I had another post planned today but I am so incensed by the news report I have head today that I had to write this. The report said that IBD is caused by junk food and is on BBC’s newsbeat, you can read it here.
“Dr Sally Mitton says she and her colleagues at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south-west London, have seen a rise in the number of young people with Crohn’s. “We know that there are many genes that predispose someone to get Crohn’s disease. But we also know that lifestyle factors like eating a lot of junk food or taking many courses of antibiotics may make it more likely to happen.”
This quote has led to news reports leading with ‘news’ that junk food causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
I am seething, the NHS say:
The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, although it is thought to be the result of a problem with the immune system.
The immune system is the body’s defence against infection. Many experts believe that ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune condition (when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue).
The immune system normally fights off infections by releasing white blood cells into the blood to destroy the cause of the infection. This results in inflammation (swelling and redness) of body tissue in the infected area.
In ulcerative colitis, a leading theory is that the immune system mistakes “friendly bacteria” in the colon – which aid digestion – as a harmful infection, leading to the colon and rectum becoming inflamed.
Alternatively, some researchers believe a viral or bacterial infection triggers the immune system, but for some reason it doesn’t “turn off” once the infection has passed and continues to cause inflammation.
It has also been suggested that no infection is involved, and the immune system may just malfunction by itself.
It also seems inherited genes are a factor in the development of ulcerative colitis. Studies have found that more than one in four people with ulcerative colitis has a family history of the condition.
Levels of ulcerative colitis are also a lot higher in certain ethnic groups, further suggesting that genetics are a factor.
Researchers have identified several genes that seem to make people more likely to develop ulcerative colitis, and it is believed that many of these genes play a role in the immune system.
Where and how you live also seems to affect your chances of developing ulcerative colitis, suggesting that environmental factors are important.
For example, the condition is more common in urban areas of northern parts of Western Europe and America.
Various environmental factors that may be linked to ulcerative colitis have been studied, including air pollution and certain diets, but no factors have so far been identified.
I have had Ulcerative Colitis for ten years and so this blog revolves around my experiences, I know a lot more about Ulcerative Colitis than I do Crohns Disease but the plight of anyone with IBD is so important. Apologies to any Crohnies who feel I am biased towards UC, I just don’t know as much and have no personal experience of Crohns. I hope you read this knowing that I support Crohns and Colitis awareness and only talk about UC more as it is what I know.
Leading a report by putting the blame on patients is unfair, damaging and really upsetting to the hundreds of thousands of people with IBD in the UK. Diet “may” be linked to IBD in some way, but as the NHS website says so could air pollution! Yet we don’t see reports blaming the environment.
Putting the blame on the patient leads to a public shaming of patients, it is bad enough to have to deal with a disease that causes pain, bleeding, diarrhoea, fatigue. Having to take multiple drugs that each have their own set of side effects, facing many surgeries and possible death! But to then make the patient feel that it is their fault is heart breaking.
The report also says “there is no cure but many patients learn to manage the symptoms, often by altering their diet.” – I would argue this point too. Patients HAVE to learn to manage their LIFELONG INCURABLE disease through medication. A flare up CANNOT be controlled by diet alone. During a flare I have always been advised to eat a low fibre/low residue diet. A low residue diet involves avoiding roughage (insoluble fibre) that your body struggles to break down. Roughage is found in skins, pips, seeds, whole grain cereals, nuts and raw fruit and vegetables.
This makes it very difficult to have a normal healthy diet as you have to avoid a lot of fruit and veg and are encouraged to eat only white bread/pasta/rice.
Perhaps the rise in the number of patients could be to do with patients with IBD being a lot more open about the illness, blogs like mine and many other fantastic IBD blogs are demystifying the disease and perhaps this is making it less taboo so people having symptoms are more likely to go to the doctor?
There are many unknowns about IBD and I welcome any debate and discussion but blaming the victim by putting this onto junk food is unhelpful and damaging to all the people who are currently working so hard to raise awareness and provide support.
Love Sam x
*UPDATE* I got this response from @BBCnewsbeat on twitter…