A couple of patients have recently asked about the Ankylosing Spondylitis diet which they saw on Channel 4’s Food Hospital programme.
In episode 6, a woman diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis and suffering from severe pain every day with greatly reduced spinal mobility, was placed on a starch exclusion diet by a qualified dietician, to see if her symptoms improved.
At the end of the programme, the woman said that the worst of her pains had subsided and that she would certainly continue with the diet.
What is AS
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) originates from the Greek ankylos (stiff) and spondylos (vertebrae).
This chronic inflammatory condition of the spine and sometimes other joints, is also known as Bamboo Spine, Marie-Strümpell disease, Bekhterev’s disease and Bekhterev syndrome.
Advanced stages of the condition can result in the bones of the spine fusing together.
Research now places AS in the group of the spondyloarthropathies with a strong genetic predisposition and like many other “arthritic” conditions, is now known to be linked to dysfunction of the autoimmune system.
Currently, there is no known cure for AS but physical therapy and medications can help to ease the pain.
The starch exclusion Diet
This diet is based on a theory that AS is caused by a reaction to Klebsiella pneumoniae bacterium, naturally found in the human digestive tract. These bacteria feed on starch.
It is thought that a genetic trait causes the body to make antibodies to kill the Klebsiella but these antibodies (as in many autoimmune conditions) go too far and also attack good cells of the body too, in this case, the collagen making up the cartilage in the spinal discs.
The resulting inflammation causes pain and reduced movement.
Starchy foods such as potatoes, starchy vegetables, rice, pasta and wheat are excluded from the diet but patients are allowed to eat bananas, pulses, meat, fish, dairy, nuts and seeds.
Humans need starch
Starch plays a very important role in the healthy human diet;
- It is a good source of fibre which helps to keep our digestive system healthy and is thought to protect against bowel cancer.
- Starch is a rich source of Vitamin B
Dieticians suggest that one third of our daily food intake should be starch.
It goes without saying that excluding these foods does rob the body of essential nutrition, so It is vitally important that anybody diagnosed with AS who wishes to try this diet, do so under the supervision of a qualified dietician and consult their GP or consultant first.
The Food Hospital – Channel 4 episode 6
NAAS – National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society
US National Library of Medicine – Sequential studies in ankylosing spondylitis. Association of Klebsiella pneumoniae with active disease.