Making Diet Choices to Help My AS
Over the years of living with ankylosing spondylitis, I have tried various diets in hopes of reducing pain. Reflecting on my experiences, I recall a period of 2.5 years when I decided to become a vegan. It was a challenging lifestyle, as I always carried healthy snacks like carrot sticks and vegan granola bars instead of indulging in cheddar cheese or ice cream. My motivation for this dietary change was to alleviate the discomfort in my legs, particularly my knees. I conducted extensive research, searching for any food that could provide relief during constant flares.
During this time, a colleague commented on my healthy eating habits, expressing that they could never do the same. While I wanted to explain that my choices were driven by chronic pain, I simply smiled in response. I was experimenting with anti-inflammatory foods to observe their impact on my body, but unfortunately, it did not result in a significant reduction in pain. However, I continued to follow this diet because I enjoyed how my clothes fit.
Eventually, my friends and family shared their concern about my weight loss, prompting me to reintroduce meat into my diet. My children, particularly my son who was a meat lover, were thrilled at the news. The vegan phase had its drawbacks, as my family would often have to eat pretend meat at vegan restaurants for our family nights out.
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I also tried the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet, but did not notice much difference in my pain levels. When it comes to managing a chronic disease, dietary choices are highly personal. I do not believe in imposing strict recommendations on others. However, I share with my coaching clients the benefits of anti-inflammatory foods for pain management, emphasizing the importance of individual choice and how they want to feel in their bodies.
When I was a vegan, I reached my lowest weight ever and purposely gained 25 pounds to feel stronger. The key takeaway here is to experiment with your own diet and observe how your body reacts. Just because someone in a chronic pain support group follows a specific diet does not mean it is suitable for everyone. Keeping a food diary can be helpful in identifying which foods agree with your body and which ones do not, even if they are considered healthy.
I am not suggesting complete abstinence from indulgent treats. Instead, I encourage moderation and self-awareness. Remember how your body responded the last time you enjoyed a cookie.