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We are not always what we eat...

A British News channel did a segment on Inflammatory Bowel Disease on Wednesday that put a lot of Crohn's and UC patients in an uproar. A consultant gastroenterologist, Dr. Sally Mitton, appeared to blame junk food for making it more likely for someone to develop an IBD.

"(...) if you have a lot of junk food before your diagnosis it actually makes it more likely that you will develop Crohn's disease."

I have kept silent about all this while watching social media (particularly those people in the IBD realm of social media) blow up over this. I can completely understand why. We who have suffered so much are now subject to a trivialized propaganda, designed to further an agenda. This report misinforms. People with little understanding of IBD may then point fingers of blame at those who are victims.

I was unsure of how to respond. At first I thought, "This is the opinion of one doctor. All doctors have opinions on causes, but that doesn't make them right... so why all the fuss? We should give her the benefit of the doubt anyway. The media always likes to twist words to fit their agenda."

 After a few days of angry calls, emails, letters, etc., we got a response from Dr. Mitton:
20th June 2014First and foremost I would like to apologise for the distress that I have caused by what was shown on the BBC to all Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis patients. I was unable to respond more quickly to the reactions to this report due to very heavy clinical commitments. I feel that what I said and the subsequent coverage has been misinterpreted and I would like to clarify this now.I said that Crohn’s disease occurs in those who are genetically susceptible and that the unexplained recent increase in numbers diagnosed amongst young people in the UK is likely to be related to life style. I did mention pre diagnosis diet and multiple courses of antibiotics as possible factors preceding the development of overt disease in some cases. I did not say that junk food or frequent courses of antibiotics CAUSE Crohn’s disease. I am very aware there are many patients with IBD who eat a very healthy and nutritious diet and have always done so before their diagnosis.However, since the initial report on 18th of June there have been subsequent newspaper and television reports that focus on the assumption that Crohn’s Disease seems to be “caused” by junk food and multiple antibiotics. This is not my belief and is a distortion.I did not mean to imply any element of self-infliction and I am appalled to think this could set back public perception of IBD or that sufferers might be blamed for their own pain and misfortune.I would like to sincerely apologise again for the distress that my comments have caused.Dr Sally MittonConsultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist
So it was just as I had suspected! The media had twisted her words. We also got a response from BBC One's "Breakfast."

"Thanks for contacting us regarding BBC One’s ‘Breakfast’ broadcast on 18 June.We understand you felt our reporting on the recent rise of Crohn’s disease cases has been inaccurate.We raised your concerns with the relevant editorial staff at ‘Breakfast’. They explained that they featured a range of views on Crohn's disease across this edition, hearing from a representative from ‘Crohn's and Colitis UK' and from two young people who live with the disease. Overall, we believe the programme was fair and balanced in its reflection of Crohn's and of the effects it has on those who have been diagnosed with the disease.With regard to the causes of Crohn's, we accept that the wording of an introduction to one report, and the subsequent opinion given by a doctor during the report, may have given the unintended impression that diet was a definite contributing factor to contracting the disease.We’re grateful to you for taking the time to raise your concerns with us and we’d like to assure you that we value your feedback highly. The comments we receive from our audience help to inform decisions regarding future programming and go towards improving our services."
(This letter was written to Gary Douch, the Chairman of Bowel Disease UK. Visit their Facebook page HERE.)

While BBC One's "Breakfast" finally addressed the issue, the damage has already been done and they do not seem to be too concerned with publicly addressing the issue. Since this segment was broadcast, many British newspapers have picked up the story about how junk food causes IBD. If you ask me, it sounds as though BBC One's "Breakfast" are giving us a pat on the head and sending us on our way.

I take great issue with the news media and their ability to twist words to make it fit their agenda. This was broadcast to millions of viewers and now the uninformed have reason to believe that Twinkies cause IBD. Not only that, but as I said earlier, they may accuse patients with Crohn's and UC of being at fault! They may even fail to take these potentially deadly diseases seriously telling the patients, "All you have to do is eat fewer Twinkies and you'll be ok!"

While I agree that we should always try to make healthy diet choices, I do not believe that junk food is the culprit. I tried many "miracle cure" diets in an attempt to find relief. Nothing helped. In fact many of them aggravated my symptoms because they involved the very vegetables that gave me trouble. I do not want to dissuade anyone from trying diet changes in an attempt to find relief because it has actually helped some people. In the end I, like so many others, had my colon removed.

The truth is, no one knows with any certainty WHY these diseases occur. The diseases may be triggered by many things. Our bodies are all different. We have different "triggers." I think the onset of my disease was because of heredity. Both my mother and aunt have Crohn's. Their uncle has UC.

Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease are very harsh and vicious diseases. Most of us have been hospitalized at one point or another. We are all familiar with medications, enemas, needles, nurses, doctors, medicinal side-effects, etc. IBD has claimed the lives of countless victims.  I'm convinced that without the medical advancements that we've made (and unfortunately the dreaded prednisone), I would have died in 2011 when I was first diagnosed because I had lost so much blood.

We need to speak up and educate others with the TRUTH and FACTS about these diseases. Not theories, propaganda or a doctor's manipulated words. These diseases are all individual--different from one person to the next. What may cause problems for one person, may be perfectly fine for another. And one medicine that keeps symptoms at bay for one patient, may not do anything for the other.

Bottom line: I believe that if illness is in your destiny, nothing you do can prevent it from happening. All you can truly do is make the best of a bad situation and make healthy lifestyle choices.

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