Ankylosing spondylitis is an auto immune disease and a type of arthritis that mostly affects the lower parts of the spine, particularly the sacroiliac joints. It can also affect other parts of the body too. Unfortunately, if the disease progresses further it can result in new bone formation and fuse sections of the spine which can result in immobility in the affected area.
It can cause extreme pain, inflammation and stiffness which can be very debilitating. It has been found to mostly affect males between the ages of 17 and 35, and according to the Laser Spine Institute, symptoms to look out for include:
- ‘Persistent discomfort in the lower back, hips and buttocks that gradually worsens over time
- Pain and stiffness that seem worse after periods of rest and inactivity and improve with movement
- Pain and stiffness in other joints, such as the shoulders, wrists, fingers, knees, ankles or toes
- Heel discomfort that makes it difficult to stand and walk on hard surfaces
- Eye pain, inflammation, redness or light sensitivity
- Loss of appetite
- General fatigue’
There are many proposed causes of AS, athough it can vary from person to person. There is one particular group of genes known as HLA-B27 that has been linked strongly to AS. People with this gene are more susceptible to AS or other autoimmune diseases and need to be more careful. Gut microbiota plays a huge role in the way we think, feel and what we are diagnosed with, so it is always important to look here first.
There is a strong connection between inflammation in the gut and people who have AS symptoms. Gut inflammation is caused by a number of factors including consuming foods that you might have a reaction to, imbalance in the gut bacteria, low hydrochloric acid and leaky gut.
An overgrowth of a particular bacteria known as Klebsiella has been seen in many patients with AS. We know that there is dysbiosis (overgrowth or undergrowth of certain microbes in the gut) prevalent in those with AS, though it is important to know what the dysbiosis is, and Klebsiella overgrowth may be one of the reasons for someone’s diagnosis.
The best way for an individual to find out is through a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis. This will identify what you need to focus on to reduce your potential overgrowths of bacteria, parasites or yeasts. Other microbes that may be linked to the pathogenesis of AS include Salmonella, E.Coli and Yersinia.
Being an inflammatory illness, it is crucial to consider diet when it comes to AS. Diet has a huge impact on the balance and diversity of our gut microbiota, so it is crucial to focus on a wholefood, anti-inflammatory diet to ensure you have a healthy microbiome to prevent the balance of microbes being altered.
Moreover, studies have shown that those with AS were less likely to be breastfed, so if an individual was not breastfed than they simply just need to be a little more careful and take actions to support their microbiome as best as possible. A high starch diet has been linked to the diagnosis of AS, and lowering starch has also helped to reduce symptoms of AS. Starch may include anything from a piece of bread to a serving of sweet potato, so it is important to consider all foods that contain starch, and if you need support from a practitioner than seek this before embarking on a new way of eating. Studies have also shown that lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium may also assist those with AS.
Steps to take to improve your immune system and reduce AS symptoms
- Consume an abundance of anti-inflammatory foods
- Consider a stool test and consume probiotic rich fermented foods that will support your individual gut microbiome
- Apple cider vinegar to increase the acidity in your gut to ward off pathogenic microbes
- Broths, gelatin and collagen to rebuild your gut lining and support your immune system
- Consume turmeric and black pepper as regularly as possible to reduce inflammation. A therapeutic dose is one heaped tsp of turmeric, alternatively take a supplement such as this one.
- Prepare foods in a traditional way, such as fermenting or sprouting grains and legumes, soaking/activating nuts and seeds
- Consider having a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) which you can organize through many holistic or integrative health practitioners.
Avoid foods that can cause dysbiosis and susceptibility to AS:
- High starch foods; grains, potatoes, carrots, beetroot
- Cane sugar and other forms of sugar such as glucose. Some may need to remove natural sugars as well address the overgrowth of a particular microbe such as Klebsiella
- Refined and genetically modified vegetable oils; canola, sunflower, safflower and corn
- Modern, hybridized wheat and gluten from wheat, oats, rye, spelt and barley
- Preservatives, artificial colours, flavours, and other chemicals contained within packaged food
- Soy, particularly if it isn’t organic or been fermented
- If you have already eliminated the above foods, you may need to consider nightshade vegetables (the main ones are – potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers/capsicum), eggs, nuts, grains and/or legumes.
Remember, it is crucial to take a holistic approach to any diagnosis and consider many factors. The above recommendations are worth investigating along with the reduction of other influencing factors like stress and environmental triggers such as mould and chemicals
Please, let us know if you or a family member has reduced AS symptoms and what worked for you. We’d love to hear from you.
Happy changing habits
Nutritionist & GAPS Practitioner