Changing to a Plant-Based Diet

Nearly two years ago, I decided to try a plant-based diet in hopes that it would reduce inflammation and improve symptoms I experience related to axial spondyloarthritis.

The idea was spurred by watching the documentary Game Changers

Let me preface what I’m about to say by acknowledging that yes, the documentary is quite biased driving a general narrative which I don’t entirely agree with. Additionally, I’ll also acknowledge that vegetarianism or veganism - or whatever other moniker to it – can be an overly polarizing topic.

So, let me be clear. I am not here to preach or to convince anyone, but to share my experience.

Despite its bias, the documentary made one claim which caught my attention and sparked something in my brain to dig further into the topic. According to a study conducted in 2015, a plant-based diet can reduce inflammation for people living with rheumatoid arthritis.

Knowing the similarities between RA and AxSpA, that one line piqued my interest. I looked further into it and there is very little research involving inflammatory arthritis conditions and diet.

I decided to do my own research and found very limited results directly involving eating a plant-based diet and living with AxSpA.

Most of the research I found involving a plant-based diet was conducted with RA patients. Within the research I found, there are some positive correlations between a plant-based diet and reducing inflammation levels.

There was also one study focusing on a Mediterranean diet and people living with AxSpA. Though this study uses a very targeted population, there were similar positive results in reducing inflammation levels.

Now, the one commonality between these studies is the inability to confirm that the diet was the causation of reduced inflammatory markers. There are too few studies with too limited of population to determine the effectiveness of the diet.

My diet-changing decision

My decision to try the new diet was two-fold.

Firstly, there are enough suggestions of anti-inflammatory benefits of a plant-based diet that I’m willing to give it a go.1

Secondly, it is hugely cost-effective. The cost of meat products continues to skyrocket and finding alternative options will open my budget for other symptom management items.

My food budget has unquestionably increased since my diagnosis as I aim to eat healthier and limit diet-related flares. So, my wallet might be what benefits most from this dietary alteration.

My choice of diet is considered “pescaovatarian”, according to overly pedantic scribes, which is about as helpful as telling someone I live with non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis.

What does that verbosity mean? I’ll still eat fish and eggs, but I cut out red meat, chicken and pork. Occasionally, I may still have a bit of meat but through the elimination process I have noticed red meats and processed meats were causing me the largest issues.

At the time, it dawned on me that whenever I ate fish as my main protein, I felt a lot better and had a lot more energy following the meal. I figured it was a low-risk change to make so why not give it a try.

After a few weeks, I really noticed a positive difference and I haven’t looked back since

Digestive problems which I thought were normal mostly went away by changing to a plant-based diet. I thought I had an intolerance to bread and other wheat products, but it turns out it was the processed meats I was eating with them. I eat the same meal without meat and feel noticeably better afterward.

I used to think it was normal to need to rest for 30-60 mins after eating.  I had to because my tummy was upset. That no longer happens.

I will also say I used to scoff at the idea of “being vegetarian” and I thought it was ridiculous, and I never would do such a thing. Yet, as it has for so many aspects of my life, living with AxSpA has forced me to keep an open mind and be willing to accept changes I previously would have never considered.

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