A good friend of ours was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). Having never heard of it, my husband went on a “research binge” and found all kinds of information in regard to diet to reduce inflammation. Treatment for AS involves powerful painkillers, anti-inflammatories and steroids… all of which can wreak havoc on the body (kind of the opposite of what you need when fighting AS!). All the information below is what my lovely husband David found in his searches. We are not doctors, but much of the information came from doctors and medical studies. Also! Recently broke out in hives after strong round of antibiotics, changing my diet made it all go away after two days. Hard to do for a baker but I did…. Just want to share the information for anyone suffering from inflammation related problems.
The http://www.spondylitis.org website seems like a good place for an AS sufferer to start yet the impact of diet is curiously absent. A British doctor treats his patients with a no/low carb diet along with reduced dosages of anti-inflammatories. The diet itself is designed to rebalance the bacteria that live in the gut, reducing one strain in particular called Klebsiella which releases toxins that cause whole body inflammation with those genetically predisposed to AS.
We all have trillions of bacteria from thousands of different strains in our gut and I bet most everyone has that Klebsiella bacteria, and it only becomes a problem in a portion of the population when they experience an overgrowth. Since that bacteria feeds on starches, you can alter your diet to essentially “starve” it out. The result is a diet higher in protein and fat with less starch/carbs. Some popular versions of these are keto and paleo, They seem a bit gimmicky, but some important points I learned are that grass fed cows produce better meat/milk/butter, they are higher in omega 3 fatty acids among other nutrients. Turns out natural is better: whole milk is better than skim, grass fed is better than grain fed, and eating organic shields you from estrogen mimicking herbicide/pesticide/fungicide. Avoid plastics and fire retardants as well. Anyway, the recommended diet for AS is the London AS diet.
As you can see, you may have to cut out additional things like dairy, eggs and even some veggies like onions if you don’t get relief by sticking to the middle column. As you starve out the bad bacteria you’ll want to actively replace it with beneficial bacteria (probiotics) like the ones found in yogurt(get the plain, unsweetened greek yogurt), Kefir, kombucha or probiotic pills like these.
Additionally, as you cut sugar and other carbs you’ll also be starving out the candida) yeast that lives in all our bodies. In some people, too high of a candida population can cause a host of issues ranging from hives to arthritis. You may not have any issues with candida, but if you did, they’ll start dying out as well (bonus!). Having so many yeast and bacteria dying off can cause problems on their own unfortunately, they release toxins when they die and their little dead cells have to be cleared out by the body. The body can react to this sudden die off and it’s called a Herxheimer reaction (or just “herxing”). Herxing can feel like a whole body inflammation/hives/the flu. Your body can normally process the dying organisms along with the toxins fast enough, but drink plenty of water to help yourself out, your kidneys and liver will be working hard and they’ll need the water(some tea can’t hurt either).
Another interesting thing I came across is leaky gut syndrome. The basic idea is that the lining of the intestines can become too thin, thin enough to allow large, not-yet-fully-digested proteins and other molecules to permeate the gut and enter your bloodstream. Then, your immune system attacks these unknown molecules and the result is a host of inflammatory responses like arthritis and IBS. Incidentally, frequent use of antibiotics can cause work to thin the lining of the intestines, as well anti-inflammatory drugs like NSAIDs. When not under stress, the intestinal lining will rebuild itself, but supplementing diet with L-glutamine can help speed the process.
This stuff is so increadibly complex and interrelated but also fascinating. The health of your gut and the kinds of bacteria living there can even influence your mood and determine your obesity risk as well.
Fasting also fits into this puzzle. Humans have fasted for religious and health reasons for all of recorded history. Juice fasts and such even had a pop culture resurgence. One of the benefits of fasting is that you starve out the yeast and bacteria since only your own cells have access to any energy (your own fat stores). This allows you to essentially reset your body and repopulate your gut with healthier bacteria. This article references a few scientific studies that seen to back up that idea. A less appealing way to repopulate your gut bacteria would be… However, IBS and colitis are often comorbid with AS so it might be worth considering. It was for some people.
Inflammation seems to be at the intersection of all this. In many ways, inflammation is at the root of all illness. In a sense, you aren’t just your human self, but an ever changing proportion of human cells, bacteria, yeasts, and viruses as well. For long term health you have to keep your non-pathogenic guests in balance lest they bloom and become pathogenic AND maintain an immune system strong enough to evict the active pathogens but not attack your own cells. At the risk of redundancy, I think it’s useful to include this book that covers the importance of that balance and the risk of antibiotics. A final resource I found was on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which isn’t must different than the London AS diet but the website was very helpful and had a lot of information that was free even though they’re trying to sell a book.
AS can seem daunting, maybe I should have led with a positive testimonial from someone who managed to control his AS Dotyisle’s AS story
Oh, one final thing, exercise as much as you can! I have a book called “The Exercise Cure” and for Arthritis (closest thing in the book to AS) he says those with severe pain should at least do stretching, yoga/swimming/strength exercises like air squats and lunges.
For movie night:
Food, Inc. (you can stream it on Netflix)
In summary, a low/no starch diet will lower the number of harmful bacteria, reduce your inflammation response, and increase the effectiveness of traditional medicines at smaller (easier on the body/less side effects) doses