Just Start Already

I’ve read a few recent posts over on my favorite ankylosing spondylitis support website where the questioners seem to have a massive case of analysis paralysis.  A few folks even seem defeated before they start on the no-starch diet.  Ridiculous.  Folks, you’re making this too complicated.

Stick with the big picture and I promise all the little details will fall into place as you gain experience.  The big picture is that you need to cut starch from your diet right away.  Don’t wait for the next holiday, or until after  your inlaws visit you next month, or until you really, really, really feel like you can handle the change.  Start now.  Right now.  Here’s my quick start guide to beginning the most effective dietary treatment of ankylosing spondylitis on the planet:

  1. Make a list of safe foods that will get you through the next 3 days.  Go shopping and buy those foods.
  2. Buy some iodine
  3. Buy a notebook and start keeping a food journal.
  4. Repeat.

1.  Make a list of safe foods

You can look at Ebringer’s list on kickas.org ( or look here on my website) and generally come up with a list of safe foods to eat.  Here’s my list:

  • beef, chicken, fish, eggs
  • leafy green vegetables (raw spinach, red-leaf lettuce, arugula, etc)
  • broccoli, raw carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, avocados, celery, cucumber, green onions
  • raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, grapes, melons
  • walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts  (all raw, all unsalted)
  • raisins
  • coconut oil, olive oil, salt, pepper
  • red wine

That list should get you through the first few days while you continue to research and add a few other items to your list.  A general rule of thumb for your new life on the NSD is: You WILL cook all of your own food.  Don’t like to cook?  That’s nice.  Start cooking.  Not enough time to cook?  How sad.  Start cooking.  You cannot trust restaurant or otherwise prepared food until you get more experience on this diet.  Period.

2.  Buy Some Iodine

Don’t you dare make this difficult.  Just go down to Walgreen’s or any other drug store, walk into the first aid aisle and buy some effing iodine.  You’ll use this to test various food items for the presence of starch.  Read up on kickas.org about this, or here as well.

3.  Buy a Notebook and Keep Food Journal

You absolutely must do this.  The purpose behind keeping food journal is twofold:

  1. So you can learn which foods trigger reactions in your body
  2. So you can keep track of your progress on the NSD

Don’t be lazy.  Write down how you feel right now.  Do it at least twice a day.  If you get a flare then you’ll be able to look back in your food journal and figure out what caused the pain.  If I eat starch I will feel the pain within about 4 or 5 hours.

4.  Repeat

This diet is an ongoing process.  You will always be learning and you’ll never completely master this diet.  I’ve been doing it for 6 years and am still learning.  Just keep tweaking your diet…adding and subtracting foods as your body tells you.  You’ll discover recipe websites, new go-to favorite foods, new trigger foods, etc. along the way.  Just keep an open mind and listen to your body.  You can do this, but you have to stop thinking and just start already.

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Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  • Great post – no nonsense! We have been on NSD for a while now. It was daunting at first (as anything new usually is), but once you decide to commit, it just becomes your way of life and second nature. It is worth it! 
    We started off journalling foods, but once the pain went we stopped (my husband is the one with AS and I’m joining in on the yummy new foods). We are going to get back into the journalling. Thanks!

  • Debbie

    Can’t thank you enough Bob. You made something that seemed so overwhelming at the time, so simple. After 5 years of full on pain, I’m 3 weeks completely starch free, pain free and off NSAIDs. Feel like a different person already and I’m getting my life back. Carol Sinclair’s book is also a great help but it was this post and your site that got me started. Thank you with all my heart!

    • Hey Debbie,
      Wow, that is fantastic! I’m absolutely thrilled for you- and thank you so much for writing in to let everyone know about your success. It’s so inspiring to other beginners to read stories like yours. Can you email me at bobconnors@gmail.com so we can discuss having you write a success story?
      Thanks!

  • Barb

    why raw unsalted nuts?

    • sorry, missed this. Unsalted at the beginning just because I don’t/didn’t trust that the nuts contained only salt and not some other caking ingredient (like starch).

  • AMV

    Thanks, Bob. I really needed this. I received my diagnosis just two days ago. I am 44 have two kids, 13 & 11 and a husband, who love all things starchy. After reading this, (and eating two home-made oatmeal cookies and milk), I think I can and will do this. Thanks again.

  • Bill Hammond

    Thanks Bob – adding this to the FB group ‘getting started’ doc – a much better write up than I could come up with!

  • stacy

    Is organic apple sauce safe? I don’t digest berries well

    • Buy some iodine and test it yourself before eating it. Don’t eat the iodine-tested portion.

  • Maggie

    I am just about to go to the doctors and ask them to check whether I have AS, 27 years after my first symptoms aged 35! For the first 7 years I was very ill – but wrongly diagnosed, and “progressed” from hobbling on sticks to a wheelchair. Then I got a great doctor who checked for(and found) gut infections and gave me antibiotics. For the following 20 years I have followed something like a low starch diet, but keeping off sugar and fruit, and allowing limited starch (especially when doing lots of exercise). It works very well as long as I don’t make the tiniest mistake, but flare ups are getting more common. Even though they go away after 4 weeks – this time I have a second flare up following immediately because (I believe) of one sip of a black tea with a little sugar in it (in Morocco!). Occasionally a GP will give me 3 weeks of antibiotics which WORK, but more often they give me NSAIDS. What you say about cooking for yourself and trusting no-one is exactly how I have to live, but normally I can cycle long distances and feel quite strong. I would love to enter a dialogue about variations of low starch diets and see if there are any others like me
    – I do try to cut starch completely after a flare up – What do you think?

    • What do I think of cutting starch from you diet? Ummm…. 🙂

  • SarveshLSD

    Hi Bob,
    Hope you are doing well.
    What do you say about Ginger? Ginger contains starch but they say Ginger is anti-inflammatory. So I was confused.

    • Keep it simple: avoid starch. That’s the only rule. If you choose to add starchy things back in to your diet then do it one at a time and observe results.

  • Kay Morgan

    Thank you so much! I am getting so confused about the best way to start this new regime. I just made a cauliflower and cashew soup which I thought was low starch only to discover cashews are starchy! Grrr! Every I think I have found something yummy I discover it has starch in it! So difficult to find suitable recipes which use ingredients readily available in a Scottish island.