomy reversed. I take humira injections every fortnight and I have just finished a course of mesalasine suppositories for constant bleeding (these are unpleasant, think of pills that go up instead of down!) I take Ondansetron on days when I feel so nauseous I might pass out, a drug which is used for cancer patients and I have done all of these things since I went totally gluten and dairy free, and since I upheaved my lifestyle.

Bryony Hopkins

No amount of dairy or gluten free would have meant I didn’t need the surgery I have needed.

So what is it about wellness and health on social media that has led us to feel like we should be ashamed of taking medication? And why have even I, at points, felt like a failure because I still have to take medication alongside my dietary and lifestyle changes, otherwise my intestine literally might disintegrate? This is such a hard question to answer but I think its two main reasons.

  1. We know of several hugely successful health bloggers and Instagrammers who have made their fortune based on ‘curing’ their chronic illness through diet. Whilst they may not have directly said they don’t take meds, it has lurched us towards this ideology that it is possible for us all to achieve this goal, whilst we forget that every single one of us is completely different and unique.
  2. We want a message that is clear and simple. I.e. – ‘you can put your IBD into remission if you’re gluten free’ or ‘if you’re vegan you won’t suffer from your psoriasis’. These claims are wildly dangerous and not evidence based BUT they are clear, and so they gain attraction. It’s the same as a punchy news headline. The message ‘I am gluten and dairy free but I also take injections, and suppositories and anti-sickness tablets and to honest sometimes I still don’t feel great’, is a less eye-catching strapline.

So where does this leave us? It leaves us angry, defensive and confused. I should say at this point that I honestly believe I have radically changed my quality of life due to making some diet changes, but has my Crohns gone? Of course not. Am I still on medication? Yes. And what happens if I stop my medication? Well, things fall apart pretty quickly. I believe diet is an absolutely integral part of dealing with a disease which manifests in the gut, but I feel angry and upset that social media has led us to a point where we feel like we can boycott medical intervention because someone slid into our DMs to tell us better.

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I have tried every treatment, up heaved my lifestyle and still rely on meds. That’s just IBD!

So if you’re reading this and follow me, I really hope you know and appreciate that I enforce all dietary and lifestyle changes alongside medical advice recommended by your doctor. Sometimes of course, we make our own decisions regarding medication/surgery/treatment – but this isn’t me saying to ignore the advice of medical professionals. And if you take medication to stay on track of your life, then own it! The clear message here is that every single one of us is completely individual and unique. What works for one person, might not work for another, especially with a disease as complicated as IBD, and so we should remember that when we are flicking through social media.  Anyone can say anything these days – so make sure you are getting your information from a reliable source.
Do I hope one day I might not need medication to keep me well? Of course. But I just want to live a full and healthy life – and at the moment, my meds help me do that (most of the time!)
As one of my wise followers DM’ed me ‘If diet was the answer to cure IBD, we would all be well!’
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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We saw in the New Year at Sky Gardens – a day I felt good and it was bloody brilliant.

I’m not sure if it’s too late to say Happy New Year, but seeing as this is my first post of 2018, I feel it’s appropriate to say!
My new year started with a bit of a bump, as all of you who follow me may know I have Crohns Disease, which I write about quite regularly. This little hiccup has really reaffirmed to me that all I ever really want each year is good health. Health to be happy, good health to live my life and good health to enjoy every day to the fullest.
I’m sure many of you fellow Crohnies will relate to knowing that you’re really operating at 50% and so, I have compiled a list of 10 things it’s okay to feel when you’re going through a bad patch with your chronic illness.

  1. It’s okay to stop and admit you feel like s**t
  2. It’s okay to lean on your friends and family
  3. It’s okay not to be strong all the time
  4. It’s okay to cry
  5. It’s okay to be angry
  6. It’s okay to want to talk about it, over and over again
  7. It’s okay to look after yourself and be antisocial
  8. It’s okay to research and understand every single treatment and medication possibility
  9. It’s okay to jump to the worst conclusion and mentally prepare
  10. It’s okay to be frustrated when people don’t understand

 These are some mantras I’ve had to keep reinforcing for myself recently, particularly as my body is fighting so hard; I am sometimes too exhausted to be rational (cue literally tears about everything, putting slippers on wrong way, jumper back to front.. you get the jist!) Although, I think the above could apply to many life situations and I think it’s important to remind each other that we don’t have to have a brave face, everyday.

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31st December 2017. Always sparkles. Always optimistic.

So although 2018 hasn’t started as I wished (sick days, hospital appointments and spending too much time resting), every bump on the road reminds me what to be grateful for and helps me remain positive that the blip will pass – and the year will continue with ease. These mantras help me hold onto the good days – and try to forget the bad days.
It really is true, that the greatest wealth in life is health.
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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So I was recently approached by Schwartz to review their ingredient ChatBot. The idea is you type in your ingredients and it generates recipes for you based on what you have in the fridge. I work a lot and sometimes am too exhausted to think about what I want for dinner and was up for giving it a go. At least I’ll learn some new recipes right?
I have to say; I was quite sceptical at first. I have previously used ingredient search websites and they have often given me extremely complicated recipes containing a number of ingredients I don’t have in the cupboard. However, I went into the trial with an open mind and as soon as I typed my first ingredients into the ChatBot on Facebook, I quickly had more faith in the tool; the responses were extremely quick. Here’s my week cooking with the ChatBot…
Monday: So the ingredients I typed in for my first evening cooking with the Schwartz ChatBot were salmon, broccoli, pepper and courgette. I entered the paprika for the spice and it generated over 400 recipes for me! The function to flick through them within Facebook was really effective and I selected the third recipe in the list – salmon skewers with spicy tomato sauce. The ChatBot offered the option to send it to my email, which worked really well and meant I could bookmark the recipe in my emails for later in the evening when I was ready to cook. Recipe I used is here.
The first thing that struck me was that there were obviously other ingredients needed in the recipe aside from those entered. Luckily on the way back from work I went via the supermarket, so could scoop up the extra bits I needed. The recipe was extremely simple and easy to prepare – but did also rely on you having a food processor to make the sauce, which could be problematic. This particular recipe also skipped a fairly important step regarding how you actually cook the skewers (bake/fry/BBQ). As someone who regularly cooks, I made the call to pop them in the oven for 16 minutes and they came out beautifully succulent and tasty. However, if you didn’t have basic culinary knowledge, that would have thrown you a little.

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The finished product!

I served the salmon skewers with the spicy sauce and they were delicious. I had never created or consumed salmon on skewers before and I really liked the olive oil and parsley coating.  Although I definitely wouldn’t have the tomato sauce again – it came out really warm and liquidy.  However, I did eat the leftover salmon skewers on a bed of spinach for lunch the next day and the salmon was still really tasty cold. The whole process, including prep, took me around 30 minutes. I would definitely cook this again and adapt the recipe for future consumption.
 Wednesday: On this occasion I didn’t have time to go to the supermarket to pick up anything extra for the recipe, so I was purely relying on the recipe and what I had in the cupboards! The ingredients I entered were sausage, peppers, tomatoes and paprika for the spice. Again, it gave me over 100 recipes and this time I had to flick through a few more, to ensure I had the majority of the ingredients. I chose Chorizo and Tomato pasta, after scanning the recipe and my cupboards. I replaced the chorizo with the sausages and luckily, I had the tomato sauce ingredients to hand too. See the recipe I used here.
The recipe was very simple and clear. I added a little garlic to the homemade tomato pasta sauce and I cooked up gluten free pasta to accompany it. Dinner was ready in less than 15 minutes and was very tasty. To be honest, this is the kind of simple dinner I have quite regularly, so I didn’t feel any new dinner inspiration.

Schwartz Recipe 2

Simple sausage pasta with tomato sauce and peppers

Friday: I was particularly tired after this day at work, so I was really looking for something tasty, comforting and quick! I really adore prawns but often cook them in the same way. So to stimulate some new recipe ideas, I kept it simple for the ChatBot and entered prawns, chilli and tomatoes. It gave me over 300 recipes and I went for the third – Thai Prawn Curry. The recipe is here.
I did go to the supermarket to pick up extra ingredients – mainly the Schwartz 7 Thai Spice for the dish. This recipe was extremely simple and took about twenty minutes altogether. I served with fresh lime wedges and coriander on a bed of coconut rice, and thoroughly enjoyed the dish. I put the curry I didn’t eat in the freezer, meaning I now have a delicious meal to defrost when I’m short on time. This was a delicious and quick thai curry – but obviously didn’t beat a recipe created with fresh paste.
Essentially, The Bot is perfect for people on the go and needing recipe inspiration. Sometimes I stare blankly at my fridge ingredients, willing them to do something interesting and different with minimal effort from me when I’m exhausted. The Bot did take all thinking out of the equation, but does require a cupboard full of basic ingredients and some culinary experience.

Schwartz Recipe 3.3

Thai red prawn curry

If you want to check it out, visit Schwartz FB page and type in your ingredients in a Facebook message. The rest is easy!

*This is not a sponsored post. It was a genuine culinary experiment!*

BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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Working, whilst keeping up with life admin and juggling other life demands in general makes it extremely hard to eat healthy on the go. Never fear – I have you covered! Below are some extremely simple and healthy on the go lunches that will keep you full. The key idea here is preparation – and mass preparation at that! You can make up at least two or three batches of the good stuff below, and keep in a Tupperware in the fridge. (I told you organisation is key… as is actually remembering to take it out of the fridge in the morning!!)
On the go salads
I love a filling salad, and if I’m organised can make two or three at a time for my weekday lunches at work. I’ve formulated my go to salad combination – some kind of carb, a veggie filled salad, an animal protein (optional) and a sprinkle for crunch! Dressings also optional!
For the carb: New potatoes with a little olive oil and chives. Try rice mixed with spinach until it wilts, cold pasta with pesto or a little cheese or blanched noodles. Cold roasted sweet potato or other root vegetable also works well – butternut squash, parsnip etc. And not forgetting super grains! Quinoa, buckwheat, couscous and bulgur-wheat can all pad out your salad.
For the salad: lettuce, cucumber, avocado, beetroot, green beans (blanched and served cold), cold peas, sundried tomatoes olives, tomato peeled and a little fresh herb. Basil is my favourite.
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Protein: Optional. I like to butterfly my chicken breast and fry until crispy, then slice onto my salad. Or find yourself some juicy king prawns. Crayfish is also a yummy addition. Also try bacon cut it into bits, or some lovely honey roasted ham. Tofu is another favourite – which I’ve used in this snap!
Sprinkle:I like a bit of crunch to top my salad. Go for pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, croutons or if you’re feeling really naughty, I sometimes sprinkle on crunched up tortilla chips!
Dressing:I would advise you to pop this into a separate container to avoid the salad getting soggy. One my favourite dressings is simple – teaspoon of tahini, olive oil and lemon juice. If you don’t have time to prepare a dressing, you can always pop a lime wedge in with your salad and squeeze over before you eat!
Rice cakes can be jazzy 
Rice cakes & corn cakes currently make up a large chunk of my diet. ricecakesbhThey are so versatile, cheap and easily digestible. They are also LOFFLEX – hurrah! Here are a few of my favourite rice cake combinations – easy to stick in a Tupperware for a light lunch or snacks.

  • Smashed avocado and basil – Mash avocado and basil with a touch of olive oil in a bowl and top your rice cake. By far my favourite topping.
  • Hummus & roasted jarred peppers – Either dip the rice cake straight into the hummus, or spread on top with some roasted jarred peppers.
  • Tomato and basil – Get yourself a big plum tomato and pit of all seeds. Chop into small pieces and pile on your rice cake with basil. So simple but yummy.

Frittata
Frittata is so easy to make and lasts for 2-3 days, so is perfect to prep, stick in a Tupperware and eat for quick and easy lunches! The best part of cooking a frittata is you can literally fill it with whatever you have in the fridge – so it’s perfect for using up leftovers and old veg! Here is a super simple way to cook up a frittata.
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Ingredients

  • 8 – 10 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (or milk alternative, almond milk works well)
  • Cooked vegetables (literally anything goes here – peas, green beans, onion, peppers, asparagus)
  • If you’re a meat eater, try some bacon, chorizo or even ham
  • Salt & pepper and some dried herbs (whatever your preference is – chives, oregano, thyme)
  • Fresh herbs if you fancy – I like a little bit of basil

Beat together the eggs with the milk, dried herbs and salt and pepper. Whisk until fully combined in a large bowl and then add your cooked veggies. Meanwhile, get a shallow medium sized saucepan on the heat with some butter/coconut oil/olive oil on a medium heat. Add the egg and vegetable mixture so it fully covers the pan.
Meanwhile, heat the grill to 180C. Let the frittata cook on the hob for around 4-5 minutes, or until the edges go golden and cook. Now transfer to the grill for 5 minutes to cook the top.
Slice up and serve hot with salad or separate into Tupperware’s and enjoy for a quick and filling lunch!
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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I posed this recipe on my Instagram recently and it went down so well, I thought I’d share this super easy recipe. I find this quite a comfort food, whilst being super tasty and nutritious. It also happens to take under 20 minutes – RESULT! DF, GF and could be adapted to vegan & low residue.
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Serves 1. Gluten free and dairy free. Vegetables could be swapped in for low residue options and salmon replaced with tofu for a vegan dish.
Ingredients 

  • 1 salmon fillet
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed or chopped
  • 1 tspn chilli flakes
  • 3 tblspn tamari sauce
  • 2 tspn rice vinegar
  • Thumb of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 medium size aubergine, cut into chunks
  • Handful of mange tout
  • Shiitake mushrooms (as many as you fancy!), chopped in half
  • Half a red onion, chopped finely
  • Handful of spinach
  • Sesame seeds for garnish
  • Handful of brown rice noodles

Method 

  1. Put your ginger, chilli, garlic, rice vinegar and tamari sauce in a bowl and mix together. Slip your salmon fillet into the bowl and marinade.
  2. Chop up all your vegetables, whilst heating a little sesame oil in a wok. This oil adds great flavour!!
  3. Slip your marinaded salmon fillet into the wok and let it sizzle for around 6-7 minutes. Then add the red onion, mange tout and aubergine. Feel free to add more tamari sauce if it’s looking a little dry.
  4. Boil a pan of water and slip in your rice noodles and simmer according to the packet.
  5. After 4-5 minutes of your veggies sizzling, add your mushrooms. Drizzle everything in more tamari sauce for flavour!
  6. Drain your rice noodles and add spinach to your vegetable mix. Your salmon is cooked once it flakes naturally. Serve the vegetables on top of the noodles, and top with the salmon fillet. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve!

Simple!!
BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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