If you have Crohn’s disease, you know all too well the symptoms that accompany it. You might deal with anything from diarrhea to abdominal pain, fatigue to stomatitis, weight loss, and more. While doctors don’t know exactly what causes this chronic inflammatory bowel disease, certain foods may trigger your symptoms and make them worse. Cooking and eating may feel like a constant struggle. And if you like good food, you probably think that most of the recipes you see online just aren’t for you.
You may be surprised to learn that there are several high-achieving chefs who also have Crohn’s disease. You can check out these chefs on social media, as well as learn some handy tips on cooking with Crohn’s.
1. Miro Uskokovic
Pastry chef Miro Uskokovic works at the award-winning Gramercy Tavern in New York City. He has dramatically changed his diet in the wake of his recent Crohn’s diagnosis. For him, finding out what triggers the disease is a test-and-see process. For example, meat was causing him to have flare-ups, so he stopped eating meat. He’s also stopped eating most dairy products, but he’s discovered that foods like yogurt, kefir, and ghee are all right.
2. Julie Anne Rhodes
Personal chef Julie Anne Rhodes is a former model, actress, and food activist. She has appeared on shows like “Food(ography),” “The Lost Chronicles of Food,” and even as a guest judge on “MasterChef.” Rhodes also has Crohn’s disease and has been in remission for nine years without medication. She explains that with a chronic disease like Crohn’s, it’s important to understand that “what works for one person may not work for another. You have to learn to listen to your own body.”
3. Sarah Choueiry
Sarah Choueiry was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 13. She’s a speech language pathologist by day and an avid food blogger by night. Over 100 of her recipes are published in her book, “Living with Crohn’s and Colitis Cookbook.” The tasty foods she makes are full of nutrition, but they are meant to avoid triggers and ease flare-ups. Choueiry explains that her main focus in life isn’t about finding a cure for her disease. Instead, it’s about living and “knowing [she is] already blessed with a body that supports [her].”
4. Mark Sullivan
Chef Mark Sullivan does not have a formal education in the culinary arts. But that hasn’t stopped him from becoming executive chef at two Michelin-starred restaurants — Spruce and The Village Pub, both in the San Francisco Bay area. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease while in college. His advice on cooking with Crohn’s is to “obey the rules of your body” and pay attention to your own individual triggers.
5. Sunny Anderson
You’ve probably seen Sunny Anderson on the Food Network on shows like “Chopped All-Stars,” “Gotta Get It,” and “How’d That Get on My Plate.” Or maybe you’ve drooled your way through her New York Times best-selling book “Sunny’s Kitchen: Easy Food for Real Life.” Whatever the case, Anderson has been dealing with another inflammatory bowel disease — ulcerative colitis — for the last 20 years. She has been intimately involved with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America in the past.
Takeaway: Tips on cooking with Crohn’s
When you have Crohn’s disease, it’s helpful to figure out which foods trigger your symptoms. Keeping a food diary may help you learn which foods you may want to avoid in your cooking. Beyond that, there are several things you can do to make cooking and eating a more pleasurable experience.
- Try using fewer dairy products. Many people who deal with Crohn’s find that dairy makes their symptoms worse. Alternatively, you may try using products like Lactaid that do not contain lactose.
- Cook with low-fat foods. You may not be able to digest fat as easily if you have this inflammatory bowel disease. This means that if you eat fatty foods, you may make symptoms like diarrhea worse. Foods to avoid include butter, cream sauces, and anything fried.
- Pay attention to fiber. Foods that are high in fiber may exacerbate your symptoms. These foods include fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains. If you do want to eat these foods, try cooking them by either steaming, baking, or stewing.
- Limit other “problem foods” like alcohol, caffeine, and anything that’s very spicy. Along with these foods, you may want to see if cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower upset your system. Nuts, seeds, and popcorn are other foods to watch carefully.
When it comes time to eat, you may find that eating smaller meals makes you feel better. Try eating five or six meals versus the standard three per day. Drinking plenty of liquids, like water, with your meals may also help. Just remember that drinks that contain alcohol, caffeine, and carbonation may give you more gas or diarrhea.