Here Are the Dietary Changes That Reduced My AS Symptoms
“What did you say you can’t eat?” my friend asked me in shock as we casually strolled along a river path.
I recently had decided to tackle my ankylosing spondylitis (AS) diagnosis with radical changes to my lifestyle. I tried to think of ways to explain the drastic cuts I had made to my diet.
Ketogenic and paleo diets have become accepted and commonplace. Autoimmune protocol diets are not unheard of. People regularly cut foods such as eggs, dairy, and gluten out of their diets to reduce inflammatory reactions in their bodies. However, in addition to eliminating nearly all foods that could cause inflammation, I chose to also eliminate starch.
Starches consumed by those who are genetically susceptible to AS could enrich the growth of the Klebsiella bacteria in the large intestine. Because of the similarity between Klebsiella molecules and those found in bones and cartilage, anti-Klebsiella antibodies end up attacking joints and tendons in people with AS. This concept is called molecular mimicry and has been studied extensively by immunologist Alan Ebringer.
My goal wasn’t only to eliminate foods that could be increasing inflammation in my already inflamed body. I also hoped to stop feeding the likely overabundant Klebsiella bacteria in my gut by cutting all starches.
If I starved Klebsiella, then antibodies couldn’t attack my body anymore either, right? Anecdotal evidence suggested it was worth a try.
I soon realized that starch was extremely abundant in my standard U.S. diet. Initially, I was only aware of starches in foods like grains and potatoes. However, I quickly learned that starch also can be found in fruits, vegetables, spices, supplements, and nearly all processed foods.
I discovered that the starchiness of vegetables can increase drastically when cooked. Starch levels also vary in fruits and vegetables, depending on when they are harvested.
I learned that the best way to find out if something contained starch was to put a few drops of iodine tincture onto a sample of food. Once the orange-colored iodine comes into contact with the food, it will change to dark blue if starch is present.
On Nov. 20, 2019, I began this intense dietary change. I started out eating only a handful of foods. Broccoli, free-range organic chicken, extra-virgin olive oil, Himalayan salt, avocado oil, and homemade chicken bone broth sustained my body for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for longer than I care to admit. I started with so few foods because I was desperate to discover which foods, besides starch, were causing me pain. I picked these foods specifically for their low-inflammation profile.
The first few weeks were rough, especially as we entered the Christmas season. Keto flu, which results from a temporary imbalance in energy sources when starting a low-carb diet, hit me like a ton of bricks. Between nausea, headaches, and fatigue, I felt miserable. One week into this diet, I so badly wanted to throw in the towel, but I didn’t want to waste the week I had already committed, so I hung on.
I was determined to give it my best effort. My goal all along was to stick it out at least until my initial consultation with my rheumatologist, which was still several months away. If I experienced no results from the dietary changes by that point, I would gladly and eagerly accept whatever medication was recommended to me.
After a few weeks on this extremely restrictive diet, I slept through the night until morning without pain or stiffness. I was shocked! I started sleeping longer and more regularly. Gradually, the number of days I woke up without pain and stiffness outnumbered the mornings I was crippled.
Following strict compliance with this diet, I found the constant ache was virtually eliminated in a matter of months. I successfully weaned myself off all medications I’d been using to control my pain.
I started reintroducing some foods to increase my nutrient intake. I added one food every four days to give myself time to notice possible reactions.
By the time I went to my initial appointment with my rheumatologist, my pain was 90% gone and I was regularly sleeping through the night. I left my first appointment without a prescription simply because I no longer needed medication.
Over time, my pain has continued to decrease and sleep has become as bountiful as it can be with three young kids.
I’ve been able to thrive on a strict diet that’s customized to what my body needs to prosper, despite the presence of AS.
And as you can see in the pictures, I’m not deprived!
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