The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that affects mainly the spine and hip joints, but it can affect other joints as well. Inflammation is a normal process that protects us against disease. Chronic inflammatory conditions, however, are often caused by a misguided inflammatory response that attacks the body itself, rather than foreign invaders.
What are anti-inflammatory foods?
Researchers know that certain foods contain compounds that may help control inflammation and protect your body from its harmful effects, including tissue damage. Other foods might be worse for inflammation.
The foods that reduce inflammation comprise what is known as the anti-inflammatory diet. Many popular lifestyle diets, including the well-known Mediterranean Diet, also follow anti-inflammatory principles.2
Which foods are anti-inflammatory?
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are a mainstay of an anti-inflammatory diet as well as the Mediterranean Diet. They contain powerful chemicals called anti-oxidants that may prevent cell damage. Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, and spinach, in particular, contain vitamin K and have been shown to markedly reduce signs of inflammation in the body.3
Berries, cherries, and other red and purple fruits also reduce inflammation.3 Onions, too, raw or cooked, contain compounds that may reduce inflammation as well as heart disease risk and LDL, sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol.5
Research has shown that fiber from whole grains like brown rice and quinoa may reduce a chemical in the blood called C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a sign of inflammation processes in the body. Whole wheat flours that make up pasta or bread are also higher in the mineral selenium, which can be especially low in some people with inflammatory arthritis.3
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds have been shown consistently to reduce inflammation and to be associated with better health when it comes to heart disease and adult-onset diabetes. Additional studies have shown that eating nuts and seeds is linked to lower overall inflammation in the body. This is important for providing relief from chronic inflammatory diseases like ankylosing spondylitis and other kinds of arthritis.
Beans are a good source of fiber and protein, and they contain several anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory substances. They are also good sources of folic acid and other important minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and iron.
Olive oil has been shown to reduce inflammation in much the same way that the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen does.3 Extra virgin olive oil is a healthy choice, because it is one of the least processed forms of the oil. Choose oils packaged in dark bottles close to their harvest date to get the freshest product.5
Oily fish is a rich source of molecules called omega-3 fatty acids. These are converted by the body into powerful chemicals that can help protect against inflammation. Good choices of fish containing high levels of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, trout, and herring. Many studies have shown that people with rheumatoid arthritis can get relief from joint pain and stiffness by eating oily fish.3 Like AS, rheumatoid arthritis is also a chronic inflammatory disease that attacks the joints.
What foods should I avoid?
The list of foods that can trigger inflammation include3,5:
- Fast foods
- Fried foods
- Processed red meats
- Desserts like pastries and ice cream, which contain sugar
- Sugary drinks like soda and juice
- Trans fats, which can be found in processed or fried foods
- Too much alcohol, which can sometimes affect your medication
Be realistic about your dietary habits
In today’s busy world with convenience foods on every street corner and in every supermarket, it is hard to avoid the key foods linked with inflammation. But you can help manage your AS symptoms as well as improve your overall health by moving toward an anti-inflammatory diet and away from sugar, processed foods, and the other main dietary triggers of inflammation.
Other than back pain and fatigue, what is the most common symptom that AS patients experience?