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Day 28: HELLOOOOO FOOD

Day 28 and I’VE DONE IT. I’ve completed the month… and oh my god. It feels AMAZING! I would apologise unreservedly for the delay in this blog post – but I’ve been enjoying my first weekend of (some) food far far too much!

On Friday evening I had my first solid food and the first taste really was the sweetest. I have to be honest – I was worried about starting to eat again. The devil in my brain was telling me that as soon as I started eating again everything would instantly unravel. Once I had that first mouthful, I literally didn’t care. I died and went to potato heaven! I have never ever appreciated how fluffy and warm the inside of a potato could be!

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Genuinely the best thing I’ve ever tasted

Before we all get over excited – the diet I’m on now is bland with a capital B. And I haven’t quite waved goodbye to my beloved Elemental, it remains a staple snack for now. This next part of food introduction is absolutely crucial to remaining well. For the next two weeks I will be eating something called a LOFFLEX diet – the Low Fat Fibre Limited Exclusion Diet. Which in layman’s terms, means I’m on a diet of peeled veg and rice cakes! (Not that I’m complaining!!) The diet was formulated by dieticians working at Addenbrookes NHS Trust in Cambridge, were they poured tonnes of money and resources into the effectiveness of an exclusive elemental diet for Crohn’s patients. The LOFFLEX diet excludes typically troublesome foods (wheat, dairy) and also products which are hard to digest (heavily fibrous foods like lentils, beans, veg with pips, sweetcorn etc). After doing this for two weeks – and everything is still going well – you introduce other foods and see if you get a reaction – such as eggs, onion, oats, wheat, alcohol (booo!).. the list goes on and on! So I could well end up with a completely different diet at the end of this… For more information on the LOFFLEX diet, click here.

Now we’ve got the boring medical stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the amazing things I did eat AND appreciate this weekend! (No juicy steaks or Starbucks here unfortunately) Saturday morning I enjoyed a gorgeous Pukka mint tea with rice cakes (which I am surprisingly enjoying!).

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Bland = yum

Unfortunately, the Elemental lives on for now. It’s the perfect way to bridge the gaps between some of my meals in the early stages of food introduction – and keep the hunger at bay when I’m out and about and don’t have a rice cake or peeled potato to hand!

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Which means I continue to be the boring sober one.. and the designated driver!

Yesterday I went to an actual restaurant. I went to an actual restaurant with actual people and sat down for a meal – something I haven’t done in far too long! Navigating my way around the menu was a total minefield, as I don’t fall into any single category like gluten free, vegan or vegetarian. I finally selected a salad, but still had to be the person who said ‘can I have it without the nuts, and without the dressing, and without the pumpkin seeds… in fact, can I jut have a plate of lettuce??!!’ My stomach has shrunk to the size of a pea, so I only managed half of this plateful. I relished every mouthful though!!
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Interestingly, I have felt noticeably more relaxed this weekend. I didn’t even realise how tense I felt all the time, constantly making sure I didn’t give in to the temptation of food. Willpower is tiring! Of course, not being in pain is also a massive relaxant!
As I said above, my journey is nowhere near over. I’m not saying this liquid diet will keep me well for years,  maybe not even months, (Crohn’s has a habit of sneaking up when you least expect it), but I feel extremely optimistic. It has opened my eyes up to so much more – more than I ever could have imagined. After the appointment with my consultant where I took matter into my own hands, by putting the liquid diet on the table and refusing steroids, I called my Mum in floods of tears. Have I made the right decision?! What if it doesn’t work??!! Why am I taking matter into my own hands when I’m not even a doctor!? Now I know I 100% made the right decision. I am reading books I never thought I’d read (list of recommended reads below) and I’m finding new ways to keep my symptoms at bay without being at the mercy of toxic drugs – something I felt only 4 weeks ago.
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Now that is a HEALTHY food shop!

If you’re reading this with Crohn’s or Colitis and are suffering a bad flare – I would urge you to suggest a liquid diet to your consultant. It is not used widely in adults as patients often struggle with compliance. Yes, it requires a hell of a lot of willpower. But the results are so worth it – without any nasty side effects. Read on below for a list of books which will totally get you thinking in a different way.
Lots of people have asked me if the blog will continue past the liquid diet – and the answer is of course YES! I’ve loved writing the blog and seeing the positive feedback from sharing my story. I will continue to write through this transitional period and share any hints and tips I pick up along the way! After that, thefoodfree blog will change guise – so watch this space!!
I also must say a big thank you to everyone who has been following my journey. Thank you for the love and support (and donations!) – I can’t even put into words how much it means to me.
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Love, (a very happy and healthy)
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Recommended reads:

  • Mind over Medicine by Dr Lissa Rankin – will completely change your thinking towards your illness
  • Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr – hear from amazing Kris Carr, cancer survivor and wellness warrior
  • Deliciously Ella Everyday – tonnes of fabulous plant based recipes for Eleanor Woodward, who ate herself back to health
  • Get The Glow by Madeleine Shaw – more amazing healthy recipes
  • Juice by Liz Earle – the beginners guide to juicing
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Day 23: The juicy epiphany

If you’ve been following my journey through the liquid jungle since day one – you’ll know that I’ve started to completely change my attitude towards diet and the role it plays in my life. It’s incredible to see the difference the liquid diet has made and I am determined to maintain this state of health beyond the days of elemental. I have gone through my entire life relying solely on drugs, surgery and the doctors advise without ever making any massive changes to my lifestyle. I continued to eat ready meals, takeaways, processed foods, I continued to drink alcohol more than twice a week, I have continued to have a jam packed social life with little time to rest. And I’ve only ground to a shuddering halt when my body has screamed ‘STOP!’, in the form of some flare/virus/bug/severe fatigue. (Let me just say, I don’t regret those decisions. I was a child/teenager/university student – I was LIVINNNGGG!)
But clearly my body needs a little more help than most. And since I’ve realised what it feels like to actually feel good (I have felt rubbish for too long to even remember), I am pledging to do everything I can to look after myself. There are actual things I can do to help! And I start with juicing. Welcome to my juicy epiphany.
Yesterday I spent the evening with a friend, Aisling, having my first juicing lesson. She’s been juicing for years and had some amazing tips – and equipment!

super fast Philips juicer and Nutribullet (juicing and smoothies are not the same!)

 
Below is just a selection of the ingredients we used to create 3 delicious juices – all including vegetables which had proven anti inflammatory powers. Juicing is an amazing way to get a wide range of vitamins and minerals the body needs in a easy digestible form – the juicer does the work so your body doesn’t have to! Essentially the same as my Elemental.. But a lot more delicious.

I have to say, it was pretty tough being so close to so much lush food!

The juices we made were all red cabbage based, a vegetable which has a proven healing track record with IDB (See Jason Vale’s Super Juice Me).Click here.

Aisling’s first recipe was: half a honey dew melon, 2 apples, cucumber and 1/2 red cabbage.
We washed the veg first before chucking it all in the super fast juicer. I know what you’re thinking – red cabbage in a juice?? Are you sure? I have to say I was sceptical too. But it actually tasted delicious (OK- yes, I had a teeny tiny sip) I really liked the sweet taste of the apples with the freshness of the cucumber. Surprisingly, I couldn’t taste much cabbage!

The second juice we tried was: 1/4 red cabbage, coriander, half bag of spinach, stalk of lemongrass, half of honey dew melon and cucumber

I found the taste of this juice a lot more savoury and to be honest, it didn’t suit my palette at all. To counter this, we added 2 apples for flavour and that definitely gave it the lift it needed for my tastebuds!

a proper green juice (froth is good!)

The third Crohn’s tailored juiced we tasted was: 3 apples, 1/4 red cabbage, thumb of ginger, half bag of spinach and half a cucumber.

This was my favourite! (OK I had teeny tastes of all 3!) The apples, cucumber and spinach were refreshing once again and then the ginger gave it a gorgeous kick. I am obsessed with the taste of ginger and has excellent anti inflammatory powers.

another purple monster

And the best thing about juicing? You can freeze! So now I have 6 gorgeous juices that I can drink when I’m able to. Ais also showed me many of the staples in her cupboards that she uses in various smoothies and juices, which is when I realised how much I have to learn. But everyone has to start somewhere, right?
If you also have a form IBD, I’d urge you to try a recipe from above or any other juice for the matter – they can only do your body the world of good. And if I’m not able to enjoy them properly at the moment, someone should be able to!
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bryonyhopkins

Day 20: THE HOME STRETCH

Just one week until I can start eating again and I feel great. It’s funny, people keep saying ‘yes definitely let’s go out for dinner when you’re feeling better’. Although I’m not eating and drinking, I am not ill. I feel the best I have felt in months and it’s really an incredible feeling. Granted, it’s not ideal that this has been induced by not eating and if I’m honest, I don’t know how things are going to go when I start introducing food. But I’ve done three weeks. Twenty whole days of fighting through sheer hunger, foul moods, tears (there have been many), frustration and I’m feeling truly fabulous. (And I’m only really thinking about food 75% of the time now!)

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Feeling totally ab fab

So you’re feeling great sure, but are you symptom free? For now… yes. My symptoms are completely at bay. I haven’t been in pain for days. I feel confident to say I’m in remission now. Take that steroids – I didn’t need you. I did this on my terms!

Today I went to watch the London Marathon and it was honestly the most inspirational day. Over 39,000 people running 26 miles across London for thousands of amazing charities. For friends and family that have been lost, for loved ones struggling with debilitating illnesses. And that’s when I realised where true strength lies. Inspiration and power lies in those 39,000 people who were literally battling through blood, sweat and tears for a bigger and better cause. That is real testament to determination and willpower.

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And that is why I enter the last week feeling great. Next Saturday I will have my first meal (before we all get overexcited, it’ll probably be a plate of easily digestible mash potato) and then I will slowly start to introduce foods, until I find a diet that works for me. This process takes around 4-5 weeks but I feel wholly optimistic I can crack this by being completely vigilant about what I put into my body. If Deliciously Ella healed her PTS and Kris Carr fought back after cancer with diet – why can’t I?! And as my new motto goes, believing is healing!
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In July I will be running 10k for the fabulous charity, Crohns and Colitis UK. It may not be a marathon but is a big feat for me, having literally just recovered from a flare. If you want to put a penny in, please visit my Justgiving page here.
 
 

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Day 13: Let's get medical

I’m nearly at the half way point… and I wish I could give some really poignant words at this point about how normal not eating has become. Unfortunately, I am still hungry. And food is still leaving a gaping hole in my life. The biggest pizza shaped hole.

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I still can’t get on board with the fact this is my dinner. And lunch, and breakfast! And it makes a rubbish Insta pic..

Despite this, physically I am feeling so much better. Whilst some of my symptoms continue to niggle, I am barely in any pain. Which really is amazing after spending the past 6 months pretty much in constant pain.

Since writing this blog and opening up this part of my life, I’ve found people have so many questions – what exactly is Crohn’s? Are you really sick? Is this liquid diet a cure? Being such an undignified illness in so many ways, people are often afraid to talk openly about it, but with 300,000 people in the UK suffering from IBD, it’s time to start talking. So I thought today’s blog should be dedicated to all things medical. To answer all the who, hows and whys of Crohns Disease. I hope you come away feeling educated after this post!

What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s Disease is an autoimmune disease. This means your body attacks your own healthy cells during the digestion process. Crohn’s Disease falls under the umbrella of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (often referred to as IBD). The disease can cause inflammation and ulceration anywhere in the digestive tract – from mouth to rectum. The areas of inflammation are often patchy, and can be a few centimetres long to a whole length of the gut (for example, the whole large intestine). Every persons disease will be completely different. Ulcerative Colitis is another form of IBD which you may often hear referred to along with Crohns. Colitis is very similar – the symptoms are almost identical, however Colitis will only affect the colon (large intestine).
What are the symptoms?
Typical Crohn’s symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhoea, loss of blood, fatigue, severe nausea, sickness, loss of appetite and weight. Someone with Crohn’s may suffer one or all of these during a time of relapse and symptoms will range in severity depending on the intensity of the flare up.
Is there a cure?
Crohn’s Disease is a chronic illness, which means it’s ongoing and lifelong. A person may experience periods where they have no symptoms at all, when they are in ‘remission’. A relapse or ‘flare up’ could occur at any time and there are a number of drugs and surgical procedures which can provide people with longterm periods of wellness.
Why do people get it?
Unfortunately, it isn’t known why people get it! Bad pot luck I guess! Whilst scientists have poured time and money into lots of research with no definitive answer, it is thought there may be a genetic predisposition to the illness plus an abnormal reaction of your immune system to certain bacteria in your intestines.
How will this liquid diet help?
The idea of the liquid diet is to give my intestine a rest. At the moment it is tired and inflamed; drinking pre-digested shakes means my gut has to do absolutely no work whatsoever. All the nutrients are being absorbed straight into my digestive walls and into my body, meaning my body has time to heal. Imagine it like a cut on your hand. You cover the cut with a plaster to protect it from the world to let it heal. If you take the plaster off or itch your cut, it gets angry and sore and the healing process takes longer. That’s exactly what’s happening inside my body – this liquid diet is my plaster.
What happen’s once you’ve finished the liquid diet?
To be completely honest… I don’t know yet! I am continuing to take Adlimumab – a weekly injection I have been on for the past 5 years (which has, until now, kept me well!) At the same time I started this liquid diet, I also started azathioprine. A slow acting long term drug – that would, if it worked, keep me well beyond finishing this liquid diet. However, on discovering in the last few days that these tablets contain lactose and being severely lactose intolerant.. I am in a quandary of how things will move forward now. There are a few drugs left I could try…yet, I’m feeling uplifted and excited about the possibility of finding a diet that keeps me well. Whether that is juicing, elemental, vegetarian, gluten free… vegan! If this elemental can work so efficiently, I’m convinced drugs aren’t the only way. This is a another long (and hopefully exciting!) journey I’m embarking on…!

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Need I say anymore!

Here’s a list of resources:
www.crohnsandme.com
www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk
www.crohnsupport.com
www.crohns.org.uk
Keep following my journey, as I attempt to eat myself well…
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Day 9: Two weeks turns to four

Two weeks is turning to four… and that’s okay. Whilst I’m already feeling so much better in myself, I’m not completely out of the woods yet. Here’s hoping one whole golden month will do the trick!

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Showing the Elemental some love

In light of this news, I’ve made a very comprehensive list of the pros of not eating (surprisingly, there are quite a few!)

Pro’s of not eating

  • I’m saving a tonne of money – I literally haven’t spent a penny since Sunday. In central London, this is astounding
  • I am giving my body a total detox and rest
  • I am curing my own pain… which is a weirdly satisfying feeling
  • I am testing my willpower to the absolute MAX – after this, I reckon I could do anything
  • Did I mention I’m saving a load money?
  • My bikini bod is going to need very limited work (this is probably a good time to say that for the record, I am not doing this diet for weight loss reasons! A few pounds shed is merely a bonus)
  • This blog – despite the subject matter, I am actually really loving writing this blog
  • I am raising awareness for Crohns and Colitis – and helping people understand these cruel conditions. (No, I did not get Crohns because I eat badly! Yes, someone has actually asked me that.)
  • Oh yeah, and I’m saving loads of money.

Unfortunately, there are also some cons to not eating…

  • Not eating is actually quite a major con in itself
  • As is not drinking (especially Starbucks and alcohol)
  • People keep asking me ‘Are you ok?’, with a sympathetic head tilt that you reserve for people you feel sorry for. It gets rather annoying after a while
  • I keep accidentally staring at people when they eat. Strangers, colleagues, friends… anyone really. Which has resulted in some very awkward eye contact moments.

So really, there are actually more pros than cons. Apparently…

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