Jeff Hordley health: Emmerdale star’s chronic condition caused him ‘horrendous’ pain

Jeff Hordley, 49, is a well established face in the soap world, having played the role of Cain Dingle in Emmerdale for almost two decades. Cain is currently in the throes of a painful separation from his wife, after finding out that she has been cheating on him. Outside of the soap, the actor has lived with his own drama – at the age of 25 he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.


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Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition in which parts of the digestive system become inflamed.

Crohn’s disease affects people of all ages, although, as in Jeff’s case, the symptoms usually start in childhood or early adulthood.

Speaking to the Mirror, the soap star divulged his early symptoms: “As well as diarrhoea and cramps I’d have episodes of horrendous stomach pains and vomiting.”

Weight loss is another common symptom of Crohn’s disease, one that Jeff is familiar with: “I dropped from 12 stone to nine – which is a lot when you’re nearly six foot – and I was really think and pale.”

As the NHS explains, the symptoms may be constant or may come and go every few weeks or months, and when they come back, it’s called a flare-up.

As the health body notes, the condition can be tricky to diagnose because it can have similar symptoms to lots of other conditions.

Your GP can check for any obvious causes of your symptoms and will ask a series of questions to establish whether Crohn’s disease is the root cause, for example if you have a family history of Crohn’s disease.

After undergoing tests at the hospital, doctors diagnosed Jeff with Crohn’s disease, and it turns out the same condition caused his mother’s death in 1979: “When I was just nine, my mum had died from the very same illness.”

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How to treat it

There’s currently no cure for Crohn’s disease, but treatment can control or reduce the symptoms and help stop them coming back.

Medicines are the main treatments, but sometimes surgery may be needed.

Speaking as an ambassador to the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK, Jeff revealed how he keeps his symptoms in check: “Following surgery, medication and diet control, I’ve been playing the role of Cain Dingle since 2000.”

According to the NHS, medicines reduce the inflammation in the digestive symptom, and may also stop the inflammation coming back.

In some cases, surgery may be a suitable course of treatment, as the health site explained: “Sometimes this may be a better treatment option than medicines. You’ll usually have a team of health professionals helping you, possibly including a GP, a specialist nurse and specialist doctors.”


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While there is no evidence that what you eat actually causes Crohn’s or that the inflammation of the intestine is directly affected by what you eat, certain foods may aggravate symptoms, explains Crohn’s and Colitis.

People with Crohn’s need to make sure they are packing their diet full of essential nutrients too, according to the health site, as poor absorption in their intestines and loss of appetite is often linked to Crohn’s disease and may deprive their body of essential nutrients.

The health body added: “Talk to your doctor and, if possible, a dietitian about customising your diet for you to make sure you are getting enough nutrients and calories.”

The following dietary suggestions may help to manage the condition:

  • Limit dairy products
  • Try low-fat foods
  • Experiment with fiber
  • Avoid “gassy” foods
  • Eat smaller meals
  • Drink plenty of water

Exercise is recommended for everyone, regardless of any underlying health conditions, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but, as Crohn’s and Colitis explained: “An added benefit for people with Crohn’s is that regular exercise may lessen the chance of extra-intestinal (beyond the GI tract) symptoms.”

Speaking to the Loose Women panel earlier this year, Jeff revealed his dietary regime, which consists of growing his own food and keeping active.

He said: “It’s great, we’ve done it for years, we have carrots and everything.

“It’s good for us to grow it. I have Crohn’s disease so where we’re eating what we grow, it’s better for me.”

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