- 328 days (90%!) ‘pain-free’ in year 2, following the AS diet
- Stress, alcohol and illness appeared to be primary triggers
- 46% of flares measured as 20% or under in severity (again!)
Since starting the AS diet, I’ve kept detailed daily records on a spreadsheet.
Just to recap, this includes every meal, snack consumed (including individual ingredients), every supplement taken, any exercise I’ve taken and how much. As well as detailed record pain of levels.
This year I really ramped up the data points. They have gone from a high of 35 metrics in year 1 to a high of 94 metrics in year 2.
94 metrics is a ridiculous amount. This is just the way I chose to do it at this stage, in part because I want to be able to give as detailed findings as I can on this site. You could do a really effective spreadsheet with way less data points.
Year 2 was about consistency and strengthening
Year 2 (to my surprise) was more about building resilience.
In year 1 I always felt slightly on edge with the diet. On one hand I felt better, in so many respects, than I had done in nearly 15 – 20 years. The excruciating 24/7 was gone. I stopped taking any medication. I no longer had to nap constantly from exhaustion…
(This was cause for massive celebration and I still have to pinch myself when I think back to how things were).
But on the other hand I still had the sense that one false move could mean a return to the crippling, electric pain in one of my sacroiliac joints.
Flares would still come from the time to time. This time the pain, for the first time in a long time, would pass (usually within a week or two) if I redoubled my efforts and stayed super strict with the diet. But without meaning to sound morbid, I still felt hyper aware of my own mortality.
Any hint of stress, or the tiniest, accidental slip up (hidden starch in a vitamin, cheese that I thought was goat’s cheese but wasn’t) could mean flare hell.
On top of this there were still symptoms of what I’d call AS angst. I don’t mean mental angst, more a feeling of the body being achey and overly fussy.
Though for the most part I would describe myself in year 1 as almost pain free, most of the time, I was still stiff. Still prone to excessive aches.
Also rib flares (which I didn’t put in the same category as sacroiliac joint flares because they didn’t make me quite as miserable) were still relatively common.
These were all areas which were dramatically improved in year 2.
Even less flares, even less stiffness
At the start of year 2 on the diet my ‘concrete back’ stiffness rating was around 30/100 in the morning and/or evening (still an enormous improvement on how it was pre-diet).
4 months in it was regularly down to just 10/100 on average.
(Note: this is taking the mean rating. When I have more time I can crunch the numbers further for a more precise figure).
However, taking this as the ballpark figure that’s a whopping 67% decrease in back stiffness. That’s following on from the already fantastic gains achieved in year 1.
Year 2 made me realise I could feel even better.
Food and drink: common flare triggers
The food and drink triggers in year 1 were perhaps more interesting because there were more of them.
I was strict about cutting them out and so they didn’t feature as frequently in year 2.
However, having removed them it did help me identify, with my clarity, the key triggers in year 2.
These appeared to be:
🔻 Gluten (in drink)
🔻 Natural pork scratchings/rinds
Gluten is almost absent from my diet but it does come up in beer which I did drink in year 2.
The main symptoms I noticed from gluten (and there was a similar finding in year 1) were related to dry skin, and possibly – though I need more confirmation – eye flares.
I ate a lot of almonds (always blanched to avoid the starchy skins) but I think I can say with a fair degree of confidence now that they just don’t work for me.
While they don’t appear to trigger flares they do seem to increase back stiffness so as a result of these findings I have almost completely cut them out at the start of year 3 (as I write this), which the exception of the odd splash of almond milk.
I now eat macadamia nuts instead (not starchy) and these appear not to cause any problems.
Pork scratching/rinds are might sound like a strange food to even appear anywhere in the diet but it can be hard following a starch free diet to find easy, crunchy, filling snacks and these fit the bill.
I sourced completely natural (no added ingredients) pork scratchings from a farm and willed them not to trigger problems but having experienced repeated issues, again mainly around stiffness, for 2 years now I have now cut these out too.
Lifestyle: common flare triggers
The lifestyle triggers from year 2 were exactly the same as year 1:
🔻 Poor sleep quality
What is different about these factors this year is that I seem to have far greater resilience 2 years on.
So while a relatively smallish dose of stress could lead to an almost immediate surge of stiffness in my back in year one (I could actually feel my whole back fizzing) and/or leading to a potential flare.
This very rarely happened by the end of year 2, so it’s a massive improvement.
I also felt the same with inactivity, to a degree. While I’ve not taken many risks on this front, and always keep active, on days when I’ve been stuck in a car, the fallout hasn’t been nearly as bad.
I’ve put illness in there as well, even though it’s not strictly ‘lifestyle’. I found that when I cold came on my joints became more ‘fussy’ and back stiffness increased a great deal. So did dry skin and allergy like symptoms.
Positive discoveries from Year 2
Here were my positive findings from year 2 on the AS diet:
🟢 Yoga stretching (3 – 5 times a week, 20 minute sessions at home)
🟢 Sauna + cold exposure (once a week, hour long sessions at local community centre)
🟢 Using 48 fasts to ‘knock out’ flares, before they get going
Remember, as ever 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.
If you’re starting out it’s important to start from a core base of ‘safe foods’ and carefully monitor 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!
The standout stats from Year 2
✔️ ‘Flare free’ 90% for of the year!
In total just 37 days were spent in flare in year 2.
This is an almost unbelievable improvement on year 1. I’ve leave the detailed comparison for my Year 1 vs Year 2 stats post but this is yet another life changing leap thanks to the diet.
✔️ 80% of flares lasted 7 days or less
This was another great result, especially given I only had 5 flares in total.
The one frustrating stat was that one flare lasted 19 days (accounting for half the total time I spent in flare). It was a really challenging time because everything had been going so well and there didn’t seem to be an obvious cause.
The prime suspect for this flare was a new brand of collagen powder I was taking at the time. It came from a source which (I now know) isn’t required by law to include all ingredients on the label. It may be that some form of starch was being used as a binder ingredient. I’ll look into this more when I have the time.
✔️ 80% of the 5 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 90% of the year.
This is incredible and a HUGE improvement on year 1.
For anyone starting out on the diet or battling through month 6 or 8 and wondering if things get better, the answer (in my case and I hope in yours) is YES, things get exponentially better.
I also feel more hardy and resilient than I did in year 1. The diet is now not even something I have to think about. Food is completely stress free and knowing what I can and can’t eat is on autopilot.
I’m continuing to do more things I previously didn’t imagine I’d be able to do again.
I went sand boarding for the first time in my life. I went skiing for the first time in 20 years and felt on top of the world.
Things to work on for year 3? Alcohol seems to be the last major trigger that I could do more work on. I’m experimenting on that front.
But the main takeaway is this.
Year 1, showed that the diet unequivocally works. It proved more effective than any medication. Year 2 has shown me that I can lead an almost completely normal life with AS.
I am so excited to see what is in store for year 3 because things just seem to be increasingly incrementally all the time.