Aging, illness and death are treasures for those who understand them. They're Noble Truths, Noble Treasures. If they were people, I'd bow down to their feet every day.
- Ajaan Lee
Managing My Ankylosing Spondylitis (pronounced ankle-low-zing spond-ill-eye-tiss)
I was diagnosed (both chronic sacroiliitis and HLA-B27 positive) at the age of 42 in April 2006. Before that, I was in chronic pain for 1 1/2 years. Before that, I suffered a few flares, maybe one every decade of my life, that usually lasted a few weeks, and went away with rest or a visit to a chiropractor. Usually they were caused by running or jogging or some other high impact activity. I had tight hamstrings my entire life, but not any more since I eliminated starch. Tight hamstrings is now one of the first signs that tells me I have ingested some hidden starch in something I ate.
Within 6 months of being diagnosed, I began to figure out how to manage my symptoms (inflamation in sacrum area causing pain in hip, butt, hamstrings, legs, without medication, by eating a No Starch Diet.
Natural Healing with the LONDON AS DIET
***Start a food journal, include everything you eat, your pain levels, your activities, your meds, etc***
AS, Digestion and the HLA-B27 Gene.......
This gene is handed down, primarily from ancestors of the Northern Hemisphere; Australia, England, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Scotland, etc.
AS is a chronic and progressive inflammatory form of arthritis that mainly affects the joints of the spine (vertebrae). Inflammation, swelling and irritation cause back pain and stiffness. Over time, people living with AS tend to stoop forward. This leads to a rounding of the back. In severe cases, vertebrae may fuse together causing the spine to stiffen. This results in a major loss of movement. I don't know of anyone else in my family who has been diagnosed, but I know some who have suffered similiar symptons, unfortunately they are no longer here to be tested.
Molecular Mimicry - AS is an auto-immune disease. My immune system is attacking itself because the HLA-B27 gene is identical to a bacterial called Klebsiella. Klebsiella bacteria feed and multiply on undigested starch, my immune system makes antibodies against these microbe and some of those antibodies will also have activity against the HLA-B27 gene, thereby acting as tissue damaging autoantibodies, causing inflamation and pain throughout my joints - hence the need to abstain from starchy foods.
In the early stages of AS, my immune system had become an expert at responding quickly, killing off my own white blood cells, what it mistakes for this bacteria. If I go one meal without following the Low Starch Diet, my body quickly goes into a flare, causing inflamation and pain. Just a lick or bite of any food containing starch (gravy, chocolate chip cookie) and I am a cripple for about 3 or 4 days (till all the starch is digested).
By following this strick diet, I can prevent the progression of this disease and the pain that comes with it. I can stop my immune system from reacting without the use of biological medications, which would compromise my immune system, and cause me to suffer other diseases. And I can stop the inflamation without the use of NSAID's, which cause stomach upset and bleeding ulcers (and heart attacks!). Although I still have to live with the damage already done to my joints, I can prevent further damage. By doing this without the use of medications, I do not have to deal with the added side effects.
Foods to Avoid
All obvious high starch foods. Breads, cakes, cookies, pasta, rice, potatoes/root vegetables, dried beans, corn, wheat, grains, peanuts, etc. Yes, this means pizza, burritos, sandwiches, chips, etc. All known starches. All my favorite foods.
I felt better after about 4 days after starting this diet, when all starches I ate previously were digested from my body. I believe it was safe then, to stop taking my medication, but I wasn't brave enough for 10 days (I was affraid to stop - affraid the pain would come back).
Foods Proven to Aid Digestion and Help Heal the Gut
Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut adds healthy flora (live cultures) which will help my digestive system work more efficiently. If you prefer to make your own sauerkraut, try this recipe. Take 1 Tablespoon of the sauerkraut with each meal.
Foods to Figure Out
Low or hidden starch foods. Read all labels on processed foods. Watch out for addiditives, modified starches, corn syrup, etc. in processed foods and supplements. Some foods may contain trace amounts of starch, and not be listed on the ingredients, such as shredded or sliced cheeses, so I don't eat any processed foods. Supplements must be starch free.
Use a drop of iodine to test foods, anything with starch in it will turn black.
Most fresh veggies and fruits are safe when raw and picked ripe, but starch is released when cooked. Apples, bananas and imported fruits cause the most problems. Pectin (found in some yogurts) has caused me to become inflamed.
When I have been pain free for a while, I experiment with foods, and see what my body can tolerate. I may suffer 2 to 4 days of inflamation in my sacrum from eating a food my body cannot tolerate, but if I don't go into a flare, I know the food is safe for me to eat. I can't live with the pain, so during these times I rely on Medical Marijuana, available locally at Blue Heaven Coastside, as most pharmaceutical medications contain starch and cannot be tolerated. I use a Vaporizer, which eliminates 95% of carcinogens from smoking, and because edibles are out since I can't tolerate the starch or sugar needed to bake them. One starch free, over the counter pain reliever I can use in a pinch is Aleve Gel Caps. But I use these NSAID's in strict moderation, as I still have not healed from the damage they did to my stomach when I was over-using for the 2 years before I was diagnosed.
Some foods such as cocoa powder, citrus (has starch in the white pith), pectin (used in some yogurts) and almonds with the skin on and root vegetables, I can tolerate occasionally, but if I consume on a daily basis, I will end up in a flare. I eat these foods in moderation only. Spices are starchy and can only been eaten in very small quantities.
After 2 years following this diet healing has taken place. I am now able to tolerate moderate amounts of starch, without going into a major flare. No high starch foods such as wheat or grain, but some starchy vegetables now seem to be OK, such as citrus, potatoes, almonds, more spices, etc. I have discovered I can tolerate long grain brown rice (less starchy then short grain) that has been prepared properly - rinsed till the water runs clear, then soaked all day in chloramine free water, and then cooked slowly, for at least 2 hours in a mineral bone broth. This makes the rice more easily to digest. See the cookbook Nourishinig Traditions by Sally Fallon for more detailed instructions. Unfortunately, consuming rice has caused the fungus overgrowth in my ear to return, and can only be eaten in strict moderation.
STARCH CONTENT OF FOOD this list can be used a guide when choosing safe foods.
Raw vegetables - the starch is locked inside the vegetable cells and passes thru our bodies locked away in the vegetable cells and is removed as waste.
Cook vegetables, the cells are broken and the starch is released.
I starting off by eating only raw vegetables. After I was pain free for a while, I started to experiment, to see what cooked vegetables my body could tolerate. I have not found any vegetable that I cannot tolerate. Although, some can only be eaten in moderation, such as fava beans, winter squash, potatoes, beets. I try to eat mostly organic, locally grown produce, from a farmers market or health food store.
Lifestyle Modification - Be cautious of all physical activities. Rest between activities, applying heat or ice therapy. Learn to say NO. Take care of yourself.........no one else will.
Contact a Physical Therapist for an appointment, while starting these exercises
Bike - as long as I keep my butt on the seat, even when going up hills, my sacrum is not effected as I am using other muscles.
Walk - Focus on core. Keep tummy tight.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
See my list of Helpful Resources to the right, especially listen to this interview with Carol Sinclair, author of the Low-Starch Diet Book.
MIND BODY CONNECTION
There are many well-known pathways within the brain and central nervous system by which higher cognitive and emotional functions can modify the perception of pain and increase healing. The systems perspective on pain opens the door for many different possible ways to use your mind intentionally to influence your experience of pain and increase healing.
My Favorite Resources for Healing
Full Catastrophe Living and the Guided Body Scan are great tools to guide you in using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness.
The Twelve Steps of Compulsive Eaters Anonymous-H.O.W., is specific group of Overeaters Anonymous that abstains from sugar and flour. Meetings can be found all over the world. This has been an amazing resource for help with sticking to my diet to allow for natural healing. For more information read, Twelve Steps for Overeaters, An interpretation of the Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous