In response to the BBC…….

Earlier today, the BBC, through their Breakfast show on TV and the Newsbeat Radio 1 and Jeremy Vine Radio 2 programs, gave coverage to Crohn’s Disease, and they managed to provoke the fury of anyone who has the illness in doing so. Why you may ask, when all of us with an IBD, be that Crohn’s or UC want awareness of the conditions raised? It’s because the BBC have been promoting comments attributed to Dr Sally Mitton, that Crohn’s is heavily on the rise, it’s all because of a diet of junk food and the overuse of antibiotics, and this is being reported as a fact. And now The Telegraph’s Sarah Knapton has got in on the action and published a story under the headline of “Crohn’s disease in teens jumps 300 per cent in 10 years fuelled by junk food”, and those of us with IBDs are quite rightly disgusted with the way the illness is being covered in the media, untruths are being spread about it.

Essentially, the world is being told that we all caused our illnesses. It’s all our fault. We did it. We’re bang to rights and it’s because we all ate a load of horrible junk food. Wrong. Categorically and completely wrong. I didn’t eat a diet of junk food growing up, my Mother cooked meals from scratch when I was a child, and I have always eaten plenty of vegetables and fruit, my Grandfather used to bring home sacks and sacks of fruit and veg every week for all of us (his three daughters and all of their families) to have. We live in Norfolk and he bought the veg from farmers that he knew in the local area. I like fruit and vegetables. A lot. I always have. I still eat plenty of veg, and if you’re familiar with (Man with) IBD Versus Food, you’ll know I don’t eat junk food. I am now 40 and pride myself on being a damn good cook, no, I’m a damn good chef!

The causes of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are so complex that no one actually knows exactly what they are. Sure there are plenty of theories, there are genetic factors, possibly environmental triggers, it’s highly likely a combination of many things that can cause an individual to develop one of these illnesses. In fact, recent research suggests that there may be over 200 separate genetic indicators or responses for IBDs, which is probably why no one has been able to pin down a cause. There isn’t one, there are likely hundreds. Even the idea that it’s inherited is a dead end of sorts, I am one of many that is the first in their family to contract Crohn’s. One thing I hear from listening to others experiences, is that so many people with Crohn’s were generally healthy eaters, they tell me they never or seldom used to eat junk food. Many of them found junk food expensive and many people didn’t even have the taste for it, takeaways are expensive! So how can it be that we all have Crohn’s because of it, if so few of us ate it? One thing is certain about the causes of IBD…..nothing is certain. We just don’t know what causes it.

Here are just a few comments from the members of an IBD forum that have been venting their spleens at Dr Sally Mitton’s assertion that junk food is the cause of Crohn’s. I really cannot publish all of the reaction to this, too many responses and some people have been moved (understandably) to swear profusely! But I would rather you all post your stories and replies in the comments section below and share this in the farthest reaches of the internet on Facebook and Twitter, maybe it will wend it’s way to the Beeb eventually.

Member A “For me it’s the fact that I’m 66 and pretty newly diagnosed. No junk food for me growing up and I followed my Mother’s lead as an adult and cooked healthy food”

Member B “I was a veggie for years before diagnosis (I was 13) but had to stop as the high fibre, fresh fruit and veg were too much for my inflamed gut”.

Member C “I was raised on allotment meat and veg, no sweets, just fruit, I was 16 in 1980 and diagnosed with Crohn’s. I’m 51 this year, I’ve tried all the diet, had 8 bowel resections, fistulas, sepsis, MRSA, obstructions, near death surgery for peritonitis, etc, etc. I’ve never eaten unhealthy”.

Member D “I never had takeaways as a kid, maybe chip shop as a treat on occasions, but my Dad worked in a fruit and veg market and he would bring home big sacks of that on a Friday, so always home cooked foods, and a chocolate bar and a bag of crisps on a Friday at my Nans, but overall healthy!!”.
Member E “I was bought up on a diet of homemade food, made by my stay-at-home Mum. We didn’t have ‘junk food’, unless you count fish and chips a couple of times a year. And just before I became ill, I had left university and started a new job at the other end of the country. I cooked the kind of balanced diet recommended by the NHS. I certainly didn’t eat takeaways, ready made meals or any other junk food”

This a statement on behalf of all of you who have Crohn’s. We would prefer that in future the BBC, The Telegraph, or any other news outlet for that matter, instead of pedalling pejorative opinions, they simply do their research before publishing or going to air. It simply isn’t good enough and we are all thoroughly disgusted. One young man has already said that he has had many people come up to him today and say they didn’t realise junk food caused it, people will believe it because the BBC says it’s so. What you have done, dear BBC (and Telegraph), is undermine the poor levels of awareness we have been trying to improve, hampered the education of the actual truth and facts of Crohn’s, UC and IBDs. There has always been a stigma attached to IBD, and now we are effectively being blamed for making ourselves ill by a section of the media and a lone medical doctor, all adds up to further misunderstanding really, doesn’t it? One thing I do know, is that many of us simply couldn’t tolerate eating masses of junk food, our guts cannot take it.

We will not just let it go, you’ve made an awful lot of people in the UK with Crohn’s very angry, just noting though that from yet another inaccuracy on the Newsbeat article, you don’t actually know how many people that actually is……

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31 thoughts on “In response to the BBC…….

  1. Sums up the whole issue with today’s “news”. People with Crohn’s have enough to be dealing with without having members of the public think it’s self-inflicted.

  2. Thankyou! The bbc and telegraph have made damage today and i feel angry as I’ve recently been diagnosed and still figuring foods out. I found myself in a struggle to explain to work Crohn’s disease, and now I feel it was a waste as they could have heard the article given this morning. Specially at my age (22), and others my age that get told to eat healthy exercise more don’t drink etc by doctors before being diagnosed was stressful enough. This has caused extra stress which us sufferers don’t need! I’m sure at any age and gender and how long suffers have had the disease we don’t need this stress added! And I’m glad that this was made as not many of us have a lot of information as it’s a life learning experience.

    • No problem Katie, and there are plenty of sources for good information out there, if there is any advice regarding food and diet you may need, bearing in mind everyone finds there are differences, please do ask. If I cannot always come up with the right advice, someone else might just be able to help, that’s the point of this blog.

      • Thankyou i mean i have figured out the main foods like greasy foods high fibre as you hear about but its like breads ect sauces in meals that kind of things. I caught my ibd early so i managed to get treated quickly so i cant really say much to help. Learning as we go !

  3. In medicine, Ignorance is our biggest barrier to education – congratulations to the BBC and The Telegraph for being the propagators of ignorance!

    • Yes Ann, it is scary how they can do this, isn’t it, and I wonder as to their motives to be honest.

  4. The most saddening thing about such statements is the irreversible damage, not only to the sufferer, but the employers, families, teachers and even some health care professionals, could now have the view it’s due to a poor diet. I didn’t grow up on fast food, I was forced to drink milk at school and eat my meat and three veg. Like most kids in the seventies. Unless that is to blame it’s ridiculous to blame it on the patient. Antibiotics were dished out in my childhood probably far too many times looking back, but seems that wouldn’t be such good news and open up another kettle of fish, that would be directing the blame off the patient. I didn’t cause my bowel to be removed after nearly dying of UC. I tried everything possible to prevent having to have an ileostomy at 35. I got to the stage that sipping water made me vomit, I wasn’t well enough for the op but they had no choice because I would of died anyway. Hearing ridiculous statements such as I have today would be absolutely heartbreaking to someone having to embark on these operations. I feel really sorry for anyone having to hear this as if this is true.

    • Lizzy, one point you bring up that sticks out for me, is the issue about being forced to drink milk on a daily basis in school, I often used to refuse the milk as I just didn’t enjoy it and was seen as being difficult by the teachers. Looking back and having spoken to my Mother and knowing what I know now, it’s highly likely that I had become intolerant of dairy rather than I was simply just difficult, because it was about the age of 5 that I started to refuse drinking milk. But then I have been accused of not wanting to eat various foods rather than it actually being recognised that I do have problems tolerating them more than once since being diagnosed with Crohn’s. I wonder too if someone is trying to place blame on all of us for having an IBD, as you hint at, but I sincerely hope that is not the case. Hopefully we can start to redress the damage done today.

  5. It’s also a well known fact within the health care profession, about giving UP smoking actually causes UC flares, my surgeon first told me, he had seen it too many times. I know crohns is the opposite, but has anyone actually done on any research on the lower levels of people smoking and the increase of UC sufferers. I’m no health care expert but to me this would be one obvious cause of the sudden increase. That wouldn’t make good news, so it will never be in the media.

    • There’s a lot of research that could and should be conducted on IBD, but none of it is on the agenda it would seem….

  6. I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease in 1998 and never hearing of it before had to do tons of research to learn about it as my GI couldn’t answer my questions. It is so easy to learn about ANYthing these days, just google it! I am actually from the US, am married to a Brit and had the chance to live in the UK. My husband is diabetic and it seems whenever diabetes was talked about, those with Type 2 were always accused of inflicting it on themselves. After having multiple resections I am unable to eat fruits and veggies and many meats. We are all different as to what we can eat/drink so to say we inflicted it upon ourselves is just showing the level of stupidity people have. It takes a few minutes to look something up and a few more to make an effort to actually learn about it. Ignorance is NOT bliss!!

    • I know what you mean about Consultants not being able to answer questions, either that or they just don’t want to answer them, so yes, doing our own research is vital. I also understand about the issue of diabetes also always being talked about as self-inflicted, I am borderline diabetic, but only because I had pancreatitis, and I only had that because of the Azathioprine I was prescribed for Crohn’s caused it, the causes of these illnesses are often far more complicated than it might at first appear.

  7. Well said, I’m so shocked by the appalling standard of journalism the BBC have displayed. The damage they have done is horrendous, we can only hope the truth will receive enough publicity to put this right.

    • Many people have said the same thing Joanne, bad enough actually having the illness without the media doing this.

  8. I’m absolutely appalled that a so called IBD professional could so publicly undermine such seriously debilitating illnesses!! I was born in the 70’s and was brought up on home cooked foods and fresh dairy products from the local farm. How dare this woman suggest that my Crohn’s disease was brought on by eating junk food! Junk food wasn’t easily bought back then, it was expensive! My parents couldn’t afford luxuries so myself and my siblings very very rarely touched the stuff. I also grew up in the countryside surrounded by miles of moorland and beautiful land and was rarely ill growing up so I also never had antibiotics on a regular basis either! Where did this woman get her ideas from?? Because she’s grossly misinformed. I’m outraged and extremely offended that she’s now successfully managed to inform those less knowledgeable of the biggest load of nonsense ever!

    • The one thing that seems to be a common theme in the stories shared by those of us with IBD, is that generally most grew up either before fast food was widely available or their families simply couldn’t afford to buy it, either way, very few of us ate lots of junk food. It seems to me that an awful lot of us simply grew up in less wealthy families, just regular decent households. let’s face it, historically the people that made themselves ill by eating junk are the very wealthiest of society, ever heard of gout being called the rich mans ailment?

  9. IBD is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. There are numerous different types of autoimmune disorders/diseases that attack the body in different ways. For example rheumatoid arthritis effects the joints. Crohn’s, Colitis, Ulcertative Colitis effect the bowel – large, small intestine, colon and digestive tract. Because it’s in these areas it’s all to easy to say that food – junk food – diet habits is the cause or contributes to symptoms. This link would not be made with other auto immune diseases. We rely on the medical professionals to make early diagnosis, be experts in their field to provide relevant treatment and support the needs of their patients. It is damaging and worrying that such comments were made by one of these ‘professionals’. A woman commented on a thread yesterday to say that it was a year to the day that her 23 year old daughter died after complications for surgery for severe Ulcerative Colitis. My sister died aged 23 years old from septicima after surgery to remove her colon caused by Ulcertative Colitis. IBD is a chronic disease and far more serious and complex than a dietary disorder.

  10. So sad that such a gross misconception (or, at least, a hypothesis that’s not yet researched) has been touted in the media, but people like you CCUK are doing an awesome job pulling out all the stops to bring the factually correct, researched perspectives to the table.
    I’m yet to see comments that a rise in diagnoses is actually to do with better diagnostics and doctor training!
    It’s sad that the media prefer a junk food headline over actual facts, and have no qualms in further damaging a community that already struggles with so much . Shame on them.

    • We all have a role to play in making sure the facts of IBD are brought to the fore, but we always generally find someone will set that process back as the BBC has done.

  11. While symptoms may (or may not) be lessened by eating or refraining from certain foods, the fact remains that this is an autoimmune disease. Brilliant doctors and scientists do not know a definitive cause of this or any other autoimmune disease. This lady is pompous and self-serving declaring something so inaccurate on public television just to make a name for herself out of the controversy. Because of her statement, many less educated and less aware people will believe her statements to be true; thus causing a major setback in our efforts to bring awareness and funding to research and treatments.

    • One thing that is a source of unease for me, is that Dr Mitton is a paediatric gastroenterologist dealing with children who have IBD among other gut illnesses, and her comments are potentially damaging for her own patients, I just cannot fathom the motives.

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