Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of inflammatory arthritis in which the body attacks its joints, most often affecting the spine. Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis include joint pain, stiffness, fatigue, and inflammation of other body systems.
Following a well-balanced, anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce inflammation throughout the body. This, in turn, can help manage the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis and reduce the likelihood of flare-ups, times when symptoms worsen.
This article will describe the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet for ankylosing spondylitis, foods to eat, and foods to avoid.
An anti-inflammatory diet is beneficial in reducing inflammation throughout the body, especially if you have an autoimmune condition like ankylosing spondylitis. However, there are no specific dietary guidelines unique to managing this condition. Research is growing as scientists learn more about the impact of food on diseases and the severity of symptoms.
Emerging evidence suggests that an imbalance of the gut’s healthy bacteria, collectively called the gut microbiome, is directly influenced by the types of food consumed. A disrupted gut microbiome can trigger autoimmune conditions like ankylosing spondylitis. Following an anti-inflammatory diet can help promote a healthy gut microbiome, which can help manage ankylosing spondylitis symptoms.
How It Works
Following an anti-inflammatory diet involves making healthy food choices every day to incorporate into your meals. Meal timing, frequency, and size are all up to your individual preference.
Following an anti-inflammatory diet is a long-term lifestyle change. Aim to eat anti-inflammatory foods daily for best results and overall health.
What to Eat
When following an anti-inflammatory diet, you’ll focus on fruits and vegetables, lean protein, like fish and chicken, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.
Fatty fish, especially sardines, salmon, sea bass, and trout
Nuts and seeds
Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
Gluten-contain grains like wheat, rye, and barley
Excess red meat, especially corn- and soy-fed sources
Artificial colors, flavors, and additives
Some foods, such as dairy products and grains like corn, rice, and oats, do not cause inflammation in some but do in others. Try eliminating these foods from your diet for one month to see if you notice a difference in how you feel.
If you choose to consume these foods, choose organic sources when possible.
Using unrefined oils, like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil for cooking, helps increase your intake of antioxidants. Avoid refined oils like canola, cottonseed, corn, and peanut oils as they are inflammatory for the body.
When cooking, bake, roast, and saute food rather than frying to preserve nutrient quality. Use herbs and spices to season food in place of heavy dressings and sauces.
Avoiding or limiting starches, including products made from grains like bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, pastries, and desserts, can be beneficial for managing ankylosing spondylitis. A low-starch diet can limit the growth of the Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria in the gut, a known trigger for increased disease activity in ankylosing spondylitis.
Following an anti-inflammatory diet for ankylosing spondylitis should be a lifelong change to manage symptoms and reduce the likelihood of flare-ups. Supplementation and overall cost are two important things to consider when making this healthy lifestyle change.
Supplementing your diet can help maintain proper balance and immune system functioning. Use a probiotic supplement to support the growth of beneficial bacteria, which will improve your gut microbiome and immune system.
A vitamin D supplement can also help support your immune system. Vitamin D is produced by the skin in response to sunlight and is obtained from foods like fish and eggs in limited amounts.
Since most people in the United States lack adequate sun exposure year-round to produce enough vitamin D, many Americans have deficient or insufficient vitamin D levels. Higher vitamin D levels are associated with decreased risk of ankylosing spondylitis and lower levels of disease activity.
Another study looked at vitamin D and omega 3 supplements, which showed a significantly lower rate of autoimmune disease in patients who regularly supplemented with vitamin D.
Many people believe eating healthy can be expensive, but following an anti-inflammatory diet can be affordable and achievable. Shopping locally and seasonally can help keep producing costs affordable by eliminating food shipping costs from other regions. Buying food in bulk, especially foods like poultry, fish, and vegetables that can be stored in the freezer, can also help reduce the price of food.
While there are no specific dietary guidelines for ankylosing spondylitis, maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet filled with whole, unprocessed foods can help decrease inflammation throughout the body, which will reduce the severity of symptoms and the likelihood of flare-ups.
Additionally, following a low-starch diet can be particularly beneficial for ankylosing spondylitis by limiting the growth of certain bacteria that can trigger the condition, while supplementing with vitamin D and probiotics can help support a healthy immune system.
A Word From Verywell
Treating ankylosing spondylitis can be challenging and involves multiple methods to help you feel your best. Consider talking with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to help implement healthy dietary habits. With or without autoimmune conditions, many people tend to feel better when replacing processed and refined foods with healthier options.