Today, 19th May, is World IBD Day – a day of importance for MK Dons manager Russell Martin.
Martin was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, one of the two illnesses that relate to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), shortly after joining Norwich City in 2010 and is currently an ambassador Crohn’s & Colitis UK.
“When I got diagnosed, it was quite serious and I got quite bad,” he told canaries.co.uk – the official website of Martin’s former club Norwich City.
“After training, I was completely wiped out and couldn’t do anything. On the afternoons, I was either sleeping or on the toilet. It was pretty unpleasant being on the toilet 20-30 times a day and losing loads of blood. I just felt completely fatigued.
“I was put on a really high dose of medication and steroids, taking about 12 or 18 tablets per day at one point and I wasn’t enjoying that at all. I’d become anaemic just from losing so much so then I had to take iron supplements as well.”
Martin was faced with the prospect of having surgery to rectify the issue – surgery which could have seen him sidelined for up to two years like former Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher, who also suffered with IBD.
“I went to see a specialist in London just to have a chat about the options and one of them was surgical,” he said. “I didn’t want that. It would have been a long time out for me and a long way back.
“That really shook me, so I decided to look into alternative therapies, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, Chinese herbs, all sorts of alternative stuff.
“Everyone I saw basically said that I needed to have a look at my diet. I got tested for allergies and what food would maybe ignite a flare-up.
“In the end, I decided to strip it back with the diet and just cut everything out starting with dairy and meat, then got gradually better. Fortunately, it’s worked for me so far.”
On World IBD Day 2020, Martin’s message to those who are suffering, is to be open about their situation.
“A number of people have written to me on social media or through letters to say that they were struggling with Crohn’s or Colitis, and for any tips I could offer them It’s different for everyone and that’s the difficult thing.
“What works for me might not work for someone else and vice versa, so I’ve always tried to support the Crohn’s & Colitis UK (C&CUK) charity as much as possible because it’s not a nice topic for a lot of people to talk about.
“I’ve been an ambassador for C&CUK for a number of years. The charity are brilliant at what they do. They’re excellent and support a lot of people going through tough stuff.
“A lot of people are suffering with it in silence because they don’t feel comfortable talking about it. I’ve got no problem talking about it. It’s not pleasant and people probably don’t want to hear it, but I think it’s important to raise the awareness of it because it is a lot more common than people think.
“A lot of people really struggle with it or just write it off as IBS or that they have an intolerance to certain foods. Then they leave it too late and by the time they actually get it sorted it’s quite a way down the line.”