The Sea Change Cooking School was born from questionable medical advice.

In 2004, Michelle Goldman was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. A type of inflammatory bowel disease, the condition is similar to Crohn’s disease.

Goldman spent considerable time in doctor’s offices seeking a cure. But everywhere she went, the message was the same: Food plays no role in the disease, and the only treatment involves prescription drugs.

“Since this is an illness of the intestine, I could not imagine that idea was accurate,” Goldman writes on the school’s website.

“The doctors recommended medications that would impact my fertility and health,” Goldman, now the mother of two, said while enjoying coffee and granola at the gluten-free Bam Bam Bakery in Portland.

The medication in question is used by people who have had kidney transplants, and the list of side effects was long and troubling. For Goldman, this was the last straw.

So she sought out integrative medicine doctors, nutritionists, alternative practitioners and healers educated about the links between diet and health. While their advice often differed, she soon found ways to treat her condition by changing what she ate.

The biggest change was adopting a gluten-free diet with a heavy emphasis on fresh vegetables, fruits and fish.

“There is a disconnection between nutrition and health,” Goldman said. “I think part of it is that in traditional medicine in the West, doctors haven’t been trained (in nutrition). It’s easier to make a mass prescription rather than look at individual health needs.”

In contrast, she notes, “Eastern medicine’s primary modality is nutrition.”

As she traveled on her journey back to health, Goldman studied digestive medicine at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Massachusetts, and continued to consult with nutrition experts.

Along the way, this self-proclaimed food lover developed her own nutrition expertise and an understanding that there’s no one-size-fits-all diet. Soon, friends were coming to her and asking for food advice, and the idea to create a cooking school began to percolate.

Last year, Goldman decided to start a pop-up cooking school that hosts classes in a variety of locations.

“I want to meet people where they are, both figuratively and literally,” she said.

The first class she held focused on gluten-free baking and took place in December at the Danforth Inn in Portland. Since then, she’s offered classes on a variety of topics in a number of different locations.

Beginning tonight, Goldman will be hosting a series of classes around the state.

Her upcoming classes focus on Mediterranean cooking, farm-share vegetables and cooking with the midsummer harvest.

The two-part Mediterranean classes, which will take place at both the Cellardoor Vineyard in Lincolnville and Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, will be co-taught with Cinzia Rascazzo, who runs a cooking school in Italy.

Rascazzo will bring authentic Italian recipes, and Goldman will discuss how to incorporate vegetables grown in Maine into those recipes.

The Sea Change Cooking School classes emphasize budget-friendly recipes and local foods in addition to nutrition. The school’s focus on health food translates into classes exploring a variety of diets and cooking styles, including vegan, raw, Paleo and gluten-free.

“We don’t say to people that you have to give up meat or you have to eat meat,” Goldman said. “In my mind, different things work for different people.”

Goldman also hosts private cooking classes in people’s homes.

All of her classes allow participants to try the cooking techniques themselves, rather than just watch her create recipes.

Each class ends with a meal or a tasting, and everyone leaves with an understanding of the connection between disease and diet.

“I think it’s important to instill confidence in people in the face of people saying nutrition has nothing to do with health,” Goldman said.

Such confidence can only help the school’s students make their own sea changes toward better health.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila