Health Update


Ok, so after yesterday’s post where I laid out all of my angst about food, the judgmental and laughable ways we talk about it, and summarized some of the amazing mass of contradictory information floating around the interwebs- I want tell you what I REALLY think about food, what’s changed for me over the past year, what’s working for me now and what I’ve learned.  Yesterday was my way of poking fun of something that is totally overwhelming for so many of us- that leaves us feeling like we’re falling short of an ideal or messing up our health in one way or another.  It was a much needed laugh about something that has consumed so much of my thought and time these past few years.

So now I want to tell you what’s been going on with my health and diet, because sharing my challenges with Crohn’s disease and helping to raise awareness remains one of the things I’m most proud of with this site.  As you may know, I’ve remained in remission from Crohn’s since my diagnosis in February 2011 (which does not mean I’ve been in perfect health- but does mean that I’ve not had a full blown “flare up” requiring hospitalization or medications, which anyone with Crohn’s can attest to as being a gigantic WIN!)

I thought that I’d found the answers to my own health quandaries when I started eating a diet loosely based on macrobiotics.  And I have managed my Crohn’s that way (alongside lifestyle choices which mostly revolve around sensical things like managing stress).  But I started having other health issues shortly after my diagnosis- specifically I started experiencing pain with my periods.  Eventually it got so bad that I would spend 2-3 days per month in bed with horrible shooting pains and cramping.  I was never formally diagnosed but was told it was most likely endometriosis.  I was also experiencing SO much fatigue – I felt completely depleted and exhausted by 3 pm most days.  I said “No” to so many things because I just didn’t have the energy I needed to do them.  It was so discouraging because I felt like I was doing everything right- eating all the right foods, making all the right lifestyle choices.  I felt defeated.

In January of last year I decided to look outside of macrobiotics for answers and started seeing an Ayurvedic doctor and an Acupuncturist.  It was the best thing I could have done.  Both doctors started treating me with herbs and asked me to make some dietary changes.  I was completely surprised when both of them (working separately) told me that I would be best served if I would start including eggs in my diet.  The Ayurvedic doctor recommended that I start eating chicken soup, the Chinese doctor recommended that I eat more nuts, black sesame seeds, and red meat.  They both recommended I take a break from gluten.

It was a huge eye opener.  I thought that eating a vegan diet (or mostly vegan diet) was the best thing for my system.  But I was open to suggestions- I approached any changes with a completely open and willing mind.  And I got better!  Not immediately, but over the course of the past year.  I no longer have pain with my period! (!!!!!!!!!!) I’ve regained so much of my energy and feel more like myself.  I gained a little weight.  And I let go of so many restrictions that I’d placed on my diet. I eat humane certified organic meat when I feel like it.  I eat an abundance of vegetables.  I eat dairy when someone puts a cheeseboard in front of me, I get drunk when I’m in the mood and I LOVE it!  I eat fruit, and grains, and nuts and seeds, and oils.  I eat humane certified organic eggs like it’s going out of style.  I still avoid processed foods, sugar and gluten- most of the time.  I still try to eat mostly organic, I still much prefer vegetables over meat or fish.  But I’ve slowly been learning to listen to my body- and I’m a work in progress.  My favorite thing is when my Acupuncturist tells me something specifically to eat, and then I come to see her the next week and tell her I just didn’t feel like eating it and she claps and says that’s GREAT- that I know what’s best.

Here’s the ultimate lesson I’ve learned these past years: THERE IS NO ONE RIGHT ANSWER, NO ONE RIGHT WAY, NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL APPROACH TO HEALTH.  I wish so badly that I could say that what I’m doing is the way to be healthy.  I wish I could pioneer a very specific diet that would work for everyone with an autoimmune disease, or everyone in general, or even 50% of people.  I can’t though, I can only say it’s working for me.  And it may change.  I may change, by body’s needs may change.  And I’ve learned to expect and accept that.  I waited this long to tell you about these changes because I know that some of you look to me for guidance for your own health issues, and I wanted to be 100% clear about what I am experiencing.  My biggest recommendation to those of you who struggle with your own health issues- or question your own eating habits- find a naturopath, ayurvedic doctor, or acupuncturist to guide you.  If that doesn’t work, find someone else.  Keep searching, listen to your body, listen to your gut, do what makes the most sense for you, drown out THE NOISE about what you should be eating/not eating and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.

And finally, what does that mean for the recipes on this site?  Not a whole lot at the moment- I’m going to keep my recipes primarily vegan or easily made vegan.  I love plant based eating, I still believe eating whole foods is the best!  I don’t particularly enjoy cooking with meat (though I have mastered a good chicken soup).  So for now, things are going to stay pretty much the same.  Thank you so much for all of your support, for all of your love.  You all are truly the best part of A House in the Hills!!!!  xx- Sarah

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Reader Comments

  1. Catherine|

    I love this post! SO much of what is considered healthy at the minute is dictated by what’s ‘on trend’, and people make changes to their diet based on what they’re told, rather than how they feel. I started having soy milk in my porridge that I make at work, purely because if you keep regular milk in the communal fridge, people steal it! But then it became popular to cut out dairy and people were saying to me “oh you’re so good having soy” not realising that most commercial soy milk is loaded with sugar and that, if you’re not intolerant to it, milk is full of good fats.

    Sorry for the rant! All I really meant to say was that I’m happy you’re doing well and it’s interesting to hear about the changes you’ve made. Whoops! x

  2. Marcia|

    What a journey my friend — its comforting to hear you have found some relief (and answers!), here’s hoping you are feeling better!

  3. Chas|

    This post is exactly what I needed to read because there are so many opinions on what we should be doing to have a healthy lifestyle; and you’re right it becomes overwhelming and confusing. It sometimes seems like everything is bad for us and we just can’t seem to catch a break. I am a Pescetarian (turning Vegan) who is trying to cut out processed, sugar and gluten and it is pretty challenging sticking to such a strict diet.
    I like the idea of speaking with an acupuncturist or ayurvedic doctor. I think that’s a great next step in cleaning up my diet. Thanks Sarah!

  4. Kimberly|

    This is such a great post & a wonderful reminder that everyone’s journey to health will look differently. I was diagnosed with Lupus a year ago and after switching to a grain-free Paleo diet, my symptoms are almost completely gone. I totally agree with you about the importance of finding good alternative medicine doctors who are willing to run all the tests that functional medicine doctors won’t + who will work with you on creating/altering a healing diet and supplemental vitamin plan. It is truly amazing how you can heal your body without the need for heavy drugs or medications! Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

  5. Tiffany|

    I loved that last post. It made me giggle. 🙂 Based on all the fad diets and health scares that have happened in even the last 5 years, the one thing I’ve learned about food & health is that you can’t stick to any one thing religiously. I think it’s about balance and flexibility – like you said, paying attention to your body and what it wants.

  6. Jessie Snyder | Faring Well|

    Thank you for writing this post it was so encouraging. I’m currently making the rounds between doctors and going through so many tests to try to figure out what is going wrong with me. I thought I had crohn’s as well but my test results say I don’t (thank goodness, my serious sympathies to you!!). A trip to the nutritionist plus a naturopath is hopefully in my future soon. I totally agree with you on there being no one way, but that it’s a constant balance that you have to seek to achieve daily when it comes to your body. So so so happy for you that you are finding it!! Hope to be able to say the same in a year from now. Thanks for being so honest and always “laying it all out there”, you rock.

  7. Kristen|

    It really is incredible how much food impacts health AND behavior. I’ve recently become much more aware of the impact of food after having my first child. His moods changed drastically after having gluten and diary and while the doctors insisted that he wasn’t allergic, I knew in my heart that something was off. So I limited both foods, and now he is (mostly) an angel. This experience made my husband more aware of his own battle with eczema (which he has had for 30 years!) and how it could be food related…and after a lot of trial and error, he came to realize it was nightshades (specifically paprika, tomatoes, and peppers – all of his favorites). It just goes to show, never underestimate the power of a healthy diet, and more importantly, listening to your gut (literally and figuratively!). Best of luck as you continue to find that balance that works for you – and I’m so happy to hear that you’re headed in the right direction!

  8. Beth|

    Thank you for your health update! I think the most powerful thing we can take away from this is that, you are right; there is no one size fits all to in regards to approaching a healthy lifestyle. I am so thrilled you have found a path that works for you and your dietary needs. Cheers to health in 2015!

  9. Katie|

    Thanks for writing this post! I wish I had a blog so I could write about the same thing. Over the past 2 years I have had quite the experience with food. I started out a couple years ago slowly cutting out food after finally commiting to get rid of the gluten in my diet. I had been diagnosed with Celiac disease in college, but never stuck with a gluten free diet because I just didn’t care about it that much. I couldn’t see the harm it was causing. After I cut gluten out, then I cut sugar, and then dairy, then meat, and then eggs. After cutting all this out I lost a lot of weight. I wasn’t even really aware that I was so thin, I just thought I was being “so healthy” because I didn’t eat any of that “bad food.” Basically I got very thin, then I got sick and ended up having to go through an eating disorder program. Looking back it was such a blessing that I went through that program, even though I thought they didn’t know what they were talking about at first. Slowly as I gained weight back, my head cleared and I started to embrace some of those foods (dairy, eggs, meat, sugar here and there) and felt a million times better. I did gain weight back. and that took time to accept and love. But now, I feel healthy and, most importantly, free of such a restricted diet. And I think for me, at least, such a restricted diet lead to a rigid state of mind. I, like you, believe in whole foods and veggies. But, if I don’t eat a vegetable for a day, it’s not the end of the world. Which feels a whole better. Thank you for tis post!


  10. Nina|

    You are such an inspiration! Thank you for opening up and sharing your experiences with us. Your take on health is so refreshing. Best wishes to you.

  11. Ariana|

    I love this post! There is a new fad diet every day and everyone claims that their way is the healthiest. But over the past year, myself, I have found that listening to my own body makes me the happiest and the healthiest I have ever been. I hope every one can take a step back and listen to their bodies in the way that you described!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. yp|

    well said! so glad to hear you are feeling like a better YOU. not all of us need to be crazy paleo fitness models – it has to be about what makes your body feel good and optimize your energy and overall well being. I was thinking of seeing an Ayurvedic specialist also sometime as I am on a path of avoid medications – unless absolutely necessary and prescribed.

  13. Kathryn|

    Sarah – your post yesterday was timely – and hilarious. You pull off personal and honest without being preachy and I love it.

    Right now, I’m feeling like I’m going through a lot of the same cycles researching ergonomics and rehab for problems I’m having in my hands and wrists related to repetetive strain from computer/devise use and drafting – I’m 26! Design is my job! Eep. But There’s been one or two suggestions that there’s an inflammatory/rheumatology issue layered in there, and that terrifies me. I feel like I can add the nutrition rabbith ole to my research if that’s the case, but I’ll try to do so with the perspective you’ve offered here!

  14. Cate|

    Gosh. This is just SO what I love about your site. While I don’t have an auto immune disease, my weight and my relationship with food has been a struggle my entire life, and has really been at the forefront of my heart and mind recently. Reading this (and yesterday’s post), I was just, like, YES! This brought tears to my eyes–it’s like you are in my head and heart on this one. Per my doctor’s advice, I recently shifted from a gluten and dairy free, whole foods diet to a low carb/high protein one. And it didn’t feel good to me. But who am I to question my doctor? So instead of introducing foods that made me feel good, I was doing crazy things like just not eating. Just yesterday, I was speaking to my therapist about my relationship with food and all this crazy what-to-eat-and-what-not-to-eat stuff going through my head and I came to the realization that, like you said, I just need to listen to my body. Trust myself. Every piece of this post really resonated with me. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing–for your honesty and insight. It really feels like a gift to read this today. I have a feeling it will be something I come back and reread again and again.

  15. Cate|

    Gosh. This is just SO what I love about your site. While I don’t have an auto immune disease, my weight and my relationship with food has been a struggle my entire life, and has really been at the forefront of my heart and mind recently. Reading this (and yesterday’s post), I was just, like, YES! This brought tears to my eyes–it’s like you are in my head and heart on this one. Per my doctor’s advice, I recently shifted from a gluten and dairy free, whole foods diet to a low carb/high protein one. And it didn’t feel good to me. But who am I to question my doctor? So instead of introducing foods that made me feel good, I was doing crazy things like just not eating. Just yesterday, I was speaking to my therapist about my relationship with food and all this crazy what-to-eat-and-what-not-to-eat stuff going through my head and I came to the realization that, like you said, I just need to listen to my body. Trust myself. Every piece of this post really resonated with me. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing–for your honesty and insight. It really feels like a gift to read this today. I have a feeling it will be something I come back and reread again and again.

  16. thefolia|

    So glad you found what’s right for you…yes, everyone is different and if we all had access to a functional doctor who could advise us on our particular self than what better health we would all be in. I also believe in a cleanse every once in awhile to give the digestive system a break. I do one once a year, however, everyone is different so it’s up to you to see how your body is doing and if you are in need of one. I have had great success with Dr. Alexander Junger’s Clean program (I don’t use the supplements/shakes, I do the cleanse with wholesome food so there is no extra cost. Happy and healthy lifestyle to all and namaste!

  17. Carrie|

    i have long believed in this theory, and wish, more than anything, that people would throw out the food labels. Stop with the vegan, vegetarian, paleo theories, and just eat what is good for you and what your body wants (hopefully, what your body wants is not crap!). We’ve become a society of food shamers! Your post is spot on.

  18. Catherine|

    Love this. I’m eating a meal laden with nightshades as I read this (the devil personified). I’ve even cheated on my diet with almost every satanic category over the past week and of course feeling like I’m the most massive failure for it (but I promised the internet!). Might be time to lay off the self-beatings. xo

  19. Simone Anne|

    So so so so so true! All of this. And the other thing that I really love knowing is that what works for me one month isn’t always the same thing that works for me another month or year, etc. Also, getting rid of guilt about eating something that’s not vegan/perfect/etc.? That has got to be soooo healthy.

  20. Ana|

    I think that with this post you did so much more than you could have done by talking about a specific diet supposed to work for everyone. It may not be the easy way out (or through!) to go through our own journeys of discovering what works for our bodies (and rediscovering what works again when our needs change), but it’s very much necessary for each of us and to me, it’s been completely life-changing and so empowering. To stop listening to outside sources and look inside instead and listen to our own bodies’ needs – it feels so good! Not that I’m always doing it, but when I do, it’s so great.

    I’ve been making these same discoveries over the last few years by reading, experimenting and more recently, studying to become a health coach, and the most important lesson that I’ve learned so far I think is that we have the answer within us, we just have to listen.

    Wishing you all the best in your health journey and otherwise!

  21. Sara|

    I’m so happy to hear you are always looking for ways to improve your health! My mom found out late last year her Crohn’s was in remission for the first time (that she knew of) in 20 yrs. She learned not to eat certain foods together, e.g. eggs with fruit as the body uses different enzymes to break down the food. Bodies are amazing and complex.

  22. Lori @ Adventures of a Sick Chick|

    It’s so great to read about your progress and success with dietary changes. I also have Crohn’s (going on 13 years), and switching to a Paleo-like diet literally saved my life. I went from four hospitalizations in 2013 to zero this past year! (And you’re so right: despite the daily struggles, avoiding full-blown flares and hospitalizations is success in itself.) I really enjoy your blog and wish you continued good health!

  23. Kicky|

    You found yourself, what a Joy 🙂 Chapeau Sarah
    Great words … Be yourself ….

  24. Emily -- The Rossetto Blog|

    That’s so wonderful that you have found a diet that works for you. I couldn’t agree more that different diets work for different people. I would love for their to be a fail-safe, but unfortunately it’s more about slow trial and error, finding and re-working what is helpful for you.

    I couldn’t agree more about an acupuncturist. I have colitis and have found that is one of the most helpful people in the healing process.

    Thanks for writing this!

  25. Ed|

    You inspire me Sarah Yates! And you’re looking more beautiful than ever – here’s to the wisdom and light!!

  26. grace //|

    Thank you, thank you thank you for posting this! Such a wonderfully written and down to earth narrative on intuitive and healthy eating. One of my biggest gripes about western medicine is that I never feel like the doctors trust me or trust how I feel about my body (crazy since I’m the one who lives in it all day every day!). I love the initiative nature of Ayurvedic and other eastern medicine styles!

  27. Samantha|

    I really appreciate this post – especially right now. I’m going through the very same thought processes. I have been a vegetarian for over 15 years and a vegan for 6. I just recently quit sugar and started adding humane local eggs and some grass-fed humane dairy to my diet. I’m basically just experimenting with different ways of eating to try to figure out what works best for me but it’s so confusing to try to figure out – studies and statistics can back up any claim, and pretty much everything is flat-out contradictory. The best we can do is be mindful and open eaters, paying attention to what is best for us, and support each other as we make our way through the many confusions of life!

  28. Ashlae|

    Ha! I have ulcerative colitis (err, had?) (it’s in remission) and I, too, thought a vegan diet would be the best route to go. Turns out it wasn’t, but consuming eggs + taking an organic/grass-fed gelatin supplement has, literally, been life changing. And I hope the same for you, lady. High fives for listening to that bod! <3

    PS – I like you.

  29. Wishes & Reality|

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! I don’t normally comment but I needed this. Autoimmune diseases are crippling and although mine are not as bad as some its so refreshing to hear your take on listening to your body.

  30. Leah|

    I would also encourage you -or anyone- to seek out a “real food” dietitian. While some dietitians might not be very helpful, there’s a small few of us who are all about intuitive eating and searching out what’s trily best for you- because like you said, everybody is so different!! We also can piece the food science aspect to what’s going on within the body! So glad you’ve found what works well for you, love it! 🙂

  31. Heather | Decor Fix|

    Food IS such a tricky topic lately, and there are more opinions than there are people on the planet it seems. I’ve done it all…vegan, vegetarian, “weekday vegetarian” (so as not to be obnoxious to friends and family”, paleo. Finally what has worked best for me to control my IBS and digestive issues is going gluten free. I didn’t even attribute my IBS to that until my toddler underwent testing for Celiac’s since she had such a severe reaction to gluten. I’m realizing my mother also has the same tendencies. It took a while, and I’m not 100% gluten-free (I gotta’ have a croissant splurge once a month), but I know exactly how my body reacts to wheat now, and that makes the “bathroom attacks” less of a surprise and less frequent.

    Just discovered your blog from Joss & Main. Can’t wait to peek around more.

  32. katie|

    Wow. I read this the other day, and now, curled up on my couch with terrible cramps, I’m back to read again. I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis about 3 years ago and have now had 3 laparoscopies to clean it out. After the 1st two surgeries in 2012, I was able to get pregnant in early 2013. After having my daughter and breastfeeding for a year, my painful period came back relatively quickly, so in December I went for another lap in hopes that it would help us get pregnant again (and hopefully it will). Only during the doctor accidentally perforated my colon, and so, after a hospital stay and now 6 weeks of a long, slow recovery from major abdominal surgery to repair it, here I sit with the same old monthly pain…and I am completely. over. it. I’ve never related my endo and painful periods to diet, and no doctor I’ve seen has ever (EVER) talked to me about it. I don’t know much of where to start, but what you’ve written here definitely, for the first time, has me thinking about it. Thank you for your voice on this–I needed to hear it this week. 🙂

    • Meg|

      Oh my word, you poor woman! I hope you are feeling better! I have Endo also and it’s horrid! Hang in there!

  33. Heidi|

    Thank you for this post! I get so frustrated with the folks out there who push one RIGHT way for diet and won’t listen to others who are having success (whatever that means to them) by following a different route! Cheers to you, I am so glad I found your blog.

  34. sarah|

    love this post! love that you’re healthy and no longer experiencing crazy period pain. also love that you’re seeing an acupuncturist. I’m also a professional photographer/videographer and from time to time I shoot products and testimonial videos for an acupuncturist. His clients sing his praises SO LOUD it is unbelievable. I have heard horror stories from his patients who were battling various health issues and their ‘team’ of doctors just weren’t cutting it. The MDs were throwing prescriptions at their patients instead of looking at simple every day changes that the patients could make – mainly their diets. After these patients worked with the acupuncturists for a few months they were freeeeeaking astounded (can’t put it any other way) with the results. They could feel the success of their new diets and therapy. They said good bye to prescription drugs that were causing more pain than progress. They were getting healthy, they had hope and they were feeling happy. After recording some of the testimonials I wanted to cry. I felt so proud of my client and so happy for these folks. So happy for you too! Congrats on your health 🙂

  35. Mandy D|

    Perfect post! Thank you so much for sharing this Sarah! I too agree, we should all be listening to our bodies and do right by it. You are an awesome writer!

  36. Caprice|

    Thank you so so much for this post, Sarah. I’ve been on my own mysterious health journey, and it’s been crazy getting swept into all of the noise out there about what to eat, etc. I love this reminder that we each have our unique bodies to listen to. Wishing you the best in your continued journey of health 🙂

  37. elissa|

    Refreshed would be the feeling reading this post gave me. It may seem small, but it was nice to read about someone with similar feelings about food. Thank you for sharing – and cheers to the occasional wine buzz, stinky cheese and to eating vegetables like they’re going out of style.

  38. Erika|

    I can REALLY relate to what you’re going through! I have MS and the amount of conflicting info about how to best “eat to treat” is ridiculous. Interestingly enough, I just started reading a new book called “The Wahl’s Protocal” and it’s been verrrrry illuminating. Only 100 pages in but time will tell! High five to you for listening to your body and following your gut. No pun intended!

  39. susie|

    Sarah, thank you so much for talking about Crohn’s on your site. I was diagnosed a little over a year ago, and while I’m a lot better than I was then, I am still struggling to find a diet that doesn’t hurt my system and also gets me all the nutrition I need (I, too, have struggled with energy levels!). Mostly it’s just so nice to know that there’s other people out there who are living with Crohn’s and eating delicious food (I love to cook and your recipes are my favorite part of your site!). I hope your health continues to improve and a big, heart-felt thanks to you : )

  40. Carolyn|

    My grandfather lived to be 95, and when we asked him what his secret was….”Everything in moderation”, was his response. Also, my stepfather lived to be 96, along with Crohn’s disease, which he had for many, many years! My secret is my relationship with Jesus. Be blessed, and know that someone is praying for you!

  41. Laurel Cabrera|

    Hi Sarah! I found your blog a couple years ago, and it was so encouraging to read someone else’s story who has struggled with a digestive disorder somewhat similar to mine. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis sometime around 2004, but I guess you could say I am also in remission for the past several years now. But of course that doesn’t mean things are perfect as you know. I totally get this journey of finding the perfect diet, and balancing what to eliminate or add back into your diet. This post totally resonates with me right now b/c I’ve also been walking through this process of realizing that its so different for everyone. We all have different DNA and different triggers…. There unfortunately is not a one size fits all answer here. Thank you for your honesty. Yes people want hope and people want answers, but being real and explaining that its a journey is the best advice you could’ve given. So thanks! 🙂

  42. Meg|

    Hi! I found my way to your blog via another blog and was so surprised when I saw the words “Crohn’s Disease”! My daughter was diagnosed when she was 10 and my husband was diagnosed 6 months after her. You are soooo fortunate you have found a way to treat yourself! Both my daughter and husband have been on some heavy duty drugs. And, not to leave me out, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis when I was 20 (I am now 47). I am hoping to heaven my daughter does not have it (she will 17 next week). It’s pretty much impossible for me to get her to eat things that I make, but I will look around at your recipes. I hope you’re doing ok and thanks for sharing your story…we definetly need more Crohn’s awareness!!! xo Meg

  43. Beth|

    This particular post hits home with me. I have Crohns and endometriosis as well. The endometriosis symptoms I have had all my life but was not diagnosed until I had an emergency c-section(due to preeclampsia in 2012). I hemorrhaged and barely made it out of childbirth, but they saw the adhesions during the c section. Since having my daughter I’ve had worsening pain d/t endometriosis and my crohns is worsening. I’m ready to make some diet changes, and found your blog. I wanted to say I find it very interesting that you have the same two diagnoses and have often wondered if they are related. Thanks for sharing your story!

  44. Crista|

    You are so beautiful and I love your story (the success of it all!) – I’m a new follower, glad to have found your blog, also sharing with a dear friend who has adapted a plant-based lifestyle after being diagnosed with crohn’s! Thanks for sharing!!

  45. Kitty|

    Have you looked into fecal transplants? There has been much in the media about the subject lately, and it has actually cured people with Crohn’s disease. Best of luck to you. (There was a great New Yorker article about it not too long ago.)