Step 1: Diet Overview

I’ve included two (redundant) diets on this page in order to give you a general overview of what a typical low-starch/no-starch diet looks like.  The first diet is a link to the official London AS Diet on the KickAS.org website.  I’ll include this diet in its entirety on the drop down menu above (just hover over “Step 1: Diet Overview” in the drop down menu above), but you could also just go to the link below to get the same info.

London AS Diet as per Dr. Alan Ebringer on the KickAS.org website.  This is the “official” NSD so it’s good to start here and refine your own version of the NSD with repeated rounds of testing, and food journal-ing (keep track of what you eat in case you have a flare you can look back and see what may have caused it).

My NSD Diet

Avoid all starches.  That’s it. That’s all I do and I’m pain-free.  My NSD is a combination of The Paleo Diet and the NSD.

Below is the basic outline of my personal diet.

I avoid all of the following foods:

  1. All cereal crops (cereal as in domesticated grass crops used as food like wheat, rice,  oat, corn, rye, etc.)
  2. Corn, beans, peas, potatoes and other root vegetables: That’s ALL potatoes including sweet potatoes and other tubers.   Some AS’ers can tolerate sweet potatoes, I can’t.
  3. Processed foods: start reading labels if you don’t believe me.  You’ll be surprised to see how many items include corn starch, modified food starch, etc (salad dressings, ice cream, and even canned drinks can contain starch!).  And I’ve heard that some countries don’t even have to list starch as an ingredient, so be sure to test everything with iodine.  I eat whole foods only.  My rule of thumb is that if you can’t eat it raw then don’t put it in your mouth.  Yes, you can eat raw meat, raw eggs, raw veg, etc.  Can you eat raw soy beans?  Nope, so I don’t eat them.

What do I eat?

  1. Red meat (grassfed beef as much as possible for its balanced omega-3 to omega-6 ratio), eggs, fish, shellfish, poultry: fresh types, not processed as they may include starch (for example: if you buy frozen,  pre-cooked chicken from the most popular big-box stores they include potato starch on the ingredients.  The starch keeps the chicken strips from sticking together.)
  2. Green leafy veggies: I eat several cups of these per day…salad, spinach, etc.
  3. Other veggies: all kinds of non-starch veg like bell peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, etc.  The list is extensive, but I stick to stuff that grows above ground as opposed to stuff that grows under ground as a general rule of thumb and I tested everything first w/iodine and by keeping a food journal to make sure I didn’t react to the food.  Be sure to test w/iodine if you’re unsure of starch content.  (squash grows above ground but some kinds can be very starchy, so you need to be on your toes and test, test, test!) Stay away from corn and beans as they’re very starchy.
  4. Some nuts: walnuts, almonds, macadamia, pecans.  NOT peanuts, they’re a legume not a nut
  5. Some fruit: mostly fresh berries for me because I try to limit my sugar.
  6. Oils and fats: coconut oil (virgin Nutiva is great), butter (grassfed if possible), olive oil.
  7. Alcohol: red wine mostly, though the occasional beer wont’ hurt me if my diet has been REALLY clean.  Vinegar is ok to for salad dressings.  If your gut is ravaged by years of NSAID use then you may have to avoid alcohol.  Also, it turns out that you need to be 21 to drink in the US, so put down that beer, junior!
  8. That’s it.

What do I mean by “Some” when referring to fruits and veggies?

Well, you’ll need to avoid starch fruits- bananas, for example, are normally pretty starchy.  And even apples can be starchy if they’re not local.  Why?  Well, if they’re apples from South America, for example, they were likely picked while green (full of starch, not sugar) and ripened in transit on the ship/truck, etc.

How do I avoid starch?

Buy some iodine from your local drug store and test, test, test.  But don’t eat anything once you’ve tested it with iodine.  Throw that piece away.  It’s easy to test using iodine: simply cut a little piece of veggie, drop one or two drops of iodine on it, and wait.  If it turns black/dark then it has starch.  If it stays brown/lighter, then there’s no starch.  I’ll make a video soon showing this, but an easy way to see for yourself what a “positive” iodine starch test looks like is to get a white dinner plate and put a small piece of cut, raw potato as well as a small piece of white bread on it.  Drop a few drops of iodine on the plate a few inches from the items (you’ll use this as your control so you can see what color iodine is against a white background) and then put a few drops on the bread and the potato.  Be sure not to TOUCH the dropper to the item.  You should notice that the iodine on the plate is brown, the iodine on the potato and bread turns black.  You now know what a positive starch test looks like.

 

Medical Disclaimer: The information on this website is not to be taken as medical advice  I am not a doctor or medical professional and you should consult your doctor before starting any treatment program or altering your diet in any way.  If you’re pregnant, a low-carb diet can damage the fetus.  Use common sense and talk to your doctor before making any decisions in regards to your diet or medication.  The author and members of this website, sickopportunity.com, are not legally responsible for the content, information, or opinions expressed herein.

  • Hi Bob, I was just confused about vegetables – do you cook your cauliflower and zucchini or eat them raw? I am just confused regarding if we should be eating vegetables raw (except for the list in Carol Sinclairs Book that are safe cooked like spinach, tomato and mushrooms) or cooked? Also should we test the vegetable before or after cooking?
    I just got the impression from Carol Sinclairs book that we should avoid cooking most vegetables if at all possible?
    Thanks for your help. Sorry if these are silly questions I am new to the diet. Kaz

    • Hi Karen,

      I eat both cooked and raw vegetables.  You should test them in whatever state you intend to eat them.

      I used to eat lots of cauliflower but shy away from it now due to a few bad reactions. Zucchini I eat raw and cooked and have had no issues. 

      Try to use the Starch Content of Foods list on the kickas.org website to guide your veggie choices- aim for the ones w/the lowest starch content and build your diet around those items.  Add other items later on after you have a good baseline diet established.

      Carol Sinclair has great advice in her book so it’s good to use that as a guide.  But you’ll need to experiment a bit on your own to see what is safe for you.  Most of us on this diet end up with extensive lists of “safe” foods after lots of experimentation.  My advice at the beginning is to stick to the very safest veggies (the ones I mention above) and then add others later on after you’ve had some good results on the diet.

      You might also consider some brief periods of intermittent fasting if the diet doesn’t seem to be kicking in.  Come back here if that happens and I can point you towards some good places for IF advice.

      Good luck!
      Bob

      • Thanks Bob

        I will take your advice and just do a simple list of allowable food items till I feel relief and then I will test and widen. I found out today the carrot I had been eating raw is very high in starch. I am testing everything as I go now. I have decided lots of leafy greens during the day and some cooked vegetables at night that test okay, so far baby green zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli when cooked was starch free. The only vegetable I find hard to test is cooked English spinach due to the dark green colour – the KickAS list has it low in starch so not sure about it – any tips for dark foods on testing starch, the stem part of spinach testing negative for starch but not sure about the green leaves. I have plenty of green spinach in the garden (Spring in Australia). 

        I would love some references to IF sites that would be great. I have been putting off breakfast in the mornings till as late as possible to allow the body to cleanse whilst I do my morning Yoga and other exercises.

        I have a quick question regarding exercise – Did you find it difficult to keep up stamina during a flare and whilst on the diet when exercising, especially cardio?
        I think with me it is a combination of pain, general fatigue, right sided muscle spasticity and limited movement in my right leg hip that has slowed my cardio down. I suppose the low-carb diet might make that worse in the interim.

        Thanks so much for your help and website. Cheers Kaz

        • Kaz,
          Testing dark veggies like spinanch: you can always dilute any veggie by crushing a very small amount up and adding a little water.  I’d do it on a small white dinner plate and make it into a light green looking liquid.  Drop in some iodine and you should be able to see the change.  I’ve never had an issue with spinach and consider it a very safe veggie.  but you never know.

          IF: head over to marksdailyapple.com and do a search on IF.  He’s got lots of good info there.  Another website would be leangains.com. This is kind of a meat-head bodybuilder website, but the guy who runs it really knows his stuff regarding fasting.  His goals are much different than ours, but the IF technique is the same.  I tend to like Mark Sisson on marksdailyapple as he’s got a very balanced and realistic approach to just about everything diet related.  Generally, my version of IF is basically the leangains style and involves approximately 14-16 hours of fasting a day.  All that means is that I don’t eat until about 11am or noon every day and then I try to stop eating by 8pm every night.  So you basically skip breakfast and make lunch your first meal.  I do drink lots of coffee in the morning and that does not seem to hurt.  In fact, the caffeine helps with the fasting.  Not to mention coffee’s other digestive benefits;-)  I also work in one full-day of fasting per week.  This is basically a dinner to dinner fast on Thursdays.  Eat dinner on Wednesday night and then don’t eat again til dinner on Thursday night.  Drink tons, have coffee, etc all you want. 

          Fatigue/cardio: Are you a vegetarian?  Or do you have vegetarian tendencies?  It’s quite possible that you’re either a) not eating enough volume/calories overall, or b) you’re not eating enough fat.  You might even find the answer on marksdailyapple.com.  I think lots of people who try to do low-carb end up coming up short on their fat intake and/or they don’t fully get over “carb flu”.  That’s the brief (3 weeks or so) period where your body learns how burn fat as the primary fuel source while you get off the carb roller coaster.  Eating lots of fat has really helped me with my energy levels and makes cardio pretty effortless.  I’m talking animal fat, avocado, coconut oil, nuts, etc.  Let me know if this could be the issue and we can discuss more. 

          Hope this helps,
          Bob

          • Thanks Bob. I will give all these things a go – the fasting etc… I am not a vegetarian, far from it. I definitely am not skimping on fat. It might just be that I have been so sick the past 6 months that activity has just been knocking me around more than it used to. I have a lot of issues with my right hip, leg, knee and ankle so it makes cardio hard which might be why I am fatiguing more. The past two days it seems to have improved as long as I stretch my right calf/achilles intensively before starting my cardio. I don’t eat fruit so might need to add some more carbs via blueberries etc to make sure I have enough energy to exercise. I will keep you posted on how I am going. Thanks so much for all the tips. I have been a bit afraid of coffee but might start to have the real stuff again if fasting. I usually drink decaf – thought it might be better for me. I have been having problems with constipation since starting the diet so the real coffee might help that. Talk Soon Kaz

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  • Joshua Reece

    Hi Bob,
    My name is Josh and I stumbled across this site and have really had my eyes opened after just brisking through some of th blogs.
    Couple Questions:
    Is this site still active? Are there still members?
    I live in Canada (toronto), so should I worry about being able to get help from this site because of agricultural, demographic differences or any other reason?
    I was only Diagnosed about 2 months ago, after 5 years of pain, chiro and physio. I am currently on muscle relaxants, which have helped alot, awaiting approval to start TNF Inhibitors – my appointment for that is in the end of October (next month). I had NO idea diet could help this at all.
    Hope to hear back from you, I would like to avoid drugs with serious sideaffects if possible, I have 2 kids and am married for 4 years, dont like the risk.
    Thanks alot,
    Josh

    • Hey Josh,
      Yes, this site is still active. I have not posted in some time, however. No excuses…I’ve just been too busy and quite honestly, I tend to forget I have AS for long periods of time…and so this blog suffers;-)

      I don’t think you’ll have any problems getting info from this site just because you’re Canadian…I won’t hold it against you! I’m originally from Upstate NY and have been to Toronto a number of times- beautiful (but cold) city and my impression of Canadians in general is that you’re about the nicest people on the planet.

      Feel free to read all of my old posts and other information on this website and I think you’ll have a pretty good idea of exactly how diet CAN help you deal with AS. Read through the various questions and comments here as well as you may see answers to your own questions. Feel free to email or post a reply here if you need any clarifications or help.

      Like I say again and again on this site: I consider myself to be cured of AS as I am symptom-free. When I stumble from time to time and get a little starch in my diet then I do suffer an occasional flare. But by and large I don’t suffer flares any more and I attribute my success to the NSD. Avoid starch and no pain. That’s it!

      Good luck!
      Bob

  • Palash

    Hi Bob,

    I am Palash from India (27). Is 4-5 day long water-fasting and tetracyclin necessary to start the NSD? I’m having trouble from recurrent iritis and pre-AS conditions as my rheumy said. Sulfasalazine didn’t help the condition anyway and my liver enzyme levels were increased abnormally. So i am now off my medication and the pain is growing.

    Thanks
    Palash

    • Hi Palash,
      You don’t have to do anything special in order to start the NSD. Just start. You can even just keep taking your medicine as recommended by your doctor. If you start to see some good results with the diet then maybe it’ll be time to discuss your meds w/your doctor. One of the keys to dealing with this condition is to keep pushing and pushing your doctor to try new things. If your current meds are not working then ask what your options are. Research your options. But in the mean time you can very easily start the diet and track your results. Nothing special AT ALL is needed to start the diet. Just start. Read the rest of this blog for some pointers and let me know if you have any questions.

      Good luck!
      Bob

      • Palash

        Hi Bob,

        I have been on NSD for all this time and I think I am getting good results. I am pain free for most of the times. Whenever I cheat on the diet the pain comes back. However, the rate of inflammation is still above normal. My CRP(C-Reactive Protein) is around 3. What can I eat or drink to get more energy as i get tired too quickly? My body is sensitive to sugary fruits as well (even if they are ripened) but cucumber is all right for me. Can you please suggest some links, where i can find some starch & gluten-free recipes?
        Thanks
        Palash

        • Palash,

          Just Google the terms “paleo diet recipes” or “primal diet recipes” and you should get a ton of good recipe sites. Try foodee.com or http://www.health-bent.com/, both are good.

          If you’re hungry, eat more animal protein or good fats like nuts, avocado, etc. Same for energy, just eat more of the normally safe foods you eat on the NSD. If you’ve got leftovers then have another plate of food. Cucumbers are pretty useless in my opinion and taste of nothing. Make sure you’re eating a variety of meat, fish, poultry, veggies, berries, nuts, etc. Just look at the various lists on this page and eat more as snacks. No reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to snacks, just eat another portion of whatever you had for lunch/dinner, etc.

          Good luck!

  • fazal

    hi Bob, superb site, i have been diagnosed with AS, i got a letter from my rhumatalogist that it is best for the long term I get the humera injections, but so far i have been managing, sometimes i get stiff neck, i havent stuck to the NSD properly, thats the issue, need to start again, but how are you coping so far? have you stuck to the NSD and how are the results?

    • It’s important to follow your doctor’s advice. You may want to discuss the NSD diet with your doctor and see if they are ok with you trying out the diet for a few weeks before doing humera to see if you have any reduction in symptoms. The diet does not work for everyone ( I don’t think anyone really understands why that is) but if you’ve tried it before but did not stick to it, then you really haven’t tried it at all. You can’t be a little bit pregnant. It’s all or nothing with this diet. Try to go 100% starch free (with your doctor’s consent, of course) and see if you have any reduction in pain and symptoms. Most people know pretty quickly if the diet works for them. Assuming you are 100% on the diet then you should see some results quickly- sometimes days or weeks. I’m not anti-medicine on this website. Drugs like humera can be a total godsend for some people and can help give you your life back. But drugs like this do come with some potentially serious side effects. If the diet didn’t work for me then I’d certainly be taking some sort of drug like humera. But the diet works for me thus far and so I haven’t had to take any drugs other than some serious NSAIDS before I found the diet.

      • fazal

        Thanks Bob for your reply, you give me hope, I have a flare up at the moment so fasting for 24hrs to ease of, however will start the NSD again, this time paying more attention, hoping to see results soon,
        MY doctor im afraid is not an expert in nutrition thats the problem, in fact I diagnosed myself with this illness as he kept on giving me painkillers, I am due to see my rhumatalogist in August this year so I have some time to try the diet properly, he gave me Naproxen to take 100mg a day , but i will only take it if am in severe pain, so far have only taken 250MG in a week

        I am also due to go on holiday to Pakistan, thats going to be the real test and have to plan things properly

        Thanks again Bob, you give everyone at least hope!!

  • Cherry Misra

    Hi Bob, This is a very interesting site and discussion. Im not so good at using computers, so Ihope this gets accepted and you can respond to me. Could you email me at misramadhu@gmail.com or tell me how to get on the blog. I dont do facebook.

  • Cherry Misra

    Well, looks like I got on. I am one person who does not believe that these disorders just happen- even if you have the genetic tendency. And I have spent years studying how mercury and other metals cause problems that people never solve because they never think of that cause. Let me give an example. (I live in India by the way) My husbands has three first cousins, all girls, the youngest now over 50. The youngest has a horrible case of rheumatoid arthritis with great suffering- started when she was 16. The eldest, now, about 60 suddenly got rheumatoid a. about two years back. When I heard this I asked her “Are you sure you have never been to a dentist” ? This was an odd thing to ask because she had clearly told me about 6 months earlier that she had never in her life had dental work. But she looked startled and replied- ” Yes, I had a root canal done in March.” Her symptoms started after that, but she had never made the connection. Another dentist told me that there is probably amalgam (mercury) filling in the root canal. She refuses to remove the root canal because she is terrifited of dentistry. She is now suffering symptoms plus side effects of meds
    The theory of mercury would explain one thing about ankylosing spondylitis- why it is common in young men. Mercury is more toxic in the presence of testosterone, which young men have a lot of. Also a hungry young man might eat a lot of fish and he might be given vaccines, such as Hep B, containing mercury. In the U.S he might be given flu vaccines that contain high mercury.
    I really like the diet that you describe, but I would suggest that no one should eat much fish- maybe once a month or less if possible, due to mercury contamination which is now very pervasive in the world- and dont expect any government to tell you about it or protect you from it. In the U.S. they still use it in dentistry, tho Europe has stopped that. More later, Cherry Misra

    • Misra,
      You’ve got some muddled thinking there, Misra. I don’t agree with all the anti-vaccination stuff either so please don’t spread that nonsense here. Vaccines save countless lives. Period.

  • Brittany

    Thank you for sharing your story and recovery. I’ve had AS for 7 years, but didn’t start my starch free diet until a year ago. Big difference. I wanted to add that it seems every AS patient is different and even certain veggies (tomato, cucumbers, onions) test starchy with my iodine tester (especially after being cooked or pickled). Sometimes it takes awhile for it to turn from orange to black, but many of these veggies do. I mention this just in case there are some people reading these posts who have been doing the diet but are still having pain. It could be as simple as eliminating tomatoes or pickles, for example. As you said, “test, test, test.” One final thought. I also react to sugars, so I cannot tolerate berries. My diet is very restrictive, but it’s working. Just want to encourage folks out there who may be struggling or are discouraged about the diet. You get used to it and if it means no pain, then it’s work it. Thanks Bob!