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.

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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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When I was a child, we used to go on camping holidays to northern France and play in the gorgeous french sunshine. I have so many happy memories of exploring northern France, in particularly Brittany, where we would ALWAYS round off the day with a crepe (or actually, sometimes start the day with a crepe!)
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Since I’ve gone dairy and gluten free, I don’t think I’ve eaten a crepe or a pancake. When eating out, there has never been the option for a flour or milk free crepe – and so it seemed clear that I needed to get in the kitchen to create one!
This recipe is absurdly simple – the main ingredients being just banana and eggs. The cacao replaces the chocolate that I used to gorge on when I had a chocolate filled crepe in France – and the pomegranate provides a wonderfully sweet crunch.
Ingredients 
This recipe makes six pancakes. They are dairy free, gluten free and vegetarian. 
For the pancake:
3 eggs
2 bananas
1 tbspn desiccated coconut
2 tspns raw cacao powder
Coconut oil/olive oil (1-2 tspn)
For the toppings:
Date syrup/maple syrup/honey
Pomegranate seeds (I bought a ready made packet of them from a high street supermarket)
Method

  1. Take a medium sized bowl and mash up your bananas  with a fork, until they form a sticky pulp. Try and get the pulp as smooth as possible – but a few little lumps do add a little texture!IMG_4541
  2. Add your 3 eggs, tablespoon of desiccated coconut and two teaspoons of raw cacao powder. Mix everything together – this is your pancake batter!
  3. Heat a teaspoon of coconut oil (or you can use olive oil) in a medium frying pan on a medium to high heat.
  4. Once your oil is hot, fill a small ladle of mixture and place into the frying pan. If you hear a big sizzle, then turn your heat down a little. (A small sizzle is expected!)
  5. Fry for about a minute to 2 minutes on each side – or until they are turn brown. The cacao powder will mean they naturally brown them, so monitor closely so they don’t burn!
  6. Repeat this process until you have finished your batter, and begin piling them in a stack on a plate. Don’t worry if they are all different sizes – that’s part of the fun!
  7. Once you’re done, now it’s time for toppings! I sweetened mine by drizzling over date syrup, but you can also use honey or maple syrup. Now take your pomegranate seeds and sprinkle all over the pancakes – the more the better!
  8. Tuck in and enjoy!! 🙂

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*Created for Inghams Foodie Finds campaign!*

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This recipe is 100% inspired by my recent holiday to the gorgeous Caribbean island Dominican Republic. We spent two whole weeks consuming all the food in sight – a lot of it Latin America themed food. One night at the resort, we had this amazing stir fried sweetcorn dish. They fried it up on a huge flat iron oven right in front of us, with loads of olive oil. It tasted amazing and I was determined to recreate it on returning to ye ol’ England.
So here is my vegan, vegetarian and gluten free Tex Mex rice bowl recipe.  I’ve split it up into three tex mex layers – rich tomato kidney bean mexican rice, the paprika fried sweetcorn and topped with a big dollop of homemade guacamole. It can be whizzed up super quickly and makes a delicious on the go lunch the next day. The beauty of the layers is you can mix and match with other bits for other meals!
I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

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This is such a delicious weekday dinner

Serves 2. Gluten free, dairy free, vegan and vegetarian.
Ingredients 
For the Rice
1 packet of microwave brown rice (you can get these for around 50p in a supermarket and I am queen of speed – but feel free to boil brown rice from scratch)
1 red onion
2 large garlic cloves
400g (1 can) red kidney beans
2 tbspn tomato puree
1 tspn dried oregano
1 tspn chilli flakes
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to season
Coriander to garnish
For the sweetcorn
150g sweetcorn (1 can)
1/2 sweet red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
2 tspn of paprika
3 beef tomatoes
For the guacamole
1 avocado
Handful cherry tomatoes
Juice of 1 lime
Glug of olive oil
Method

  1. Everything needs cooking at once with this recipe so do your chopping first! Chop your red onion, half the yellow pepper, half the sweet red pepper and the 3 beef tomatoes into small pieces. Slice up your garlic finely or crush with a garlic crusher.
  2. Get a large frying pan on a medium to high heat with a large glug of olive oil. Add the red onion and garlic when hot and stir until they start to soften.
  3. When soft, add two tablespoons of tomato paste, the chilli and the oregano. Mix together – it’ll start to look a bit like a paste. Add the can of kidney beans, with the water, and stir together. Bring the heat down to simmer.IMG_4028.PNG
  4. Get another smaller pan on a medium to high heat with some olive oil. Once hot, add the peppers, tomatoes and the can of sweetcorn. Mix together and then add 2 teaspoons of paprika. Keep on this heat, stirring regularly.
  5. Season your bean and tomato mix and you can add your packet rice. Turn the heat up a tad and stir in. If the mixture is thick, add a little water.
  6. Whilst your rice and sweetcorn mix are frying – it’s time to make your guacamole! Chop up an avocado until mushy and chop your cherry tomatoes into tiny pieces. Chop roughly together on a chopping board until combined and then add to a bowl. Squeeze in the juice of one lime, a teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of black pepper and mix together. Put your guac to one side!
  7. Check your sweetcorn mix – you want it so the yellow sweetcorn pieces start to look a little charred, that’s where some of the smoky flavour is! If ready, take off the heat.
  8. Squeeze the juice of one lime into your rice mix, stir and take off the heat.
  9. Serve with the rice layer at the bottom, a generous layer of sweetcorn mix and then a massive dollop of guacamole! Sprinkle some chopped coriander on to garnish. Enjoy!

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bryonyhopkins

So I know this is coming about 4 weeks late and everyone has already done their bit about 2016 –  but having taken a fortnight holiday to reflect, I came to realise how much 2016 gave me. Whilst the world of politics pretty much turned upside down – my personal journey of 2016 was pretty revolutionary too!

2016, was the year of the liquid diet. It seems mad to think that this time last year I was going through tests which would eventually lead me to making the steroid vs liquid diet decision to get my Crohn’s Disease  back under control. I had absolutely no idea that decision would have such a major impact on not only my quality of life, but also in finding something I’m insanely passionate about! This blog was born out of the trauma and need for some distraction during my month of not eating – I’m not sure A Belly Full Of would ever have come to being without it!!

Without that liquid diet, I never would have become the food blogging- instagramming lover that I am today. I would never have cut my pain levels in half and I would never have realised quite how much my lifestyle and food was affecting my health. To look back at my liquid diet journey – check out the ‘Liquid Diet Diary’ tab at the top!

But it wasn’t just the liquid diet that made 2016 amazing. 2016 was the year I finally got my Journalist job title

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First piece to camera on coffee – obvs

and started working on stories across the globe for a huge British broadcaster. It was also the year of my first on screen appearance – on a food related story, obvs.

2016 was the year I travelled halfway across the world to Bali (read my Bali tips here!) – the furthest I’ve ever travelled and something I’ve always been quietly nervous about, in case of something going wrong with my health! Obviously nothing happened and I gained some incredible food inspiration from across the world – and learnt so much about their amazing culture.

2016 was the year I ran my first ever 10k – having always been a self proclaimed exercise hater (I still am, and I won’t even deny it!) Another massive personal achievement for me, having always found vigorous exercise extremely painful on my stomach. I completed the 10k in 1 hr 11 mins AND raised over £1,400 for Crohns & Colitis UK (I probably should note here that I genuinely haven’t run since then…!!)

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 And last but certainly not least, 2016 was the year I learnt to meditate. This was an extremely important personal feat for me, having identified later last year that my stress was severely affecting a flare up of my symptoms. The London Meditation Centre, with the amazing Jillian & Michael, taught me the art of vedic meditation and whilst this is something I am still working on to absolutely nail and get my forty minutes in every day, I have already felt a difference in my stress levels, my approach and outlook to life and a drop in my pain levels when I’m consistently meditating.

So I am going into 2017 with fire in my belly and so many more ambitions for this year. It just goes to show how much can happen in a year! Whilst all this was incredible – I still had some health ups and downs and have come into the new year on another medication for a short while. Life is nothing short of surprises – but it’s amazing how much better I feel having made changes on MY TERMS. My gastro consultant and team are truly amazing, but nobody has ever sat down with me and suggested these simple changes that have made such a staggering difference. I’m going into 2017 feeling like Crohn’s no longer owns me.

Watch out for much more to come on A Belly Full of this year…!

For more of my updates, you can catch me on Instagram & Twitter.

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January is the month of new years resolutions. ‘Eat less cake’, ‘don’t eat chocolate’, ‘eat more vegetables, ‘lose weight’…. the list could on and on. Whilst I whole-heartedly support all efforts to get your health back on track post Christmas, I often find these kind of New Years resolutions a silent trap. They are unrealistic and will inevitably make you feel completely demotivated when you don’t see them through by the second week of Jan. What I would suggest is making a few simple changes to help get your health back on track. Easy steps to leave you feeling happier, healthier and most importantly – motivated!

  1. Exercise

Yes, I’m going straight in with this one. Get yourself back in the gym! This is the first sure way to get you feeling healthier post Christmas season. There are so many ways to get that body moving. First of all – find a form of exercise that you actually enjoy!20x30-BRIT1658 Take up a new yoga class, try out zumba, go swimming or go for a run in your local park. Trying something you’ve never done before is an excellent way to reignite the exercise excitement! I’m going for yoga this January!  Why don’t you take a friend with you? Combining a bit of social and encouragement is another way to spice up your exercise routine. Finally – why not purchase some new gym gear?! Try some colourful leggings or new trainers… going shopping always seems to motivate me..!

  1. Rethink your diet

Rethinking my diet was one the most positive things I ever did and I feel so much better for it every single day. Often we eat the same things out of habit – but this January I challenge you to evaluate what you put in your body! What things could you eliminates and replace with something healthier? Perhaps it’s your sugar filled coffee, love of biscuits or tendency to graze on processed snacks. There are so many gorgeous vegetables in season in January – including iron filled kale and vitamin packed carrots. Why not crisp your kale up with some olive oil in the oven for a healthy snack or dip carrot batons in humus. There are so many delicious herbal teas, which act as cleansers (green tea or peppermint are particularly good – I adore Pukka teabags). Whatever it is – I challenge you to find an alternative for your guilty pleasure this January.

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Cutting out gluten and dairy has completely rejuvenated my quality of life 

  1. Pledge to learn 3 new healthy recipes

In hand with the previous point, I urge you to get yourself in the kitchen and get creative! Get out that recipe book you’ve never looked at or use your imagination! Perhaps you could go for one meat dish, a fish dish and a vegetarian dish. Or maybe a breakfast, lunch and dinner! However you decide to do it – make sure you do the following. Replace your olive oil with coconut oil – it has less trans fats and cholesterol. Use at least two vegetables or fruits in your dish and a good source of protein. This could be meat, fish, tofu or beans if you’re a vegetarian. Try to avoid hard carbs – opt for sweet potato or a grain.
Try my Cinnamon Rice Flake PorridgeCrispy chicken with garlic greens & creamy mash or The super stir fry.

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The super stir fry! So easy and delicious

  1. Give social media a break or a cleanse

We live extremely hectic lives – all of us, every day. We work super hard ALL THE TIME!! and the pressures of day-to-day life can be further exaggerated by the constant access to the internet and social media. Perhaps it’s not something you realise is impacting your life, but why not giving social media a break for a few days? You might find you have more time for yourself and others if you’re not distracted by the online world. You might be surprised by the results…

  1. Look after your skin

The cold winter weather can be extremely harsh on the skin. Low humidity and brisk winter chills can leave skin feeling dry and chapped. Look after your skin this January by making sure you exfoliate at least twice a week, finding a face wash that works for your skin and remembering to moisturise twice a day! Make sure you keep hydrated to keep your skin from drying out – this could be from drinking water or eating vegetable with high water content, like cucumber, celery, orange or watermelon. Try whizzing up one of these in a smoothie for a morning boost!
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