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Food Swaps: How Dietary Changes Worked To Reduce My Symptoms

Changing my diet has been a game-changer for me in reducing the painful inflammatory symptoms of axial spondyloarthritis. Ten years ago I began learning as much as I could about the connection between food and disease. I was hopeful there might be some truth to the messages I was constantly hearing about diet, the gut, chronic illness and inflammation.

It was the beginning of a long road filled with successes, set-backs and a whole lot of discovery. In the end there was no question for me; the food I consumed had a direct impact on my symptoms. It remains the most significant strategy I’ve discovered for keeping the pain of AS at bay.

What has worked for me may not be right for you, but I thought it might be useful to share some of the swaps I’ve made that have proved beneficial. I truly believe that over time these changes (along with both medication and other lifestyle habits) have helped reduce my inflammation levels, boost my digestion and benefit my overall health.

What has worked for me

Better fats:

I try to completely avoid oils such as canola, margarine, vegetable or seed oils and trans fats and replace these with olive oil, avocado, raw nuts, coconut oil, ghee and butter.

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Snack foods:

For snacking I removed sweets/candies, processed cereal bars, cookies and potato chips and replaced these with fresh and dried fruit, vegetables, nuts, jerky and hard boiled eggs. I make my own bliss balls, cookies and bars using almond meal and other whole ingredients and these are great to have on hand or pop in my handbag when away from home.


Cereal and toast have been swapped out for more traditional breakfast options that leave me full and don’t cause the bloating, irritation, and inflammatory pains that grain-based foods and cows milk used to cause me. These days I am more likely to have a combination of eggs, vegetables and meat or I fast until midday to give my digestion a break. On waking I make sure to rehydrate (plenty of room temperature water with a pinch of sea salt and dash of lemon juice) then later a cup of organic coffee with cream.


Swapping out sauces made with lots of sugar and vinegar for naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, fermented salsa and kimchi has opened my eyes to a whole new delicious world. These foods also help improve my digestive health (ground zero in the fight against inflammation). Making my own meat stock from scratch is not only amazing for gut and joint health, it provides a sensational flavor-base for all my savory cooking, such as soups, stews, curries, gravies and more.

Evening meals:

Weeknight dinners in our house used to feature a lot of pasta, pizza, rice and pre-packaged foods. I had no idea the affect a diet high in starch, processed grains, and food additives was having on my system. Discovering I was highly intolerant to gluten was also a big learning. These days our meals are homemade, using good quality meat, eggs and a variety of vegetables. Minimising dietary starch remains my go-to when AS symptoms flare up, but I can now tolerate it a lot better since healing my gut.


I’ve always had a sweet tooth and have found natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and fruit to be great alternatives to refined or processed sugars which prove inflammatory for many people like me. Learning to bake with different sweeteners can take a bit of getting used to but there are so many recipes online these days catering for a variety of dietary needs.

It takes time

Dietary change didn’t happen all at once for me, it took time to try new things and adapt them into my routine. I find it’s the small, doable changes that stick, rather than the attempts at a total life overhaul which can quickly become too hard to sustain. I resist perfectionism, reminding myself it's what I do the majority of the time that matters.

If you’re someone who is curious about how dietary change might help with AS there might be one or two ideas that I’ve shared you could try for yourself. I certainly don’t feel deprived, in fact I thoroughly enjoy the food I eat these days and feel so much better as a result. What swaps would you be interested in trying?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The 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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