How Changing My Diet Reduced My AS Symptoms
Shortly after my diagnosis, I started to investigate diet and lifestyle changes to help fight AS. I wanted to become the best advocate possible for my own health and see what is possible. Despite doctors’ statements that diet doesn’t play a big role, I wanted to find out for myself.
A love of learning
Over the years, I have done several dietary experiments, testing out different nutrition protocols. Fast forward to now, and with two health coaching certifications under my belt (Functional Health Coach, Autoimmune Protocol Coach), I have a much better understanding of the connection between our diet/lifestyle, intestinal permeability (leaky gut), and chronic inflammatory conditions.
Experiments are key
What works for me may not work for you. We are all so unique. However, I believe the below changes have helped to reduce my AS symptoms by lowering the inflammation in my body, and making me more resilient when faced with flares. Please be sure to consult with a registered dietician or a trusted healthcare provider before changing your diet.
This was the first and biggest change I made. Challenging at first, but it’s a change I will most likely not reverse. Gluten will stay out of my diet for the rest of my life. In the book "The Paleo Approach," Dr. Sarah Ballantyne writes that gluten can damage the gut barrier, activating the immune system and causing inflammation.1 She says that gluten-containing grains (wheat, barley, rye) are typically the most problematic for those with gut issues or autoimmune disease.1 Once I removed gluten, I felt a big difference in my overall well-being. This also means that I stay away from processed gluten-free product alternatives which are filled with other unhealthy ingredients and chemicals.
Limit processed sugar and dairy
I also limit processed sugary treats and snacks. Dr. Ballantyne addresses the problem with sugar: the first being that it is typically added to nutritionally poor foods in order to make them addictive. She explains that when the body isn't receiving the nutrients it needs from these foods, a vicious cycle results in ever higher cravings. The other problem with sugar, she says, is that increased consumption leads to issues with blood sugar regulation. Dr. Ballantyne states that regulating those levels and maintaining insulin sensitivity are important to support the immune system and reduce inflammation.1 The book also points out dairy being a commonly allergenic food and states that it can also cause intestinal permeability and hinder nutrient absorption.1 (Note: Dr. Ballantyne states there is a big difference in nutritional value between conventional, grain-fed dairy products and grass-fed, raw, full-fat dairy products).
Focus on whole foods
This means I limit as much as possible processed vegetable oils (very high in Omega-6 fatty acids), sweeteners, additives, etc. I buy organic when possible and focus on healthy carbs (sweet potatoes, plantains, potatoes, some white rice, fruit), fats (nuts/seeds, olive and coconut oil, olives), proteins (grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish), and lots of vegetables.
Add gut-healing foods
I continuously aim to consume a mix of prebiotic food to feed my beneficial gut bacteria, and probiotics (sauerkraut, kombucha etc., plus a good quality supplement) to support the variety and abundance of my gut bacteria (70% of our immune system is in the gut2). I also consume bone broth frequently. As Dr. Ballantyne states in her book, bone broth is a nutrient-dense food rich in numerous vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and glycine.1
Some food for thought for you! I would love to hear about the diet changes you have made (or are planning to make) to help manage your AS?
Spondylitis, Spondylosis, Spondylolisthesis: What Is the Difference?