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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Eating out when you’re gluten free, dairy free, soy free or any other kind of free can be stressful – I’ve already had to become that person who reviews menus before I will confirm I can attend said restaurant! Navigating the menu is just the starting point, then discovering that the waiter/waitress doesn’t actually know what’s in the sauce, or if the fish is fried in butter makes the ordeal so awkward, you think you may as well just stay at home.
BUT NEVER FEAR! I am on a one stop mission to find the best hidden gems of allergy eating in London. See my previous post with four other amazing restaurants Eating out – May favourites– and these next three are a real treat!
WAG Free Kitchen
Price range: £
When my boyfriend proposed this for dinner, I raised my eyebrows too. Why are you taking me to a ‘WAG’ Free Kitchen? Of course, WAG in fact stands for ‘Wheat and Gluten’ and I’m so glad he discovered this buried in the listings of Time Out’s Top Gluten Free restaurants. It’s in Brixton market, a tiny shop with probably only around 10 or 12 tables. The menu was simple British food with a Brazilian twist – burgers, chicken escalope, fresh soups and quinao salads – something for everyone!

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WAG’s venison burger

As soon as I saw the menu I knew I had to take advantage of the rarity of gluten free bread, so I went straight in for the venison burger with crispy wedges, home made mayo and a gluten free bun. It was gorgeous – so simple and so delicious. I was told they usually have a chef there who makes the gluten free bread fresh on site – but unfortunately he was on holiday when we visited. This of course means I have to go back again to try it! At £20 a head, including a Brazilian caipirinha and a gluten free beer for the boyf, this is a totally affordable dinner destination.
NAMA
Price range: £££
NAMA is the home of the raw – artisan raw to be precise. Everything on the menu is totally vegan, gluten free and raw, which means nothing is heated above 46C. Tucked in a small street about ten minutes walk away from Notting Hill, it isn’t in the most easy to find location but the trek is totally worth it. I was firstly impressed by the menu and the descriptions of every dish, for example you can take your pick of ‘Pizza’ or ‘Italian Pizza’, or even ‘Pad Thai’ – old favourites with a raw twist. Originally a small cafe, NAMA is only open for dinner Thursday to Saturday and I attended with a friend who knew the restaurant well.
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On recommendation I went for the Italian pasta – courgette noodles tossed in tomato sauce, with marinaded mushrooms, caramelised onions, black olives, sundried tomatoes and almond parmesan – sounds amazing right?? We also ordered the kale salad as a side to share. Both dishes were delicious and it was definitely an experience eating raw dishes that shared so many similarities with classic dishes I love. The kale salad was so good we ordered another!! Although to be honest, the real highlight of the meal was dessert. A blueberry cheesecake – they’re most popular dish. IT WAS AMAZING! So unbelievably smooth and creamy. I would go back a thousand times over for that cheesecake.
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The creme de la creme of NAMA

At around £35 a head, this is at the upper end of allergy eating and I have to say, I found myself hungry again later in the evening. I would go back to try some of the other dishes but be prepared to spend more – and I would pick this as a perfect cake and coffee place!
Indigo at One Aldwych 
Price range: ££££
Indigo at central London hotel One Aldwych was a find whilst watching Masterchef (yes, I am equally obsessed with watching food programmes). It is a completely dairy free and gluten free restaurant and I was so excited to try it when I saw the celebrities create some of their dishes on the most recent series.
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Starters and main course

The menu is full of so many British classics – gnocci, pasta, fish and chips and steak. We went for lunch set menu, which came to £27 for three courses. I chose the rabbit terrine whilst my Mum had the smoked mackerel gravalax. The rabbit terrine was good – if not a little dry but Mum’s mackerel was delicious. Extremely delicate and tasty, although the portion was tiny! The highlight of this meal was definitely the main course – my steak bavette with fondant potatoes was cooked to perfection and Mum’s aubergine cannelloni was divine. The presentation was incredible, such intricate designs in the courgette flower arranged on top of the rolls, stuffed with a light mushroom tapenade.
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Aubergine cannelloni

Unfortunately the desserts were not as sublime as NAMA – I had a blueberry panna cotta which was light and coconutty and I was happy to finish the lot off. My Mum had a ‘apricot fool’, which turned out to be a very underwhelming coulis with coconut yogurt.
With a glass of prosecco and a mint tea to finished, the bill came to an eye watering £50 a head but it was a overall delicious meal in a gorgeous hotel atmosphere. I would definitely return and would be intrigued to try some of the dishes off the set menu, including the gnocci and the beer battered fish.
Happy allergy dining!!!
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bryonyhopkins

This is a skill that I have been forced to learn – and boy, has it taken some years. Arguably, learning to listen to your body is the most important step to keeping

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I was completely in tune with my body when I decided to take on the liquid diet. I knew it was the best option for me over steroids.

your body and soul happy and healthy. Yet most people I have spoken to admit they do know their body and the warning signs when things are about to go south – but they struggle to actually do anything about it. Listening to your body is completely useless unless you actually respond to it. Responding is pivotal- and really can work wonders (I am living proof of this!) Let me explain.
What do you mean when you say ‘listen to your body’?
Listening to your body is being in tune with your physical and emotional needs, and learning what you can do to feed and nourish them. On a basic level, this is eating when you’re hungry; sleeping when you’re tired. Yet there are so many levels above this and learning to hear them is a source of great power. It is fact that your body will always give you signs when it is struggling. That niggling cold for example, is the first sign that your body is in distress. Those tears you shed, is a sign that your soul is sad. Equally, it will also tell you when it is flourishing – those endorphins when you see the person you love or the excitement at an upcoming trip or event. Whilst this may seem blindingly obvious – why do we so often ignore these signs? The answer is one word – life.
Life is busy. Too busy. We work hard and long hours. We are constantly tapped into the digital world; social media, work emails, news outlets and celebrity culture. So it is unsurprising that amongst all this noise, our bodies are ignored. It’s boring to rest/take downtime/acknowledge home truths that require unwanted action.
I will hold my hands up and admit I have been the queen of ignoring my body in the past – particularly during university. This has resulted in some disastrous outcomes – including weeks laid up in bed due to fatigue, surgery, flare ups and on one particularly memorable occasion, contracting Mumps (despite having had the jab!!) My body was tired and vulnerable. Unfortunately, that is just through working hard and having a social life. A home truth which I still find extremely hard to acknowledge.
How do I respond to my body?
On feeling warning signs it’s important to evaluate what you can do to stop things escalating. If you have the beginnings of a cold, take time to rest and make sure you get lots of sleep. If you’re feeling tearful – acknowledge why you’re feeling sad and what you can do about it. Unhappy in your job? Find ways to love it or move. Unhappy in your relationship? Address it or leave. Find something that gives you some ME time – yoga, mindfulness, running or cooking. Whilst my examples may be extreme and you probably won’t end up having surgery if you ignore your body, you may end up getting sick, physically or emotionally – and why let it get to that?
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Taking time out on holiday is one my fave ways to unwind and refresh (unfortunately, my bank balance doesn’t allow this to happen as regularly as I’d like!)

I now know that I have to rest when I start getting warning signs – and sometimes I still get it wrong. I have just had to take four days of enforced rest as my body started rejecting all my food – a tell tale sign for me that my body is at breaking point. Utterly exhausted, I knew that if I had pushed through it (which I so often did at university), I would have ended up in a far worse position than just a couple of days off work.
The first step
Is to figure out what makes your body tick and what your body needs to bloom. This could be SO MANY THINGS! It could be a particular diet or exercise. It could be a hobby or spending time with particular people. It could be working a job you love, going on an amazing trip or having a social media detox. In deciphering this – you will also find the things that your body struggles with.For me, it is relentless work and social plans, meaning I have to prioritise how I spend my energy and know when it is time to stop. It is also eating foods that work for me and knowing that my health is THE most important thing. Even more important than the party I really really want to go to!
 
Believe me – I don’t say any of this lightly. It is difficult – but so worth it if you can find your body formula.
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bryonyhopkins

Breakfast is by far my favourite meal of the day and pre diet revolution I was a fry up fiend. Given the unbelievable breakfast offering at my work canteen, I was regularly consuming eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and hash browns (oh godddd it was so good!). It was my utter guilty pleasure.
The only thing I love more than breakfast is brunch. Get me eggs benedict, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and a well ingredient-ed omelette and I am on happy girl.
So when I started my new diet, I had to find ways to satisfy my breakfast obsession. I’m going to share with you three of my favourite recipes – the vegetarian fry up and two blissful smoothie bowls. God bless the smoothie bowl!!
The clean fry up
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This recipe is vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free.
Ingredients (Serves 1)
Handful of cherry tomatoes
One gluten free bagel/muffin
One egg (or two if you’re hungry!)
One avocado
Handful of kale
Hanful of chesnut mushrooms
One garlic clove
Olive oil
Method
Start by peeling your avocado from the skin and mashing – put this to one side. Then slice up your cherry tomatoes and mushrooms and shred your kale from the stalks. Finely chop a clove of garlic.
Fill a saucepan of water and put it on the hob to simmer. This is for your poached egg – so don’t let it boil!
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Take a fresh egg and pour it into a cup or ramekin, so the White of the egg swirls around the yolk.
Whilst your water warms up, add a glug of olive oil to a frying pan on a medium heat. Allow the oil to warm, before adding your chopped garlic.
Now your water should be simmering at a steady level (turn the heat down if needed to prevent boiling). Pour your egg into the water and put 3 minutes on your timer.
Now add the cherry tomatoes, kale and mushrooms to the garlic and oil mix in your frying pan. Lightly sauté.
Pop your muffin or bagel in the toaster. After three minutes your egg and tomato/kale/mushroom mix should be done! Take all off the heat.
Top your toasted muffin with the avocado, and use a slotted spoon to ease your poached egg out of the water. Put this on top of your avo muffin.
Serve with the garlic-y mushroom, kale and cherry tomatoes. YUMMMMMMM!
The very berry smoothie bowl
I only discovered the smoothie bowl post liquid diet and I genuinely found it revolutionary. I am a huge fan of smoothies, but often don’t find them filling enough. I also love crunchy granola and fruit salad, but often find them dry or plain now I can’t have yogurt. The smoothie bowl combines all these elements and makes an extremely filling breakfast. IMG_3929 (1)The trick is to make a thick smoothie and to balance the heaviest ingredients on top, to create a pretty pattern (not that this is essential for taste.. but it looks nice!) The best part is also that you can basically put WHATEVER YOU want on it – possibilities are endless. Here are two of my favourite combos.
Ingredients (Serves 1)
This recipe is gluten free, dairy free and vegan.
For the smoothie:
300 ml almond milk
Large handful of frozen berries (bag from supermarket)
One banana
Honey
For the toppings: Kiwi, gluten free granola, physalis and blueberries.
Method
This is so super simple. Whizz up your smoothie ingredients in a blender (I swear by my Nutribullet). Slice up your kiwi into medium slices. Pour your smoothie into a shallow ish bowl (not necessary – but helps with toppings sinking!). Arrange your toppings on top – sliced kiwi on the edge as it is the heaviest, follow up the sharp physalis, the crunchy granola and the blueberries. The best thing about this smoothie bowl is the combo of flavours and textures. A total winner!
The tropical smoothie bowl 
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This smoothie bowl will make you feel like you’ve done a one stop shop to the Caribbean! You’ll notice it uses many of the same ingredients as before – showing it is easy to make smoothie bowls on a budget by mixing and matching, whilst still creating new flavours.
Ingredients (Serves 1)
This recipe is gluten free, dairy free and vegan.
For the smoothie: 300ml almond milk
One banana
Large handful of frozen mango
One kiwi
Tbspn honey
For the toppings: strawberries, physalis, blueberries, gluten free granola and desiccated coconut.
Method: Same as above! Whizz together and arrange toppings on top of the smoothie. Start with heaviest on the outside and enjoy the gorgeous kiwi/mango smoothie with a taste of Caribbean coconut!
Let me know what you think!
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bryonyhopkins

Before I start, this is a gushing post. You’ve been warned!
I’m documenting the ultimate cornerstone to my entire liquid diet journey. This post in fact deserves the biggest chapter heading in the tale of Bryony Hopkins. Last week, I had my first doctors appointment with my specialist consultant since I finished my liquid diet. The same consultant who was determined that steroids were my only option and I opted for the complete opposite – a month intense liquid diet.
I have to say I was extremely nervous for the consultation. I worked it up in my head and the very thought of it reduced me to a near tearful wreck. Why you might ask? I obviously feel 1000x better than I did before the liquid diet, but the

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At the start of the liquid diet, April 2016

fact is, that not all of my symptoms have completely 100% disappeared, like I thought they miraculously would. What I didn’t know was that this is part of a longer healing process and as my consultant pointed out to me today, I am in a million times better place than I was before. I am pain free and able to control this through my diet. I am able to work full time, I am fulfilling all my social plans AND I’m training for a 10k. Pre liquid diet, I was just about able to get out of bed without being doubled over in pain. Yet I had completely forgotten how bad things were before until I sat in front of my consultant. He said ‘last time you came here Bryony you said you couldn’t carry on like this. You were at your wits end’. And I was – I had just forgotten. I was so focused on the fact I wasn’t completely ‘cured’ that I lost sight of the journey I’ve had and the transformation my body has gone through. The transformation that I allowed my body to go through and the work I have done to get it here.
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I can still eat deliciously good food! Black bean brownie and matcha latte courtesy of Ethos Foods.

It feels amazing. I actually can’t stop smiling. After I chose the liquid diet, I was rife with uncertainty. I had absolute no clue that I was doing the right thing or just being a stubborn cow. I am just over the moon it has worked out and been recognised by the most hard to please doctor! Whilst I am still on adlimumab injections, I am wholly optimistic that one day I could be drug free. It’s hard to believe how much things have changed just through one month of pure elemental.
For anyone who also suffers with Crohns & Colitis, I urge you to give the liquid diet a try if you’re ever at a treatment crossroad. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’ll mentally challenge you in ways you couldn’t have ever imagined. Yes, you’ll be hungry and angry for a few days. But my god – is it worth it! It’s a clean way to let your body heal – no chemicals, no side effects. Just you and your willpower.
My journeIMG_3837y is by no means over. I still have many food groups to reintroduce (this has all slightly stalled since I started a new job which is completely exhausting) and I have a job on my hands to manage my stress levels to keep my pain at bay. But the point is that’s all in my hands. I’m back in control.
This makes me even more determined to raise as much money as possible for Crohns & Colitis UK in my 10k run this Sunday. If you have any pennies to spare, I would be so eternally grateful – every pound means more than I can put into words! Click here to donate.
I feel like celebrating with a gluten free and dairy free brownie!!!!!
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