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Chalkboard showing some of the various symptoms stemming from gut inflammation

Addressing My Gut Health To Help With My AS Symptoms

Three years before my diagnosis, while I was playing college tennis, I was having a lot of gut and joint issues. That’s when I first looked at changing my diet and lifestyle to address my gut health.

Why gut health matters

Through my functional health coach and AIP coach certifications, I  learned a lot about inflammation, gut health, and autoimmune conditions. The underlying principle is to follow a diet and lifestyle which support gut health (to avoid or heal a leaky gut) and reduce chronic systemic inflammation, two big factors of autoimmune conditions like AS.

The role of leaky gut and gut bacteria in autoimmune conditions is still being studied.1 It is theorized that leaky gut occurs when the walls of the small intestine are damaged or perforated, allowing indigestible substances such as toxins, bacteria and undigested food to pass into the bloodstream and cause health problems such as inflammation, immune disorders, and digestive disorders. 2

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Like most people with autoimmune conditions, my gut issues had been lingering long before I got the diagnosis. It took me a while to realize how it was impacting my health in a negative way, and how it would play a crucial role in getting my AS symptoms under control.

Removing inflammatory foods

My first step was to remove gluten. Growing up as a competitive athlete, pasta was of course my favorite meal. Then as a student-athlete working out several hours every day, I thought I could eat what I wanted. And I did, mostly (gluten) carbs.

After the first couple weeks without gluten, I felt the benefits. Less bloated and better energy. Since that day, I haven’t looked back. It’s now been 12 years without gluten. Then I read about other foods that can impact the some people with autoimmune conditions. Dairy, processed sugar, alcohol, nightshades, legumes, eggs and more.

After doing a couple gut health tests (stool test to see the state of my microbiome, food sensitivity test), I did the elimination phase of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), to then reintroduce step by step different foods and see how my body reacts. This was a great way to learn about my personal triggers.

I feel good with my current way of eating and I'm alway looking for new ways to improve my gut health. Stress management has played a big role as well, to help regulate my nervous system and the gut-brain axis.

Adding gut-healing foods

The important thing is not to focus on what I can't eat, but rather on the wide variety of foods I can eat to promote recovery and reduce inflammation. Whole foods at every meal. Lots of vegetables, high quality fats and protein sources and healthy carbs which are naturally gluten free (white rice, quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, plantains). I also add gut healing foods: bone broth, organ meat, fermented food, and small fatty fish. Additionally, I take supplements to further support my immune system and gut health.

While everyone is different when it comes to food and gut health, eating this way has helped my AS and my health immensely.

What are your learnings when it comes to your gut health and AS?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AxialSpondyloarthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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