Filling up on knowledge at SAA’s Virtual Patient Educational Seminar

Featured topics included ankylosing spondylitis and diet and more

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by Jemma Newman |

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If you have ankylosing spondylitis (AS) like me, you might prefer to avoid real-life seminars, even though you’d love to know the latest findings about managing AS. Just picturing sitting for hours with a stiff and aching back on the uncomfortable chairs of a drafty hall to watch a presenter on a distant stage makes me squirm.

Virtual seminars are a fantastic way to access all the information you desire from the comfort of your own couch. This month, the Spondylitis Association of America (SAA) did a standing-ovation-worthy job of putting together their Fall Virtual Patient Educational Seminar on Oct. 7. Because I’m in Australia, I accessed links to the recorded sessions, which I was excited to watch at a time that suited me.

At this point in my personal AS progression, I’m trying to manage the symptoms as naturally as possible through diet and lifestyle changes without having to rely on the heavy artillery of biologics and other approved AS medications until absolutely necessary. Because AS is an inflammatory disease, I’m always interested in digging into research on diet changes that can affect the level of inflammation in my body, which helps to keep this chronic disease in check.

When I saw that the SAA included an educational presentation on “The Role of Diet and Nutrition in the Effective Management of SpA” by registered dietitian Elena Philippou, I couldn’t wait to access the digital recording of the online seminar.

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What I learned about AS and diet

I’m keenly interested in how diet affects ankylosing spondylitis, having successfully followed the no-starch diet for AS for several years now. Because I have personally experienced how diet has a huge impact on my joint inflammation and stiffness, I wanted to know more about the role of nutrition in managing inflammatory rheumatic diseases like AS.

In her digital presentation, Philippou covered six topics in great detail, including how:

  1. Nutrition plays an important role in inflammation.
  2. Diet plays a role in rheumatic disease onset.
  3. The Mediterranean diet/lifestyle represents a balanced approach for prevention and management of rheumatic diseases.
  4. Rheumatologists, dietitians, and patients should discuss options according to individual needs and jointly make decisions about changes in dietary patterns, keeping in mind sociocultural and other factors.
  5. Weight loss using a safe approach that includes diet and exercise can benefit people living with rheumatic diseases.
  6. Vitamin D supplementation should be considered in patients with deficiency, with the consultation of a patient’s medical team, of course. Evidence on other vitamin supplementation is limited.

I liked that each segment included detailed studies that backed up her discussion about how diet can affect both the risk and management of AS. I would have liked to see the no-starch diet included in the presentation, but nevertheless, I still see value in understanding the role of nutrition when it comes to inflammation.

A major takeaway for me was to refocus my diet on avoiding foods that cause inflammation, such as sugar and salt, which have crept back into my snacks and meals lately. I’ll also be sure to eat oily fish — such as salmon or sardines — weekly, because the wonderful benefits of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids contained in these foods were discussed several times. That included discussing how the consumption of fatty acids can affect morning stiffness and painful joints.

Going above and beyond to prompt engagement

Joining this virtual event felt like I was visiting a real-life seminar without all the discomfort (and annoying small talk) of a real presentation. It was far more than a few recorded videos, with virtual attendees like me able to enter through a virtual “lobby” with fun miniature people walking around. It even featured a tour around a digital exhibition hall.

It was a real treat to see images of each booth and fill my imaginary swag bag with some seriously awesome resources created specifically for people with ankylosing spondylitis.

If you’re interested in accessing the SAA Fall Virtual Patient Educational Seminar, you can get your digital ticket at their website.

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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