Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Junk Food - Fuming

So, many of you will have seen in the news today Dr Sally Mitton talk about the increase in young people being admitted to hospital in the past decade. The fact that in 2003/2004 there were 4937 reported cases of young people being admitted to hospital with Crohn's Disease compared with the 19,405 cases in 2013/2014 is a pretty awful statistic. I am part of this statistic and if one good thing comes of this is that it will help raise awareness and funding for research as to why. This dramatic increase has clearly grabbed the attention of the British press and what I take huge issue with is what Dr Mitton goes on to state....

"if you have a lot of junk food in your diet before your diagnosis, it actually makes you more likely to develop Crohn's Disease... a lot of antibiotics - particularly in younger life - seem to be more likely to develop this condition..."

The backlash of this kind of comment is incredibly negative. For a disease already burdened with stigma and assumptions, the last thing it needs is people believing that the reason we all have it is due to stuffing our faces with 'junk food'. Now, people around me will know, that I do love a good McDonald's, however this love began aged 18, 2 years after my diagnosis. Prior to my diagnosis I was a healthy 8 stone, 16 year old, who did dance, netball and karate. My dad still cooked all my meals at home and I had no money to buy my own junk food or takeaways.

As a child I lived the first part of my life in Spain, a country where at the time there simply wasn't processed foods. I grew up on a diet of olives, fresh fruit and vegetables, rice and seafood. 'Kids' junk food wasn't available and children ate the same as adults. My whole life, my Dad has cooked every evening meal from scratch. I have never grown up with processed or 'junk foods'. To this day, aged 22, I have never had a microwave or 'oven' meal.

By making such a sweeping, damaging statement Dr Mitton and the press which quoted her, have managed to alienate and stigmatise an already 'embarrassing' disease. By claiming a link with 'junk food' she has allowed sufferers to think that this horrendous, life changing disease is their fault, and the parents of children with it to believe it was down to something they did wrong. The report basically puts blame on the patients, which is not just incredibly unfair but also ignorant and down right wrong. There are so many possible causes of the disease with the majority being completely uncontrollable such as genetics, pollution and viruses. This 'blame' shames patients and their parents (if diagnosed as a child) who are already battling with the day-to-day crap (no pun intended) that comes with having the disease. I couldn't bare to think of my parents ever thinking that me having this disease was their fault.

Frankly, if parents and patients are to blame for eating junk food and thus having Crohn's then surely a considerable amount of 'blame' needs to be directed to whoever was providing turkey twirlers, potato smiley faces and processed burgers to primary aged school children before Jamie Oliver put a stop to it.

Not once since my diagnosis have I ever been told about 'junk food' or diet being the cause. I have never been offered nutritional advice or been asked to alter what I eat. I would like to think that if this were to be the cause then this advice would have been given by my extremely experience medical staff. Once you have been diagnosed, many people notice that certain foods upset their symptoms or they develop food intolerances. These kind of diet changed or adaptations are very individual to each patient - there is no blanket cause/treatment/diet plan.

The fact remains that having Crohn's Disease comes with a lot of 'unknown' and there are clearly multiple factors and arguments for why certain people get the disease. However, claiming that this is down to junk food and having that aparent 'cause' leading the report is hugely damaging and has a very wide knock on effect. I am disgusted.

Safe to say I am fuming.

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