I am all too familiar with what you’re going through: you have Ankylosing Spondylitis and you’re in the middle of a flare. You feel horrible. Your spouse, significant other, friends, parents, and siblings all mean well but they can’t possible understand what you’re going through. It’s not just the pain. If it were only just the pain. It’s the feeling of hopelessness. The feeling that you can’t explain this freaking disease to anyone, can’t really truthfully tell a friend or your spouse what it’s like to feel 90 years old in your 20 or 30 or 40 year old body. You can’t possible explain that realization you have one morning while trying to figure out a relatively painless way to simply roll out of bed that this may be as good as you ever feel. My doctor told me on day one of my ankylosing spondylitis diagnosis that this was, “…a disease you’ll die with, not from.” I get it. All of it. I’ve been there. Even recently.
Yes, I’ve had flares recently. Want to know why? Because I’ve grown so confident and healthy on the No Starch Diet that I’ve started to incorporate “cheat days” into my diet. I had a cheeseburger recently for the first time in years. Years. It was good. But honestly, not worth the flare. Then I had pizza. Awful. I do not miss pizza in the least. Right after eating the pizza I had a flare.
Why in the world would I play with fire like this? I’ll tell you: because I’ve discovered the best way to quickly get over a flare. Fasting.
I hesitate to write this post because I think there is the possibility that it will cause some serious confusion. On the one hand, I say that you should embrace the no starch diet 100% in order to treat your AS. And on the other hand, here I am confessing to you that I have incorporated “occasional” cheat days into my diet. But it’s the truth.
Here’s what I think has happened. I think I’ve been on the strict 100% no starch diet for so many years that my body has likely “normalized” on several levels. I think my gut bacteria (likely the dreaded Klebsiella, but maybe others too) have returned to “normal” levels or maybe even extremely low levels, and that this allows me to incorporate the occasional cheat day into my diet. Yes, yes, I realize that sounded completely unscientific and some of you may be rolling your eyes right now. Whatever. I’ve been on this diet for so long and I see such a direct cause-effect relationship between ingested starch and horrible flare pain that I feel I’ve earned a bit of unscientific personal speculation.
All I know is that my body can now tolerate the occasional cheat day. What do I mean by occasional? Maybe once a month. And only certain foods. Rice? Not once. It kills me every time. Hummas? God no. But I can handle a cheeseburger with the bun. Even sweet potatoes. But just once in a while, and only because I’m confident that I can stop the flare in its tracks if it happens.
How do I stop my flares?
I stop eating for at least 24 hours. No food, just water for 24 hours. Fasting in this manner stops the flare in its tracks.
I also incorporate fasting into my weekly routine. For about the last two years I’ve been trying to do a dinner to dinner fast once a week. Thursday is my fast day so that means I eat dinner on Wednesday night and then stop eating until dinner on Thursday night. That’s a quick and easy 24 hour fast. I do this whether I’m flaring or not.
I’ve recently started doing twice weekly dinner to dinner fasts. Mondays and Thursdays are my fast days. Same deal: I eat dinner on Sunday night then no food again til dinner on Monday night. Dinner on Wednesday night and no food til dinner on Thursday night. I truly believe that this fasting schedule helps with my AS and is also excellent for my overall health.
But don’t take my word for it, take a look at this fantastic documentary called Eat, Fast, and Live Longer. This is not AS specific, rather it goes into the general health benefits of a twice weekly fasting schedule. Here’s the link to the book by the filmmaker. A good read and I’d recommend buying it:The Fast Diet.