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Welsh woman ‘lived on gummy sweets and bran flakes for a year’

02 Nov 2022 5 minute read
Swansea stand-up comic Sianny Thomas survived on Haribo and bran flakes for a year in a bid to control symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Picture: PA.

A Welsh stand-up comic has described how she survived on Haribo sweets and bran flakes for a year because of digestive problems.

Sianny Thomas, from Swansea, lived on the unusual diet in a bid to control symptoms of Crohn’s disease – an inflammatory bowel disease – before she was diagnosed.

The 36-year-old, who is also an office manager, has joined a campaign to encourage young people with digestive problems to use an online symptom checker, rather than delay seeking care.

Charity Crohn’s & Colitis UK warned that delaying treatment can leave people needing stronger medication or even emergency surgery to remove part of the bowel.

Ms Thomas said she ate the gummy sweets because they were the only thing she could eat without being sick.

She added bran flakes to her limited diet after a nutritionist she was referred by her GP recommended them, because bran absorbs the water that’s in a diarrhoea affected digestive system.

So this changed the output but didn’t improve the pain or malnutrition.

“I lost three stone, my eyes became sunken with dark circles, and my hair and nails went really dull,” she said.

“I ended up in hospital after my condition flared, and was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s.

“If I’d been diagnosed earlier I needn’t have had such strong medication, nor developed a bad relationship with food.

“So if you have diarrhoea, stomach pain or blood in your poo, even if your symptoms come and go, use the symptom checker on the Crohn’s & Colitis UK website to see if it could be Crohn’s or colitis, then send the results to your GP so you both have everything you need to get the right diagnosis and the right treatment as early as possible.”

Another patient, Natalie-Amber Freegard, said her Crohn’s was so bad that even Evian water would make her sick, and at one point during her seven-year wait for a diagnosis she only ate jelly.

She is now appearing in the charity’s new campaign to help encourage others to seek help sooner.

“Everything I was eating wasn’t working… Evian with a touch of fruit was killing me – I would throw up,” the 30-year-old, from Swindon, said.

“I was living on sugar-free jelly at one point, and even that would hurt.”

Both women have shared their experiences to help Crohn’s & Colitis UK promote its new public awareness campaign – Cut The Crap: Get Checked For Crohn’s and Colitis.

A poll of 10,000 British adults, commissioned by the charity, found that 19% of 18 to 24-year-olds would delay seeking help from the GP for at least a month if they found blood in their poo.

Many described being scared to talk to a GP about symptoms such as stomach pain or blood in their stools, while others said they would not feel confident describing symptoms.

A number also said they would be embarrassed discussing persistent diarrhoea with their GP.

The charity said that around a quarter of people with inflammatory bowel disease are not diagnosed for at least a year after symptoms start.

Its new campaign, aimed at younger adults, urges people to use its online symptom checker and talk to their GP about digestive health.

Meanwhile, the charity warned that many young adults are turning to social media for advice – such as eating one type of food only – which poses a risk to health.

Crohn’s & Colitis UK consultant nurse Isobel Mason said: “If you ignore the signs of Crohn’s and colitis for too long, treatment becomes more difficult and you are more likely to need stronger medication, hospital admissions or surgery.

“The earlier we diagnose, the earlier we can treat and the better people do, so we’d urge everyone to see their GP as soon as symptoms appear.”

The charity’s chief executive, Sarah Sleet, said: “There already were far too many people waiting over a year for a diagnosis before the pandemic. Since then, that figure will have soared.

“Delays can be devastating, affecting people’s ability to do their jobs, go to school or college, socialise or have relationships.

“It is urgent that we do more to help young people stay in control of their health, and that means providing them with the tools to get the right diagnosis from their GP as early as possible.

“Our symptom checker gives people the confidence to go to their GP with a summary of what they’ve been experiencing, to help them get the right diagnosis and get back on the road to recovery.”

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