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SAS Who Dares Wins contestant says Crohn’s disease felt like

SAS Who Dares Wins: Ulrika Jonsson withdrawn by staff

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Channel 4’s reality cum military-training programme has become known as being notoriously difficult and is run by ex-special forces operator Ant Middleton. Ant alongside a team of ex-military puts recruits through their paces in a variety of mentally and physically demanding challenges to see if they think they could make it through the real-life selection process. Chris was one of these recruits who was admitted to hospital by the end of the process

Speaking to Chris he admitted that the show was a way for him to “get more comfortable talking about [his] condition.” As a personal trainer, the fitness demands of the programme was not an issue for Chris, but he did struggle with managing the symptoms of his condition. “Any trouble I had was the sort of toilet situation where it was like buckets next to people which was quite eye opening!” Chris jokes. “We all had to share four completely open bathroom stalls on the show – everyone could see and hear exactly what you were doing! It made me less shy about the bathroom aspect of my condition and dealing with a prolapse.”As a condition that affects the digestive system, Crohn’s can be embarrassing for some. The most common symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue, unintended weight loss and blood and mucus in your stool.

The diagnosis of the condition can be tricky as the symptoms are common for other conditions as well. Chris experienced this first-hand when he was 19. After experiencing all of the common symptoms, doctors misdiagnosed him as having irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It wasn’t until he fainted in the doctors waiting room and spent a week in hospital when he was given Crohn’s as a diagnosis. Talking to the BBC Radio 4s Today programme Chris said that symptoms appeared out of nowhere, and suddenly eating became associated with pain. “I could eat ice cream before, and then suddenly oh my god it felt like eating knives.”At the time of his diagnosis Chris said he felt “depressed”. This was mostly due to the fact that he had no idea what the condition meant and how it would affect his life. “If you ask most people today they still probably aren’t aware of it. But over 11 years ago I’d certainly never heard of it.”Chris continued to say that for those who have just been diagnosed “this is probably the worst time. People who get crohns will suffer from some form of depression, I certainly did”.

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A post shared by Christopher Barker (@christopherbarker_pt)

Treatment for the condition starts with lifestyle changes. Most commonly adopting a gluten-free diet. This makes daily activities increasingly harder to do. Chris commented on this saying: “You just have to plan a lot more. Whether you’re going out for food, whether you’re just cooking for yourself, whether you’re with friends, I mean having strong reactions after food makes social engagements a lot harder.”Chris describes this process of what foods you can and cannot eat as a sort of trial and error. As someone who was always very sporty Chris struggled to perform at his best level, something which also affected his performance on SAS Who Dares Wins. Talking about one instance he said: “We had to do a seven-hour log carry, and that morning there was no gluten-free bread at breakfast. I made it to the end of the challenge with only a little fruit in my stomach, but towards the end I crashed. I was stubborn enough to keep going despite not feeling my legs!”After battling through the competition it was a lacerated cornea that led to Chris’ departure from the experience. The bitter disappointment at not making it to the end has meant that he couldn’t bear to watch the new series featuring celebrities.

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A post shared by Christopher Barker (@christopherbarker_pt)

The charity Crohn’s and Colitis suggests other methods of treatment including medication to control the immune system and stop it from attacking the gut. These medications include steroids which can be taken as a tablet once a day or an injection. Steroids however do come with side effects including weight gain, indigestion, problems with sleep and an increased risk of infection. Getting surgery to help alleviate Crohn’s is also possible, although less common, eight out of 10 people with Crohn’s do end up having to have some form of surgery.

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