Male (early onset) - Caucasian
Eastern European descent (mostly German)
Arthritis runs in family (dad’s side)
My first memories of pain started when I was 13. Interestingly, I can trace things back to Sept of 1981 after a nasty sickness. I remember it well, severe nausea for 7 days, without relief. I couldn’t eat, sleep, drink or even move without instantly vomiting. I was delirious with fever and by the time I was hyperventilating uncontrollably, was moved to a hospital. Thankfully, I didn’t die. The doctors eventually told my mom I was suffering from Gastritis (an infection of the stomach lining). More on the connection later on...
Shortly after my recovery, my back woes began. I had a hard time sleeping the whole night and would wake up with lower back aches that no amount of twisting, turning, flipping and flopping could alleviate. Yet this pain would manifest itself only in bed, then disappear shortly after I got up. Was it a cheap mattress? Poor sleeping posture? Too many pillows? Not enough pillows? Too many sports? Growing pains? Doctors could never tell me, so I thought it was just a “bad back” and lived with it.
As a youth, I was into athletics: track, soccer, football, golf, road & floor hockey (hey.. I’m Canadian after all) but finally settled into competitive badminton as my sport of choice. I got quite good too - but as the years progressed, so did my aches & pains. Never once did I injure myself, yet I was repeatedly forced to live with sharp pains in my hips. This made me limp periodically (or sometime collapse) throughout high school, always one side at a time, then the other. Classmates thought I was either faking or just plain fragile. Not nice.
Moving into young adulthood, harsh pain came and went - seemingly without rhyme or reason. I soon discovered Ibuprofen, which seemed to work well enough that I could tolerate the pain... most of the time. Sleeping on my back with my head propped up seemed to help quite a bit too, so I took to sleeping on the couch (as habitual stomach sleeper, the couch kept me from rolling over). Although, this tactic took a heavy toll on one of my relationships at the time - she didn’t like the idea, but the pain was too much.
But it wasn’t until I turned 21 that I made a new connection. My long-lost father contacted me (he left when I was 5) and it was obvious that Arthritis ruled his life now. So by genetic predisposition, this could be my fate too, as his symptoms seemed to match mine better than most anything else.
This was my first turning point. I did some library research on arthritis (no internet yet.. lol) which suggested I eliminate nightshade vegetables (potatoes, peppers, tomatoes). I also resolved to start hitting the gym religiously to strengthen supporting muscles to better combat the physical effects on my joints. It didn’t take long for the two changes to start reaping benefits. I was in less pain, way less often. However, I wasn’t in total control of my body yet and still couldn’t predict the flaring.
Between 1990 and 2006 I lived with my “arthritis” having regular periods of intense pain and remission. I kept weight training and watching my diet, loading up on Ibuprofen whenever I flared. Various doctor visits over the years proved nothing, even with advances in medicine. Nobody ever had answers. Especially since I had now built up my body and had a strong, muscular, healthy looking physique. New doctors had a hard time believing my story. And various X-Rays of my spine never showed anything - no discs out of place, no fusing - nothing abnormal at all.
However, I have suffered an occasional super-flare... I’d call them “attacks”. Excruciating pain episodes that are frighteningly debilitating. I literally couldn’t get out of bed. In fact, I couldn’t eat, go to the bathroom or even flinch without breaking into a cold sweat from the sharp stabbing sensations in my groin. So overwhelming, I once screamed off and on for 3 days (laughing at the same time - because the pain was so ridiculous). The poor guy who lived in the condo below me.. well, must’ve thought I was some evil, maniacal whack job.
The final turning point came one morning in 2006 - I woke up unable to move my neck. Eating & driving was instantly a major challenge - I couldn’t even put on my socks or tie my shoes! I lived with the pain for a few weeks (thinking I had slept funny or something), but without relief I finally turned to the internet. Thankfully I stumbled upon the KickAS.org forums, AS and the Low/No Starch Diet connection... everything fit! I immediately tried out a NSD and my neck un-seized within just one day. Wow, and my “bad back” magically disappeared too - I couldn’t believe it. I finally had control.
As of this writing, it’s almost 2010, and I haven’t looked back. I simply don’t (or rarely) eat bread, pasta, rice, flour & potatoes. I eat lots of veggies, meat, fruit, seeds & nuts and can tolerate dairy no problem. This diet, as a great side effect, literally forces me into eating healthy - and if I slip up too often, pain always forces me back in line.
Yes, I have had AS for almost 30 years - and will have to follow a LSD/NSD and go to the gym every day for the rest of my life - a small price to pay. Consider the following as of Dec 24th, 2009:
- 41 Years old
- 5’7” 150 lbs
- Single digit body-fat (year round)
- Sprint: 100m in 15 seconds
- Jog: 6 minute mile
- Bench Press: 300 pounds
- Zero spine calcification (last Xray in 2006)
- 99% Pain free
- Living an “optimal” life!
Having spent the last 20 years in the gym and the last 5 years on a LSD I’m living proof that this can really work for many of us who suffer from AS. I encourage anyone who thinks they even “may” have this disorder to try the diet. Your doctor may scoff, but you know your body better than him/her. A fused spine does not have to be in your future and you have nothing to lose. Kick [*bleep*] (Ankylosing Spondylitis Syndrome) now!
P.S. Interestingly, the gastritis I had as a child can be triggered by many autoimmune diseases (tadah... like AS). I had once thought that the gastritis caused my AS (bacteria introduced into the system), but I now suspect it was the other way around.
Pain Progression (over 25 years):
1) Low Back
2) Hips (side to side)
LSD (switch to NSD if pain flares)
Exercise (weight training 6-7 days/wk)
Ibuprofen 400mg (only if needed during pain flare ups) - very rare now