When Sam Faiers, star of The Only Way is Essex, entered the Big Brother house last January, she began to experience terrible stomach cramps, sickness and diarrhoea. “I didn't know what was wrong with me,” she says. “I was running to the loo probably 10 times a day and the cramps were awful and made me double over with pain. Then, because I had malnutrition, I became ill with flu. I was in bed for two days. I was told it could be a tummy bug or it could be irritable bowel syndrome. But you know your own body and you know when something is wrong with you.”

Sam says she felt to ill, she doesn't know how she got through Big Brother; but rather than leave and get medical help, she stayed for a month, making it through to the final day. “When I do something, I have to give it my all and I'd hate to have left if it had just been just a tummy bug,” she says.

 

Inflammation

 

After Big Brother, Sam underwent various tests and was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, a disorder which causes inflammation of the digestive system and is estimated to affect one in every 650 people in the UK, usually appearing between the ages of 10 and 40. “It was completely random how I got it,” says Sam, who had just turned 23 when she was diagnosed. “No-one in my family has it.”

Sam's Crohn's was severe and her doctor warned her that she might need an operation to remove part of her intestine. “But he tried me on steroids, and my body responded so well to the medication that I'm absolutely over the moon that it wasn't necessary,” she says.

 

Moderation

 

Sam has been able to keep her condition under control by watching what she eats and drinks, and knowing her 'triggers', which include white wine. She hasn't had a flare up since. “I'm a party girl,” she says. “I love going out with my friends. But I do everything in moderation now. I avoid certain wines because they're acidic, and I tend to stick to gin and tonic. Everyone is different, but the guidance advises against high-fibre foods, spicy food and tomatoes. That doesn't mean I can't have a curry, I just make sure it's a mild one.”

It's been a difficult year for Sam, but her message to anyone newly diagnosed with Crohn's is that things do get better. “When I was first diagnosed, I'd scan a menu to see what I could eat,” she says. “Now it's second nature. Over the last year, it's become easier and easier to deal with.”

 

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