Celebrity chef Sunny Anderson is well known for her Food Network shows Cooking for Real and The Kitchen. She is also the author of the 2013 New York Times best-selling debut cookbook Sunny’s Kitchen: Easy Food for Real Life
But what is not well known about her is that she has been living with the inflammatory bowel condition, ulcerative colitis for the past 20 years.
Sunny recently spoke to Fox News about her diagnosis and about a project she is working on to help those with the disease.
Anderson received her diagnosis of ulcerative colitis at the age of 19, when she experienced abdominal pain and blood in her stool. She told her father, who happens to be a physician, and he encouraged her to be seen by a gastroenterologist (a doctor that specializes in the GI Tract). According to Sunny:
When I first received my UC diagnosis at age 19, I worried that having UC meant giving up who I am. Living with IBD, food is sometimes the last thing you want to think about, especially when experiencing a flare and symptoms are at their worst. While food didn’t cause my IBD (nor will food cure it), I’ve learned to recognize which foods aggravate my symptoms. Working closely with my doctor, we identified that many raw fruits and vegetables such as kale or lettuce trigger my UC flares. Since then, I’ve been able to tweak my eating habits and cooking style to manage my symptoms – which wasn’t all difficult since I’m a true meat and potatoes gal!
Now Sunny is working with Janssen Biotech, Inc. and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of American (CCFA) to launch a website called Get Your Full Course. The website is designed to “educate and inspire” those living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which affects an estimated 1.4 million Americans. Those with IBD can have either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease. The website explains the role of diet in IBD, and of course, there are many recipes designed by Sunny for those with the disease.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s disease and microscopic colitis are the other common IBDs.
Ulcerative colitis most often begins gradually and can become worse over time. Symptoms can be mild to severe. Most people have periods of remission—times when symptoms disappear—that can last for weeks or years. The goal of care is to keep people in remission long term.
The large intestine is part of the GI tract, a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus—an opening through which stool leaves the body. The last part of the GI tract, called the lower GI tract, consists of the large intestine—which includes the appendix, cecum, colon, and rectum—and anus. The intestines are sometimes called the bowels.
The large intestine is about 5 feet long in adults and absorbs water and any remaining nutrients from partially digested food passed from the small intestine. The large intestine changes waste from liquid to a solid matter called stool. Stool passes from the colon to the rectum. The rectum is located between the lower, or sigmoid, colon and the anus. The rectum stores stool prior to a bowel movement, when stool moves from the rectum to the anus and out of a person’s body.
The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. Researchers believe the following factors may play a role in causing ulcerative colitis:
Some people believe eating certain foods, stress, or emotional distress can cause ulcerative colitis. Emotional distress does not seem to cause ulcerative colitis. A few studies suggest that stress may increase a person’s chance of having a flare-up of ulcerative colitis. Also, some people may find that certain foods can trigger or worsen symptoms.
Less common symptoms include
The symptoms a person experiences can vary depending on the severity of the inflammation and where it occurs in the intestine. When symptoms first appear, most people with ulcerative colitis have mild to moderate symptoms
about 10 percent of people can have severe symptoms, such as frequent, bloody bowel movements; fevers; and severe abdominal cramping
A health care provider treats ulcerative colitis with medication and/or surgery. Which treatment a person needs depends on the severity of the disease and the symptoms. Each person experiences ulcerative colitis differently, so health care providers adjust treatments to improve the person’s symptoms and induce, or bring about, remission.
While no medication cures ulcerative colitis, many can reduce symptoms. The goals of medication therapy are inducing and maintaining remission and improving the person’s quality of life
Many people with ulcerative colitis require medication therapy indefinitely, unless they have their colon and rectum surgically removed.
Some of the medication used to treat a UC symptoms include:
Some people will need surgery to treat their ulcerative colitis when they have
Removal of the entire colon, including the rectum, “cures” ulcerative colitis. A surgeon performs the procedure at a hospital. A surgeon can perform two different types of surgery to remove a patient’s colon and treat ulcerative colitis:
Full recovery from both operations may take 4 to 6 weeks.
People with ulcerative colitis may be more likely to develop colon cancer when
People who receive ongoing treatment and remain in remission may reduce their chances of developing colon cancer.
People with ulcerative colitis should talk with their health care provider about how often they should get screened for colon cancer. Screening can include colonoscopy with biopsies or a special dye spray called chromoendoscopy.
Health care providers may recommend colonoscopy every 1 to 3 years for people with ulcerative colitis who have the disease in one-third or more or of their colon and/or had ulcerative colitis for 8 years.
Such screening does not reduce a person’s chances of developing colon cancer. Instead, screening can help diagnose cancer early and improve chances for recovery.
Surgery to remove the entire colon eliminates the risk of colon cancer.