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A 41-year-old woman who was misdiagnosed with Crohn’s disease is cured after doctor’s discovered a Heinz ketchup packet in her intestines.

A case file published in BMJ Case Reports tells the tale of a middle-aged woman who came to doctors with symptoms of abdominal pain and bloating. Everything else about her appeared to be normal – normal appetite, normal blood work, no sign of parasites or other infections, and she wasn’t losing weight.

At the time – which was late 2007 – doctor’s assumed she had a mild case of Crohn’s disease that was confirmed after doctors performed a biopsy of her colon and found polyps, which are a potential symptom of Crohn’s disease. Doctors at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospital in the UK recommended that woman take prescription medication for the treatment of Crohn’s and kept a close eye on her.

The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, but it is thought to be an autoimmune disorder whereby the immune system begins to attack part of the digestive tract. Mild cases include abdominal pain and bloating, but more severe cases can be highly debilitating, making every meal an agonizing experience.

For the 41-year-old patient, the prescription seemed to do nothing but back her symptoms worse. She was hospitalized four times with bowel obstructions and x-rays revealed a thickening of the intestinal wall – another sign of Crohn’s. That’s when doctors decided it was time to operate.

One of the potential cures for Crohn’s disease is to remove the part of the colon that the immune system appears to be attacking. In this case, doctors went in with the intention of removing part of the woman’s colon. What they found was utterly shocking.

Doctors discovered “two pieces of plastic bearing the word ‘Heinz’ on them,” according to the report. The Heinz ketchup packet had become embedded in the wall of the woman’s colon, where it remained for half a decade. Once removed the woman’s symptoms disappeared after her recovery.

The woman said she couldn’t remember ever eating the disposable ketchup packet or eating anything where one would be necessary seasoning.

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