under the best circumstances, beans & chile can upset your stomach
October 7, 2007 8:10 PM   Subscribe

Calling all Crohnies! I'm helping to throw a traditional New Mexican dinner party for a group of students on Thursday night. We'd planned for the vegetarian contingency, but have found out that one young woman has a bad case of Crohn's Disease.

I know nothing about Crohn's disease, except that the young woman in question spent part of last week in the hospital because of intense gastrointestinal distress. We have been planning to serve posole (hominy stew [veggie and meat versions]), beans with chicos (sweet corn), and fideos (vermicelli cooked with tomatoes and onions). All things that could add distress for her, I fear.

So what advice can the Crohn's sufferers give me? What do you eat when you go to Mexican restaurants? Do you go to Mexican restaurants? I'd like to make sure she felt included in the evening.
posted by Sara Anne to Food & Drink (7 answers total)
I wish this were an easy question to answer, but the best I can do is: "It depends".

Crohn's/IBD/IBS are kind of blanket terms for what are probably quite a few different sub-disorders that manifest themselves in the same basic way. Food that sends some people into the ER may be a staple for other people with the disease. (This means that people with Crohn's get to play a fun game of "will this food make my life miserable?" for the first couple of months.)

So, the best advice I can give you is to ask her. I'm sure she's used to talking about her condition, as situations like this come up all the time. She'll probably be surprised and grateful that you bothered.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:26 PM on October 7, 2007

Yeah - ask her. My mother-in-law has something similar, and the easiest thing for her is often just to bring her own food.

Some general advice when tailoring meals for groups with different needs -- the easiest thing to do is to offer some options that are plain, single ingredients, that can be combined as the person judges best. For example, you could serve plain rice, avocado slices (maybe alongside guacamole for everyone), roasted chicken (with a sauce that people can add optionally), etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:57 PM on October 7, 2007

Ask her.

Otherwise there's absolutely no way of knowing because different foods affect people with Crohn's in different ways. When I was sick, Mexican would have been an absolute no-go, as would raw vegetables, most fruits, anything corn-based, and anything really fatty. Heck, for a while all that agreed with me was Ensure meal replacements and clear Gatorade. Ugh.

But she'll likely be grateful you asked, even if she's unable to eat much of anything.
posted by raxast at 9:08 PM on October 7, 2007

I don't have IBD but I do research it and chrisamiller is right on. In fact, the whole research programme I'm involved in is investigating individual differences in how diet affects IBD patients. I focus on the food side, i.e. looking at how food components affects the gut, but we have a whole group doing dietary surveys and talking with IBD patients about food preferences, and there is a lot of variation. IBD is by nature a complex genetic disorder with a strong environmental component, so there are no easy answers here. If your friend has just had a flare up then her food choices may be even more limited than usual, and you really need to check with her directly about what she can and can't eat.

I have friends with a few different gastrointestinal issues, including caeliac disease, IBS and lactose intolerance. In my experience they're used to discussing these issues when making dinner plans and if you approach it without fuss everything should be fine. You may need to accept that she can't eat any of what you have or doesn't want you to go to any trouble, in which case don't push the issue, but at the same time if you tell her clearly that you want her to be happy and included then work with whatever info she gives you things should work out fine.
posted by shelleycat at 9:08 PM on October 7, 2007

Man, my last couple of sentences came out convoluted. I think raxast summed it up much better:
But she'll likely be grateful you asked, even if she's unable to eat much of anything.
posted by shelleycat at 9:10 PM on October 7, 2007

I'll go with everyone else and say ask her, but in addition:

If she was in the hospital last week, she's probably on a low-residue diet, which means that there is a long list of foods (including beans and peas, many vegetables and fruits, whole grains, anything spicy) she will need to avoid. Dairy and meat are fine, and if you could provide an alternative that is within the guidelines, I think she would be very appreciative.

Again, you can ask her if she is indeed on the low-residue diet; it is very kind of you to be concerned about your friend.
posted by lemonwheel at 10:31 PM on October 7, 2007

Yup, ask her, but don't be surprised if you get the answer I give, 'don't go to any speci trouble - I can always find something to eat.'

It really is a crap shoot (ha, ha), from one patient to the next. For example corn ruins me, but green beans ans spinach are fine in moderation.

Asking says that you care to the point of trying to accommodate her.
posted by plinth at 4:13 AM on October 8, 2007

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