- 267 days ‘pain-free’ in year 1, following the AS diet
- Starch, fruit*, alcohol and cow dairy appear to be my main triggers
- 46% of flares measured as 20% (or under) in severity
Since starting the AS diet, I’ve kept detailed daily records on a spreadsheet.
- Every meal and snack consumed, including individual ingredients
- Any exercise I’ve taken and how much
- Detailed record pain of levels
I also tracked a number of other data points. These included energy levels, supplements taken, steps walked, what meds (if any) I’ve taken and so on.
One thing I really want to emphasise is that this is just the way I chose to do it.
You still could do a really effective spreadsheet with way less data points.
For example you could strip it back to 4 or 5 columns (date, pain level, food reintroduced, findings) and do it in 30 seconds or less each day.
I’ll have the results for year 2, following the AS diet, very soon. Spoiler Alert: I track 94 variables and pain-wise year 2 is a HUGE improvement on year 1. I will post the findings shortly.
Keeping a detailed spreadsheet really pays off
It’s hard work, and you almost never feel like doing it… BUT it fast tracks your discoveries.
Writing notes on the day helps mitigate false positives from memory loss or cognitive bias. It gives you:
✔️ More speed and accuracy – You can pinpoint with more speed, certainty, and clarity what your AS triggers are (and what helps ease your symptoms)
✔️ A much wider range of discoveries – It helps you identify the things that make you feel better in general (not just food). Including those you factors you might not have observed from memory alone
✔️ Easy to access knowledge – Great for when your sharing information with others (for example at rheumatology appointments)
Part of this record-keeping is tracking flares.
I entered my flares in a separate sheet within the same spreadsheet (pictured below).
This is where you can get the fruits from your record keeping! You look at a day when you are in flare and examine what was happening in the days leading up to it.
Was anything you ate starchy? What supplements were you taking? Were you feeling stressed? Did you go out for a meal? And so on.
Here were my findings:
Food and drink: common flare triggers
There were 5 flare triggers which cropped up time and time again:
🔻 Fruit (blended, e.g. juice, or high quantities)*
🔻 Alcohol (especially sugary, e.g. white wine)
🔻 Cow dairy
🔻 Processed meats (e.g. salami with additives etc)
Berries, like blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, seemed to be fine. The problems with fruit only seemed to occur if they were starchy (e.g. bananas), or if they were blended fruits (too much sugar). Or if I just consumed a very large amount in one sitting, in particular raisins.
Gluten, when you are starch free, doesn’t come by often. However, certain beverages, such as beer, can contain it, as do some sauces. I sometimes experienced eye and skin problems the morning after having gluten.
Lifestyle: common flare triggers
These were the most common lifestyle triggers I experienced. These are perhaps less surprising:
🔻 Poor sleep quality
These were the positive discoveries I made after a year of tracking the AS diet:
🟢 Intermittent fasting*
🟢 Eat at mealtimes only (avoiding snacking)
🟢 Magnesium malate (daily, in powder form)
🟢 Electrolytes (daily, powder form and sugar free)
🟢 Walking and exercise daily
*Intermittent fasting had a hugely beneficial effect on my pain/energy levels when I introduced it 7 months into the diet.
My approach is this:
1. Not to have breakfast
2. Only eat between the hours of 1pm and 8pm each day
3. Still eat the same amount of food, just within a shorter time frame
Remember, these are my personal findings. We all have different biologies, microbiomes, gene variants and environmental factors at play. We also have different levels of disease progression to contend with.
You might find similar food triggers, you might also find different ones. For example I know many people following a similar diet who are absolutely fine eating almonds. I seem to tolerate them in small amounts, or in almond milk, just not in great quantities.
It’s all about starting from a low, core base of ‘safe foods’ and carefully monitoring your progress.
When you get to ‘pain free’, that’s when you can test adding things back in one by one. That’s why it’s so important you start your own wellness plan so that you know exactly what works for you.
More standout stats from year 1
✔️ 46% of flares lasted 6 days or less
In total in year one, 98 days were spent in flare. This might sound like a lot but it was a life changing improvement in my case.
I was almost in constant flare prior to this. Even on those rare days where sacroiliac joint pain was almost absent, the lower back stiffness rendered my back like a concrete block for hours each day.
The really exciting stat from my personal study is that on the diet nearly half of the flares lasted under a week!
For anyone with really active AS, that’s a huge deal.
And the the severity of flares was much less.
✔️ 6 of the 13 flares measured as 20%, or under, in severity
Instead of crippling pain which meant I struggled to walk (or even sit), nearly half the flares were 20% or under in severity.
Pain ratings are subjective but for me 20% pain, though very uncomfortable, did not stop me from doing everyday things.
I was pain-free for 73% of the year, which is absolutely incredible.
I can now do things physically, without pain, that I haven’t been able to do since my twenties. Even simple things like tying my shoelaces standing up.
When my flares did occur were shorter and less severe.
What’s really exciting is that common trends emerged…
Starch and dairy (as the theory behind diet suggests) definitely appear to be rapid triggers for me. Fruit, or rather certain types of fruit causing problems, was a surprise discovery. So too were certain types of alcohol.
Stress was less surprising, as it’s already a well known AS flare trigger, but it severed as a great reminder nonetheless.
After a year on the diet I can say, without question, that it has been an incredible success.