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Ankylosing Spondylitis & Related Diseases Information

Diet's Effect On Spondylitis Symptoms
In recent years many specialized diets have gained popularity among some people with arthritis. To date, none 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 find out if indeed what you eat makes a difference or if you have food sensitivities.

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. Alcoholic beverages can also weaken bones. 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 to major organs such as the liver and the kidneys.
  • It is important to find out from your doctor whether any of the 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 which can be offset by taking additional supplements.

Whatever you decide, expert agree that there are basic guidelines to good nutrition, which are:

  • Eat a variety of foods that make you feel good - avoid those that do 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.
  • Drink 8-10 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.
Maintain 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 end, underweight persons 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 if difficult for some people with spondylitis to maintain a healthy weight. This is especially true for those with spondylitis of inflammatory bowel or Crohn's disease that experience gastrointestinal problems on top of the arthritis symptoms. Report any severe weight loss to your doctor.

VIDEO: Dr. Michael Weisman answers a question on diet and spondylitis

More video in the member area! SAA Members have access to Dr. Michael Wesiman's entire Spondylitis Educational Seminar presentation in the Member Area. We also have recordings of webinars from prominent rheumatologists as well as podcasts - audio interviews with experts.

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