A person hands reach up and out of a huge pile of whole foods.

Food for Thought: Why Diet Change Didn’t Work for Me

Being told that you will have to take medication for the rest of your life is scary. What if it stops working? What if you have a weird reaction to it? What other options do you have?

I am incredibly grateful for my success treating AS with biologic medication so far, but knowing that the future is uncertain has left me wanting to try every other alternative to help manage my disease symptoms- and I started with changing my diet.

Trying out diet change

I had seen so many people online who swear their symptoms are controlled (or even completely cleared) through extreme dietary changes, and I was intrigued. I decided I was going all in- completely abandoning how I was used to eating in exchange for a diet that was said to combat inflammation and help relieve joint pain. I decided to make a complete shift to the autoimmune paleo (AIP, sometimes also called autoimmune protocol) diet and see what it would do for my body.

I bought cookbooks, I read online articles, I found AIP “experts” online and on social media, and I added things like bone broth and cassava flour to my shopping list.  AIP eliminates foods that are considered inflammatory, like nuts, grains, dairy, eggs, nightshade vegetables, and anything processed. I started out feeling hopeful and excited, and was able to stick to my new diet fairly strictly for a few weeks, but once I had truly removed all of these items from my cabinets and fridge I started to feel incredibly limited.

I would go out to eat and struggle to find something on the menu that fit my new diet

I found myself constantly eating the same foods when I was at home. I was struggling to get enough calories in a day having eliminated most carb-heavy foods, and was feeling pretty sluggish.

I tried to up my food intake and mix up my meals. I was physically feeling great, but mentally struggling. I wasn’t enjoying food anymore and figuring out what to eat (and when to eat it) was becoming a chore that I dreaded. I didn’t want to go out anymore because finding foods that fit my diet was too hard. A diet change that was intended to help me was having the opposite effect as my relationship with food became increasingly more unhealthy.

More mental harm than physical good

Some people change their diets, feel incredible, and never look back. I was hopeful that I would be one of those people, but my experience ultimately caused me more mental harm than physical good. I didn't completely give up an anti-inflammatory diet, but I have found my own balance that works for me.

I still don’t eat any eggs or dairy, and I try to stay away from greasy and fried foods. I substitute anti-inflammatory options into my diet as much as I can, but I allow myself to eat the grains and nightshade veggies when I want them. I moderate my sugar, but still allow myself a treat when I crave it. I eat fairly clean, and I have figured out what foods really anger my body. Strict diet changes didn’t work for me, but I’ve taken the bits and pieces that did and have been able to incorporate them into my life successfully because I don’t feel bound to an extreme.

Have you tried dietary changes to help manage your AS (extreme or moderate)? Did you find something that has worked for you? I would love to hear about it in a comment below!

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