My top 5 AS flare triggers — and why it matters

Knowing these triggers can help to control inflammation or be mentally prepared

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by Janneke Phung |

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“How in the world did we get so unlucky?!”

I couldn’t believe that our fourth mattress in a year appeared to be another dud. Shortly after this disappointing occurrence, I had a revelation: The mattresses weren’t the problem. I was.

At the time, ankylosing spondylitis (AS) was a new term for me. However, my symptoms, which often flared, were all too familiar. I had not yet learned the triggers of my pain. Instead of seeking to manage the root of inflammation caused by AS, I sought to find relief from my symptoms, which proved to be a never-ending pursuit.

It’s been almost four years since my diagnosis. During this time, I have learned a lot. Discovering what triggers my AS to flare has been helpful. When the cause of the flare is under my control, I can intentionally follow a plan of action to combat symptoms. When it is not under my control, it still helps to know why I feel off.

Without fail, I can reassure myself that better days are ahead.

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Given this knowledge, following are my Top 5 AS flare triggers:

1. Stress and lack of sleep

When my twin boys were still infants and colicky, lack of sleep and stress were the most frustrating triggers. My debilitating symptoms were a reflection of these triggers operating at a maximum. Several medical professionals suggested that I get more rest and reduce my stress. I was at a place where those triggers were nearly impossible to manage, which was a frustrating realization at the time. However, the doctors were spot on: These factors play a significant role in managing my disease symptoms.

2. Diet

Since my diagnosis, I have made drastic changes to my lifestyle. Most importantly, I have removed all starchy and inflammatory foods from my diet. The role of diet has been enormous in managing my disease symptoms. When I get lax about what I eat or when I have an accidental slip-up, it inevitably triggers a flare.

3. Dehydration

Even mild dehydration can cause AS symptoms to rear their ugly head. Drinking enough water is necessary for anyone, but it’s critical for me in managing ankylosing spondylitis. Water reduces inflammation and helps keep bones and joints healthy. When I get bored with plain water, I switch it up by changing the temperature (yes, I love to sip plain, hot water, especially in the wintertime) or adding some flavor with a squeeze of lemon or lime.

4. Weather

Weather is a factor that is outside of my control. For my sanity, it still helps to attribute my pain to something. Therefore, simply recognizing that the weather affects my symptoms is helpful to reassure myself that better days are ahead.

5. Hormones

Through experience, I have learned that hormonal fluctuations contribute to increased disease activity, especially when combined with one of the previously mentioned flare triggers. Sometimes, planning around these fluctuations is necessary. But more importantly, the awareness of their impact on my disease gives me answers when I am desperately wondering what I’ve “done wrong” to cause a flare.

Thanks for reading! You can learn more about my story, browse starch-free recipes, or peruse the stories of others who successfully manage their AS with diet and lifestyle modifications on my website. Join me on Instagram and Facebook for the latest updates and recipes.

Note: Ankylosing Spondylitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ankylosing Spondylitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ankylosing spondylitis.


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