22: Diet for Ankylosing Spondylitis: A Miracle Cure?

Photo by Wesual Click on Unsplash

I cannot exaggerate how quickly my starch and lactose-free diet began to work. For the first time in 3 ½ years I could turn over in bed with minimal help from my hands. I could get through some nights without searing rib pain, and in the morning I could carefully rise and just walk out of the room without hobbling.

I had the good fortune of coming across an ultra-firm foam bed that a friend couldn’t use, so I was able to end the madness of toggling back and forth between our too-soft luxury mattress and the hard-as-a-brick topper on the floor. Now I had my own firm bed…plopped down in the middle of our living room. Not exactly a convenience, but there was no other place to put me.

The thing about the ‘nighttime back pain’ phenomenon of AS is, on nights when it’s there…there’s nothing I can do to really make it go away. But the firmer my bed is, the longer it takes for it to set in each night. So an ultra firm mattress can usually buy me at least 4 or 5 hours of relatively pain free sleep. But as my new diet worked its magic, I began to have much fewer nights where spine and rib pain occurred at all.

Before I go touting diet as an AS miracle cure, let me explain first that there is scientific evidence behind why it works, and second that it is extremely difficult, impractical, and unpleasant to fully follow through with. As for the science, AS symptoms are largely a painful inflammatory response to the immune system’s attack on that one pesky gene we discussed earlier…HLA-b27, which resides in the joints and bones of the body. And why does the body attack this gene? Very simply because, molecularly, it looks almost identical to a common gut bacterium called Klebsiella Pneumoniae.

Being that the overzealous nature of autoimmunity is to rid the body of all possible offenders, real or imagined, there’s a continual internal war going on against billions of different food and environment-induced bacteria in my body. Klebsiella just happens to be the only one that looks like one my own genes. In my immune system’s silly obsession with ridding me of it, it attacks my joints, bones, and vertebrae. Absolutely horrid!

But here’s where Klebsiella gets even more interesting…It only eats two things. Two. Starch and lactose. That’s it. The problem? Well, dairy is kinda nice and all, but starch is in practically Everything!! And believe me, if you think that going starch free means you can occasionally have a bite of pizza crust or a spoonful of oatmeal, you would be overlooking the fact that bacteria are microscopic, and that your single lick of dairy ice cream is an entire buffet for potentially billions of Klebsiella. And whenever Klebsiella surges in the gut, the immune system says “Attack HLA-b27!!”

So basically, yeah…if you don’t want to live with the dangerously progressive and insufferably painful symptoms of AS, there is a safe alternative to drugs. But it ain’t easy.

This is the ongoing story of my experience with a crippling autoimmune disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis, that I’m putting in remission with diet and stem cells!