Diet's Effect on Spondylitis Symptoms

In recent years, many specialized diets have gained popularity among some people with arthritis. To date, few of these claims have been substantiated by rigorously controlled studies. That said, some people find that certain foods trigger changes in symptoms –– either for the better or the worse. If you find yourself noticing this type of pattern, try keeping a food diary for a few weeks to test if indeed what you eat makes a difference or if you have food sensitivities.

There is, in fact, evidence that certain foods tend to be inflammatory in nature, while others can help manage inflammation.

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Whether a person is affected by a chronic illness or not, there are some straightforward guidelines that, if followed, would lead to improved health and well-being for almost everyone:

  • Both calcium and alcohol affect the strength of the bones, and it is a well-known fact that people with spondylitis are already at higher risk for osteoporosis, a dangerous thinning of the bones that can lead to fractures. Following a diet with adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D will help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.  Consuming more than two alcoholic drinks per day increases a person's chances of developing weakened bones. In addition, alcohol mixed with certain medications can cause serious side effects to the gastrointestinal tract and major organs such as the liver and the kidneys.
  • It is important to find out from your doctor whether any medications that you take affect how your body uses what you eat. For instance, some medications cause a person to retain sodium, while others cause potassium loss. Methotrexate can lower folic acid levels, causing a variety of adverse symptoms that can be offset by taking additional supplements.

Experts agree that there are basic guidelines to good nutrition, which are:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods -- avoid those that are not.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
  • Use fat (especially saturated fat found in animal products), cholesterol, sugar, and salt in moderation.
  • Minimized processed foods, as well as those heavy in artificial preservatives and sweeteners.
  • Drink eight to10 glasses of water a day.
  • Most people receive daily requirements of vitamins and minerals by eating a well-balanced diet, but others need to take vitamin supplements.

Avoid alcohol or foods that can interact with your medication. Talk with your doctor and/or pharmacist about potential interactions.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Besides the well-known medical problems individuals can develop as a result of weight gain (high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and heart disease), extra weight puts additional stress on joints and bones. For example, the corticosteroid prednisone causes weight gain to some degree in nearly all patients who take the medication and can lead to redistribution of body fat to places like the face, back of the neck, and abdomen.

On the other hand, underweight people can suffer from medical problems, ranging from chronic fatigue and anemia to lowered resistance to infection and clinical depression. Inflammation, certain medications, and depression associated with a chronic illness may lessen your appetite or upset your stomach, making it difficult for some people with spondylitis to maintain a healthy weight. This is especially true for those who have spondylitis with inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn's disease who experience gastrointestinal problems on top of arthritis symptoms. Any severe weight loss to should be reported to your doctor. 

This program was made possible through the generous support of Novartis.


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