This blog post has been in the pipeline for a few weeks now. Well, since my gastro consultant told me for the first time in my entire life that I’m in ‘clinical remission’ from my Crohns Disease. Big announcement. Big two words – two words I wasn’t expecting to hear, AT ALL! (See below for what remission means)
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be in remission and how my body feels and I think it’s important I share this. Let’s rewind quickly first though… why was being told I’m in ‘clinical remission’ such a big deal – yet such a surprise at the same time? I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease at the age of four – which now at the age of 25, is a staggering 21 years ago.

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Loving the liquid diet life back in April 2016…

I recently candidly told my story for the first time for World IBD Day, which was featured in the Huffington Post. You can see the article here.So 21 years of fighting, dealing with medication, being cut open time and time again… until spring 2016 when I found myself in the middle of ANOTHER FLARE. All I could think was geez, not this s**t again.I was told outright I needed to go on high dose steroids to get things under control and I just couldn’t do it. I made the decision to go on a four-week liquid diet – which turned out to be a massive turning point in my entire Crohns journey. You can read about my liquid diet journey here.
So fast forward a year, and I’m sitting opposite my consultant who has seen me through thick and thin since I was 17. He’s a straight talking man, but a man I know has a lot of time for me (it’s a personal challenge every single appointment to make him crack a smile! I succeed every time, obvs). We run through the usual things and out of nowhere, he says ‘well, it looks like to me you’re in clinical remission’. There was a long pause, until I said, ‘well, nobody has ever said that to me before!’ Cue the smile from Doc and he said I’m by far the healthiest he’s ever seen me. He let me go after agreeing to reduce my adlimumab injections to every fortnight and told me to enjoy the summer.
I walked out the hospital in a complete state of disbelief. CLINICAL REMISSION – WHAT THE F**K? How did that happen? How did I not even see that coming? I still suffer stomach pain, bloating and fatigue. Whilst I’m not passing blood, I still have to manage my lifestyle to contain my symptoms. I evaluated the past year since the liquid diet and it finally dawned on me. This remission isn’t a result of adlimumab , a drug I have taken for over 7 years now. This remission was a result of me changing my diet and lifestyle. As I travelled back into London from my specialist hospital in Oxford I thought – I BLOODY DID THIS. And how have I gone 21 years without anyone telling me to evaluate my diet and lifestyle sooner?!? I felt weirdly elated yet frustrated that I could have done something a lot sooner if I had known what impact a year of change would make.
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I continue to feel extremely lucky that I’ve reached this point in my life, but I still won’t be lured into feeling secure. I have had a few people say to me now ‘oh you’re in remission? Well brilliant, you’re alright forever now then!’ Well no, that’s not quite how it works. As we all know, IBD (I’m talking Crohns & Colitis here) is a chronic condition and can rear its ugly head at any time. A fact that I’ve been conditioned to never forget (although I wish I could!) Additionally, being in ‘remission’ doesn’t mean I no longer feel pain, bloating and extreme fatigue. I still have to very carefully manage my life and diet. Eating one thing that disagrees with me, being too exhausted or stressed can quickly send me in a little downward spiral. Self-management and self-care doesn’t stop at the phrase ‘clinical remission’… the journey never ends!
Having said that, the biggest lesson I have learnt is that the medical professionals don’t always know EVERYTHING. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the incredible support from my Gastro team at the John Radcliffe in Oxford, but it was my decision to do the liquid diet and make a lifestyle overhaul. That being said, it’s not always easy and there may be a lot of trial and error. What I’m saying is try different things, do your research and know that you can make a difference to your illness.
And for me – I’m going to live life the fullest and continue sharing the journey with you!

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Sunning in Marbella with my favourite people and smiling because I can!

**So what is ‘remission’? Achieving remission means stopping symptoms as well as inflammation. Another way to think of remission is as a span of time when your disease becomes inactive or quiet.**
As always, I’d love to hear what you think.
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BRYONY HOPKINS, A BELLY FULL OF BRYONY

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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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