We first met Eli through our Festive Gut campaign where she created an amazing recipe: 'Golden overnight oats' and we continued to keep in touch after the campaign finished. She is a great voice for educating on making better nutritional choices.

"I became involved in this year’s campaign to raise awareness about bowel conditions and 'invisible illnesses' in general. Although people may show no obvious physical signs, you have no idea what’s going on inside their body - and the battle they may be fighting on a daily basis"

Eli's story:

Being told you have Crohn’s Disease when you’re eight years old is a life-changing experience.

No more birthday cake. Constant appointments. And a lifetime of medication ahead.

That’s what happened to Eli Brecher. But the now 22-year-old hasn’t let it stop her – far from it. 

She has become a respected food blogger, recipe developer and food stylist. She has more than 6,500 followers on Instagram @cerealandpeanutbutter and thousands more fans on her website www.elibrecher.co.uk 

At the same time she is nearing the end of a university degree in French and Spanish, having spent a year in Paris and Madrid, and is planning a three-year course in nutrition, starting in September 2018.

“I remember being diagnosed very clearly. I was always the smallest in class,” said Eli.  “I was tired all the time and had stomach aches. My mum booked me in for a blood test because it seemed like she should. Then my symptoms worsened and the appointment was brought forward.

“Doctors carried out a colonoscopy and an endoscopy and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s really quickly.

I was quite confused at the time but also completely aware that I wasn’t well. Every time I ate, I had to lie down for 20 minutes and I had terrible stomach pains. I could see that wasn’t normal.

“Initially I was put on a liquid diet for three months to give my digestive system a rest – that was difficult for an eight-year-old. Then I had to cut out major food groups like gluten, dairy, nuts, soya and eggs.

“My classmates didn’t know why I was different and explaining was a struggle. I didn’t want to isolate myself so I used to pretend everything was okay.”

As Eli got older, the dietary restrictions got easier. But she still stood out from the crowd, needing time off for medical appointments once a week, regular infusions, injections and blood tests every month.

“By the time I got to University in Nottingham I’d come to realise that having Crohn’s Disease is an intrinsic part of my life and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I opened up to the people closest to me and discovered how helpful that was. There are still lots of people who’ve never heard of it though. If that happens, I try to give a brief summary and leave it at that.

“No one will ever fully understand what it’s like to have Crohn’s unless they’ve gone through it.”

She considers herself lucky that she is currently in remission

“My flare-ups in the past have usually been when I’m stressed – I couldn’t sit my AS Levels because I was in hospital and had to take them the following year – at the same time as my A2 exams.

“The pain is not something you can sort out with a hot water bottle and a lie-down. It can be a lot more complicated.

“Whilst I’m an incredibly energetic and driven person who loves to be busy, during a flare-up I get chronic fatigue and even small tasks can seem daunting. I’d be in pain every time I eat and have become anaemic from the loss of blood. Usually I go to the doctor who will consider my medications and might prescribe steroids.”

Eli took her health into her own hands during her first year at University

“I was leading a hectic student life and was keen not to miss out on Fresher’s events and booze-fuelled nights out followed by 4am pizzas!

“After a very severe flare-up, I realised I needed to revaluate my diet and lifestyle. I set up my blog and my Instagram account to find inspiration for healthy ‘free-from’ meal ideas, then launched my website as a place to share my recipes.”

She has become a passionate recipe developer, blogger, food stylist, photographer and creator of the Instagram account @cerealandpeanutbutter. “Back then my diet at uni consisted mainly of sugary cereal and peanut butter straight from the jar – hence the name,” she said.

“Now the recipes on my website focus on wholesome foods – all free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar – that delight the senses and nourish the body. I aim to encourage people to see that healthy eating can be fun, easy and delicious!”

She also practises yoga and tries to keep on top of her university course work so as to keep the stress levels at bay. She is currently training for a half-marathon to raise money for Crohn’s later this year.   

The future holds no fears for Eli

You never know what’s going to happen with Crohn’s but I’ve always been a positive person

“It has never held me back. In fact, it’s opened doors and made me the resilient person I am today. I’ve been through more than most 22-year-olds in terms of health issues and it’s made me more mature, independent and appreciative.

“I’m excited to be able to study nutrition and go on to help other people living with the same condition.”