A WOMAN from Sheffield can eat only vegetables - after a terrifying food intolerance sent her blind, made all her hair fall out, and almost killed her.
Bunmi Sobowale spent months in hospital after being robbed suddenly of her sight, losing all sensation in her body, and suffering paralysis, blackouts and speech problems.
“I used to be able to eat anything I wanted,” Bunmi told The Star. “Now I have to be so careful. My life could change in a second if I ate the wrong food.”
Meat and fish now make Bunmi sick, and she can no longer touch alcoholic drinks. Bread, pasta, cakes and biscuits cause the 30-year-old’s throat to swell and make her skin feel as though it is burning.
Milk, cheese and chocolate make her nauseous, nuts lead to panic attacks, and anything sugary - even fruit - sends her straight to sleep.
Doctors do not know what caused her illness, but think her collapse is connected to a stomach bug she picked up on holiday in Mexico.
“I had always been fit and healthy, so the effect it had on my daily life was devastating,” said Bunmi, from Holmhirst Way, Woodseats.
“I’m reminded every day how food affects my illness.
“Some foods aggravate the pain, and eating the wrong thing can mean a relapse.”
Doctors think Bunmi’s disease is a very rare condition called neuromyelitis optica - a problem in the central nervous system that affects the optic nerves and spinal cord.
But they are baffled by the link between her nervous system and her food intolerance.
She lost her sight twice - for four months, and again for two weeks - and medics even tried a form of chemotherapy in an attempt to treat her.
But the only thing that has worked for Bunmi since falling ill in 2004 has been changing her diet.
“Now it means if I go away somewhere, or even just get on a train, I have to make sure there is somewhere I can get the right food,” she said.
Bunmi, a former High Storrs School pupil who grew up in Ecclesall and lives with boyfriend Mark, has now regained her sight.
But she must pay regular visits to neurologists at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, and struggled with her weight after steroid treatment made her balloon to 22 stone.
Now 14 stone, she has turned her experience into a drive to help others. She took a course in nutrition and quit her marketing job at supermarket chain Asda to work full time on her website – www.foodsyoucan.co.uk – which helps others with food intolerance.
The site now gets 100,000 hits a month, and she has had to take on three staff to help her run the business.
WHAT BUNMI CANNOT EAT
n Pasta, bread, biscuits, cakes - wheat and gluten cause swelling in her throat, make her tired, and cause intense burning sensations on her skin
n Soya – causes bloating and intense weariness
n Dairy products, including milk, cheese and chocolate – make Bunmi nauseous and tired
n Sugar, including most fruit, snacks, alcoholic drinks – causes pain on her skin and intense sleepiness followed by a ‘hangover’
n Nuts – cause panic attacks