Food Network personality and chef, Sunny Anderson
Food Network star and chef Sunny Anderson is all about a well-rounded meal, but she isn’t too fond about eating vegetables.
Anderson, 39, recently revealed that for the past 20 years she’s suffered from the autoimmune disease ulcerative colitis. The chronic disease happens in the large intestine in which the lining of the intestine becomes inflamed and develops open sores or ulcers that produce pus and mucus. Both inflammation and ulceration can cause discomfort in the abdominal area and frequent use of the restroom.
Foods like greens, thick-skinned vegetables and fruits can trigger flare-ups for individuals that have ulcerative colitis.
“People around me have always asked what do I do in situation of food and flare-ups, so I thought why not share what I can. You come into a stage where you realize you can help more by doing more. This [disease] has effected me for more than half of my life,” said Anderson.
She has since teamed up with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America to raise awareness of the disease and develop recipes on getyourfullcourse.com to help others. At 19, Anderson was diagnosed with the disease after experiencing cramps “worse than that time of the month” and painful bloody stools for a month overseas.
“I thought I was experiencing all of these symptoms from foods that I was eating in North Korea when I was serving in the Air Force. I was embarrassed to even mention to anyone what I was experiencing, but luckily my dad is a doctor and I felt comfortable enough speaking with him about my symptoms,” she said.
Symptoms of the disease include: loose urgent bowel movements, persistent diarrhea accompanied by abdominal pain and bloody stool, isolated bloody stool, and crampy abdominal pain. Others may also experience a loss in appetite, fatigue and weight loss.
Different individuals will experience different relationships with foods that may trigger symptoms that coincide with ulcerative colitis. That is why Anderson believes it is important to pay attention to what the body and see what works for each individual.
“It’s all about getting the right nutrients you need because this disease makes it hard for your intestines to absorb the proper nutrients needed,” she said. “People always think it’s caused by food you eat or even stress; but, it it’s a chronic disease with no cure.”
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention stated in studies that the peak age for ulcerative colitis is 15 to 30 years old, but it may occur at any age. Although a majority of the sufferers of this disease are of Caucasian and Jewish decent, other racial and ethnic groups make up similar percent ranges.
“People always tend to know about other diseases like cancer, but no one really knows about ulcerative colitis. I find that every time I try to discuss it with a friend or a co-worker they tell me they’ve never heard about it before or they are connected with someone who has it,” said Anderson.
She’s encouraging others who have noticed symptoms to see their local doctors. She has admitted that discussing stools and other symptoms may seem “embarrassing,” but a diagnosis will relieve the stress of being in the unknown.
“Sometimes you have to push your embarrassment to the side and deal with your health. That is why it’s so important to know what it is, and what the symptoms are.”
For recipes and information about ulcerative colitis visit www.getyourfullcourse.com