Ankylosing Spondylitis Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re new to ankylosing spondylitis or if you’ve just come across this website this is a great place to start.

Learning about a medical condition can feel overwhelming at first so to overcome that, and address some common questions, we’ve compiled this set of FAQs.

Question: Who is behind Gut Heroes and what's their experience with autoimmune disease?

Hi! I’m Tommy and I set up and run this website. I have a very personal experience with autoimmune disease (specifically ankylosing spondylitis or AS). It was 19 years before I got a diagnosis and when it finally came the only options on the table were immunosuppresants and super strength NSAIDs.

After a great deal of research and testing on myself I became confident that the connection between the microbiome and the immune system was the root cause.

I now manage my autoimmune disorder entirely through diet and lifestyle and feel better than I have done in decades. I created this free resource to help others as best I can. You can learn more here​.

Question: What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disorder) which causes inflammation to the spine.

Question: What are the common symptoms for ankylosing spondylitis (AS)?

The most typical ankylosing spondylitis symptom is pain to the left or right sacroiliac joint. These are the joints that connect your pelvis with your spine and the pain can feel like it’s coming from behind your bum.

The pain can vary in severity, alternate sides and it tends to come in what are known as ‘flares’ – prolonged periods of intense pain – before subsiding again.

Stiffness to the lower back is another extremely common symptom.

You can find a more detailed list of symptoms of AS here.

Question: How can I get a diagnosis for AS and what does the process involve?

You can find information about the process of getting an ankylosing spondylitis (AS) diagnosis here.

Question: What should I know if I have ankylosing spondylitis (AS)? Where can I find information about symptoms, getting diagnosed, and treatments?
Question: What are the most common treatments for ankylosing spondylitis?

You can find information on the most common treatments for AS here​:

Common treatments for ankylosing spondylitis

Question: Why is ankylosing spondylitis called a disease? Can I catch it?

No, you can’t catch it. This is something you are born with a propensity for (a bit like diabetes). While there may be other genes involved too 95% of patients with ankylosing spondylitis possess the HLA-B27 gene.

However, not all people with the HLA-B27 gene go on to develop ankylosing spondylitis. It is possibly brought on or triggered by environmental triggers.

Question: Doesn't arthritis only affect older people?

Absolutely not! This is a myth. Ankylosing spondylitis symptoms usually start to show when patients are in their late teens or early twenties

Question: What are the latest research updates on autoimmune disorders and microbiome research?

This is such an important part of this website and project for me. The focus is on the existing and emerging science as well as my first hand experiences and discoveries following different protocols.

You can find the latest research updates on autoimmune disorders and microbiome research that I’ve posted to here:

See the latest research

Question: I'm in pain right now because of my ankylosing spondylitis, what can I do to get immediate relief?

There are a number of things you can try to ease ankylosing spondylitis pain.

Things you can try (as long as it is safe to do so) include: fasting, cold/hot exposure, TENS machines and more.

You can find a detailed list of suggestions of natural ankylosing spondylitis pain relief techniques here​.

Question: What exercises are recommended for managing ankylosing spondylitis (AS)?

Yoga, pilates, spinal streching and walking are just some of the exercise regimes recommended for managing AS through physical activity.

You can find stretches and exercises for AS here​.

Question: How can I create a personalised wellness plan to help manage my ankylosing spondylitis?

I’ve put together extensive free resources to create your own personalised ankylosing wellness plan here​1:

How create a plan to manage your AS

Question: What is the AS diet? How can it help in managing ankylosing spondylitis without medication?

The AS diet is a specific diet that many patients (including myself) use to manage their AS without medication.

You can learn more about it here​

Question: How can diet be used to manage ankylosing spondylitis?

You can find more information about how diet can be used to manage ankylosing spondylitis here:

How (and why) diet can be used to manage ankylosing spondylitis

Question: Is there a quick-start guide to what to eat and what to avoid when starting out on the AS diet?

Yes, I’ve created a quick-start guide to the AS diet for you here:

Quick start guide to the ankylosing spondylitis diet

Question: What are some 'safe' foods to start with on my elimination diet?

I’ve created a list of ‘safe’ foods that you could consider starting out with on your elimination diet.

Obviously everyone is different, and it might not be exactly right for you, but it is a list of foods that works for most people.

You can find the list of ‘safe’ foods here

Question: What foods should I avoid at the start of my elimination diet?

I’ve created a list of foods to avoid at the start of your elimination diet.

Obviously everyone is different, and it might not be exactly right for you, but its better to take out more at the beginning and then add back in one by one. That’s the quickest way to find out what works for you.

You can find the list of foods to avoid here

Question: Where can I find delicious, easy-to-follow recipes for people following the AS diet?

You can find some delicious, easy-to-follow recipes for the AS diet here​1:

The ankylosing spondylitis (AS) diet recipes

Question: Where can I read about the success stories of other people managing their ankylosing spondylitis through diet and gut health?

I’ve set up a page where you can find the success stories of people who have contributed to this site here:

Ankylosing spondylitis success stories

You’ll also find other AS success stories that I’ve linked to from around the web here.

Question: Can I learn about any life-changing discoveries related to living with ankylosing spondylitis (AS)?

YES! You absolutely can.

Do take a look at the incredible, sometimes life-changing success stories of people like myself living and thriving with AS:

You can find these here

Also check out the Dicovery Lab where I test what works (and what doesn’t!) on myself:

See the Discovery Lab

Question: Where can I find news, deep dives, and guides related to ankylosing spondylitis?

You can find AS news, deep dives, and guides in the article of this website here:

Ankylosing spondylitis articles

Question: How has the founder of this website experimented with treatments and strategies in the 'Discovery Lab'?

I’m obsessed with tweaking and testing and getting marginal gains to live a pain free life with my autoimmune disease.

Every time I try and new dietary intervention, supplement, therapy or exercise I monitor in a methodical and detailed way.

I want everyone to be able to benefit from my findings which is why I share my experiments with different strategies in what I called the ‘Discovery Lab’. You can see it here:

Discovery Lab

Question: What is the 'Diary of an AStronaut'? Can I read about the personal journey of someone with ankylosing spondylitis?

‘Diary of an AStronaut’ is my personal journey of discovery with AS.

It’s not pretty or politished. It’s all in diary form and there are mistakes and errors (and the whole gamut of unedited stream of consciousness!) but it is authentic and written ‘in the moment’.

Hopefully it will give you a feel for the different challenges, successes and discoveries.

You can see it here

Question: How can I help someone I know who has ankylosing spondylitis? What does it feel like to have AS?

If you know someone with AS, you can find lots of information about this condition, what it feels like and how you can help here​:

About AS

What AS feels like

What you can do to help