Fasting to Manage Ankylosing Spondylitis Flares

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Welcome to another Gut Heroes audio podcast.

Fasting is a HUGE part of my ankylosing spondylitis protocol. I rarely get flares these days but they do happen from time to time.  When I feel one coming on, fasting is the most effective method I’ve come across to beat away flares. I’ve fasted multiple times now and there’s only been one occasion when it hasn’t worked.

In this podcast, I cover:

• How long I fast for, typically, before I see results
• The exact approach I take when fasting (step-by-step)
• What a fast involves (what to avoid etc)

Please note: It’s important you only fast if it is safe for you to do so. Check with a medical professional first. As ever, I can only talk about my experience. While I really really hope you have the same outcome, please don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the same results.

Tip: First time? If in doubt, go with ‘water only’ during your fast and do 72 hours.

I don’t recommend taking supplements of pills (especially if there are starchy or contain binders) during a fast. I do now take magnesium malate during some fasts to stave off night cramps. It’s 100% malate and I take the powder with water. I wouldn’t personally recommend doing this unless you’ve already successfully fasted before and know you don’t react to it.

Disclaimer: Please note, this is for information purposes only. Gut Heroes does not offer medical advice. We are all different and what works for me may not work for you. I setup Gut Heroes to share information with you by shining a light on my own discoveries (as I currently understand them) and to help you with your own personal research.

Transcript of this Episode

Today I wanted to talk about how I use fasting to help manage my ankylosing spondylitis flares and symptoms. So, I don’t do this all the time, but if I feel like I am going into a flare, or if I am in flare, and by that, I mean if I’m getting really severe pain in my sacroiliac joints, on the left side or the right side, and if I feel that coming on or if it’s already in full flow, then one of the most effective things I’ve found personally, and I know a lot of people find this helpful as well, is to do a fast. And so, I just wanted to talk a little bit about how I do this and the method I have found that works for me.

And as I’m talking to you now, I’ve just come out of a 64-hour fast. Now, that’s a bit of a weird time. Typically, I will do somewhere between 48 hours and 72 hours. So, normally those are the two I do. If I’ve got, if I’m trying to push out a really nasty flare, then I will usually do at least 72 hours and then I will eat. And if it’s something mild, if I’m getting a twinge, and I’ll describe what happened this time to give you an idea. Yes, if it’s something mild, I will do much less. So, I will do somewhere between 24 hours and 48 hours. And on top of this, I actually find it such a helpful thing to do that I try now to do at least a 48-hour fast once a month. I just find it has become a really useful part of my routine and I’ll talk about a little bit about how it makes me feel and how it makes a lot of people feel when they are fasting but what I have typically found, and this is the bottom line, is that when I come out of a fast, I feel really, really great. You know, I feel rejuvenated; any kind of twinges I might have had are, more often than not, they will kind of disappear and there are some other benefits as well, which I’ll dig into but first, let’s talk about how I approach this and You know, I recommend doing your own research and seeing how others approach it as well. And it goes without saying, obviously never do anything like this without properly checking up if it’s safe to do so. Talk to a medical professional, make sure there’s nothing that would put you at risk from doing this. And certainly, I would say if you’ve ever struggled with an eating disorder, then probably this isn’t something to do. You know, the danger of triggering an episode of that far outweighs what this can do. Okay, so assuming it is safe to do so, and this is something you want to try, here is how I approach it. And I think I must have done somewhere around seven or eight fasts by now. It’s something I added to my list of things that I found really helpful maybe a year and a half ago. And what I do is this, when I feel pain coming on, and I think, okay, I’m about to go into flare, I say to myself, if it’s a mild one, I’m going to try and do around 48 hours, and if it’s something I sense is going to be more tricky, I will do a 72-hour fast. So I’ll stop eating from that point, and all I will have is water, and I will have black coffee, so a black Americano, just one a day, and I will also have bone broth and I will have two a day of those, sometimes three. More recently I’ve also added magnesium malate to that so I’ll have some magnesium malate just in some water and I’ll have that towards the evening and that’s it. I won’t have anything else. And it’s worth pointing out that people have different approaches with this so some people just say they just do water alone and that’s it.

There will be a lot of people who will say do not have coffee, you know, that’s a terrible idea, no black coffee. I personally haven’t had any negative symptoms from coffee and, you know, I guess I’m lucky that’s just my biology, my microbiome. It’s never been a problem for my autoimmune disease, but there are a lot of people where it is a problem. So obviously if that’s you don’t even risk it, you know, the last thing you want to do is put yourself through a fast which is, you know, difficult the first time if you’ve never done it before and then blow the whole thing out of the water because you’re having something that triggers problems. So a suitable replacement might be something like a herbal tea that you don’t react to, or if you wanna be super safe, just go with water. Now, most people should be absolutely fine with bone broth, but again, if you don’t wanna risk it, you can leave that out of the mix. And the same would go with the magnesium as well. I’ve really experimented a huge amount with different types of magnesium in different forms and I found one that works for me and that’s malate in powder but that might not work for everyone so if you’re in doubt leave that out as well. The reason I started reintroducing that into my fasts was because sometimes I was finding during the fast that I was getting cramp when I was sleeping and magnesium can really help with that and I’ve not found that it’s interrupted the success of the fast. So in my regime, my protocol, I have that in.

So that’s how I approach this. It’s up to 48 hours, and I normally will do the full 48 hours for something really minor where, you know, it might just be that I’m wanting to do it once a month, even if I’m feeling okay, just to keep my body in check. Or if I’m just having a very slight twinge where I’m not sure, or I will do 72 hours or near enough if I know it’s going to evolve into something more, or if I am already in full flare.

So I’ll talk about a little bit about what happened this particular time. And I’m recording this about five or six hours after I broke the fast. And basically, I was getting pain in the back of my ribs on the left-hand side. Then it was at the point where the shoulder blade and the joint that connects the shoulder blades and the ribs were, and it was just quite a sharp, nasty pain. And it came on at night and I think it was triggered by something I ate. and I was lying in bed and even though I didn’t have the usual nasty symptoms which are the sacroiliac joint pain, It wasn’t nice and I thought to myself, you know what? I haven’t done a fast in at least a month. I really want to knock out this rib pain. I don’t want to have it for a few days. I just want to get it out there. I’m having a good pain-free run and I don’t want to break that as well. So I’m just going to do a fast and so that night I said to my partner, “This is what I’m doing,” and you

know, she’s used to me doing it by now. And yeah, so how it feels is like this. For me, and of course, everyone is different, for me, the first day, so typically I’ll start the fast after dinner, you know, that particular evening. That’s normally when I’ve started one because then you get that instant bunch of hours while you’re asleep. So you get that. Missing lunch the first day really doesn’t feel like a big deal. In fact, the whole of the first day fasting for me is normally fine. To mitigate feelings of hunger and missing out, I won’t sort of position myself near food. One thing I’ve learned that really, really helps is, you know, normally my partner and I will eat together at meal times, but, or in the evening at least, but it can be quite hard if you’re not eating to be around the smell of food and to see someone else eating. and it’s just a kind of unnecessary temptation to have in front of you. So what I will do is I’ll sit in the bedroom or somewhere else and I’ll read or do something else and then she’ll let me know when she’s finished and then I’ll come and join her. And that has weirdly sounded like a small thing, but that has made a massive, massive difference. It just takes away that feeling of being missing out and not being able to have something. It just kind of removes that weird hunger pang.

And then the next day is typically when I find it getting a bit harder. It’s also when I might start to notice some changes to my symptoms. So normally, the first 24 hours, normally, you know, whatever pain I was struggling with, it’s still there. 24 hours, for me at least, in the experimentation I’ve been doing, doesn’t really touch the sides. It certainly doesn’t make anything worse, and in fact, it pauses any development of the pain, in my case. but I don’t start to notice any improvements. The 48-hour mark, so the second day of fasting, that is when I start to notice a few different things, positive and negative. So I tend to feel like the hunger increases and it’s definitely not unmanageable at all, but I am starting to feel a little bit edgy is the right word, or I don’t know if it’s sort of emotional, but silly little things will irritate me. but at the same time, I might have mild feelings of euphoria. So it’s quite a strange headspace to be in because even though you might not be feeling like, oh, I want to rush downstairs and eat everything, your brain and your body are obviously going, come on now. And for me, that second day, I find the hardest. But I also tend to find, and more often than not, it’s been towards the second half, getting into the afternoon or evening of that second day, I… I often notice improvements to my symptoms. And this is actually quite a good gauge of, you know, how long to do when you’re doing a fast. So they say 72 hours is perfect to get to that stage of autophagy. But if I’m feeling good enough and I was, you know, doing it as my monthly routine, I won’t necessarily go that long. I might just do this 48 hours. But it’s interesting that I’ve started to notice improvements at the 48-hour mark. And then what will tend to happen the next day, is that more often than not, and hopefully, the pain has almost completely gone, or it has completely gone, normally it’s completely gone, and that is when I really start noticing improvements. And I also, because the pain’s gone, and because I know I’m going to eat soon, I also tend to find my mood is a bit more improved, and so instead of being in a kind of high and simultaneously low mood, things feel a bit better. And today, I definitely remember, I was going for my walk in the morning and I had this real sense of clarity and I had loads of interesting ideas and I had my notebook out and it was, you know, I felt really great and it is a really strange side effect of doing fasts is that often it will give you clarity and I sometimes describe it as feeling almost as if you’ve had a sort of whole body transfusion. It’s like you’ve gone to this sort of wellness clinic and someone’s done everything on you and you feel like a new person.

So that can be really, really amazing. But then at the same time, you might start to feel a bit scatty and obviously your body wants food. And I noticed I bumped into a couple of things or I was a bit ditzy, but at the same time, my brain was coming up with interesting ideas. So it’s quite hard to describe, but I’m just pointing all of these things out. So if you do it, if you try fasting,

These are things you might experience, and if you do, they’re quite normal. And then once you feel you are ready to break your fast, and so you might wanna do this the next day if you’re going to 72 hours, for me, I felt like I’d done enough at my 64-hour mark, and so I break my fast at lunchtime today. And what I recommend doing is having something really, really simple. you know, don’t go overboard, don’t introduce lots of ingredients, just be really simple. For me, what I found works, and you know, obviously if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ll wanna use something else, but I found just beef mince or lamb mince made into a burger with nothing else in it, you know, just a bit of salt and oil, olive oil. And then this will sound weird, but I’ll have some avocado as well, which is again, that doesn’t cause me any problems, and in fact, it really helps. and I’ll just have that and I’ll have that for lunch and I’ll have it for dinner that day. What I have noticed is that sometimes when I’m coming out of a fast and I’m having food, and this seems to happen a bit more if I have multiple ingredients. So, you know, if I go straight back into what my normal diet would be, sometimes you might find you have some, you know, slightly unusual bowel movements, mate, that might be a bit watery and you might have a few of them. It’s nothing. painful, but it’s just something I’ve noticed coming out of fasts. The first time it happened, I was like, well, that’s, that’s a bit strange, but it just seems to be completely normal. But I found mitigating that by just having really simple food that you know, you don’t react to when you are coming out of it. So I just wanted to flag that up in case you have that experience and you know, you think something’s gone wrong. That’s something, you know, I’ve had when I’ve done fasts and it really quickly normalizes. So fasting is a massive part of my overall protocol now. It’s something I did a lot of research on before. I listened to the advice of a lot of people who had sworn by it and tried it to manage their own autoimmune conditions. And having done it myself multiple times,

I can say that there’s only one time where it didn’t work straight away. And that’s pretty incredible when you’re, you know, in my case, typically, when I would have a flare, they could last for two weeks. and when I do a fast they can be gone in three days, sometimes less, sometimes four days, but it’s just a massive, massive, massive difference and it’s really amazing having that knowledge, you know, knowing that you have this tool that you can use, you know, assuming it works for you, it’s a bit like having this kind of magical medication that you can take and I just wanted to share this really as a primer, a kind of a quick guide.

I know it can be quite scary and weird and I resisted trying something like this for well over a year because I thought, oh, fasting is really bad for you and I had all these kind of worries and concerns and I thought I couldn’t do it You know, I’m someone that seems to burn food like it’s going out of fashion and I’ve been like that ever since I was a child and I thought I would just be unbearably hungry and I wouldn’t be able to manage it But something happens when you tell yourself, “I’m doing this,” and when the motive for doing it is feeling better and stopping pain and, you know, stopping a flare, then if you can have that mindset, then it gets so much easier. And the reward, if it beats out a flare, is just unbelievable. It’s like sort of winning the lottery. And also just notice the, you know, the strange and positive and unusual experience of it all. Those moments of clarity, you get sort of mini moments of being more in touch with your emotions and I find that sort of fascinating. And I no longer… I only dreaded it the first time I tried it. I actually see it as such a valuable part of my routine now and it’s been so positive that I just wanted to share this with you and I hope it acts as just some information you can use in your own research.

As ever, if you have any questions, please let me know. I do want to do a lot more detail on fasting. I want to talk about the science behind it. I want to lay out exactly what I do in written form on the website as well, so there will be more information coming. But I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Don’t forget to like and subscribe and to share it with anyone with whom it may be helpful. And I will see you next time.

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