In the summer of 2003, at the age of 32, I started having difficulty sleeping through the night. At two or three in the morning, the muscles in my lower back would tighten up. Sometimes an early morning bath helped, but I would normally wake up feeling more tired than before I slept.
A trip to the doctor led to x-rays, some back strengthening exercises, a prescription for Vioxx, and a 14 month wait to see a rheumatologist. The NSAIDs helped, but the exercises usually aggravated the pain.
I started experiencing chest pain, possibly from the inflammation, or the medication. The Vioxx was replaced with Celebrex. The rheumatologist said she couldn't make any sort of diagnosis since my vertebrae looked normal.
Over the next few years the pain worsened, and I started experiencing a constant low grade pain and occasional flare-ups that made movement extremely painful. I didn't want to be dependent on the medication, so I tried massage therapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments, yoga, acupuncture and meditation. None of these led to any lasting relief.
By 2006, every step I took caused the “inexplicable” pain to shoot down my buttocks into one of my legs. I found a job that required less movement and was less stressful, still, maintaining a full-time job was challenging.
By 2008, I had given up hope of recovering. My hands started becoming numb in the morning, and one of my eyes turned bright red and became sensitive to light. I was diagnosed with Raynaud's syndrome and iritis. By this point I was convinced the underlying problem was A/S.
I was seeing a new chiropractor who couldn't understand why the inflammation in my S/I joint kept returning. I told him that I suspected A/S, but it wasn't confirmed. Based on my history and symptoms he agreed and said the problem was in my stomach and suggested a paleo-diet. I was skeptical, but also desperate, so I reluctantly eliminated grains and reduced sugar. This led to a significant improvement. The pain continued, but the flare-ups became less frequent and would settle down more quickly.
A new CT scan revealed sacroiliitis, and after another year on a waiting list, a rheumatologist made the obvious diagnosis. After six years, giving this mysterious pain a name provided an odd sense of relief. It also led me to the KickAS website.
After reading Dr. Ebringer's research about molecular mimicry, and the numerous success stories on KickAS, I bought Carol Sinclair's book and a bottle of iodine. After a few weeks on the NSD I again noticed a significant improvement. At this point I rarely needed NSAIDs, movement was less painful, and the flare-ups became less severe.
After about a year on the diet my progress plateaued. I was no longer taking pain killers, but I was still in some pain most of the time. Stress and major changes in the weather often led to fatigue and a minor flare-up. I was still thrilled with the progress, and being pain free seemed possible.
I read about some people having success by increasing their fat intake (Healing Naturally By Bee - based on the Polish Homo Optimus Diet). For eight months I continued on the NSD diet, but decreased carbs and increased fat. I often felt tired and sluggish eating this way, and after starting to feel occasional bouts of chest pain I decided to stop.
The NSD is still at the heart of my diet, but for the past six months, I have been very conscious about balancing the fats. My basic understanding is that polyunsaturated omega 3 and omega 6 oils lead to the production of anti-inflammatory hormones and an excess of omega 6 oils and saturated fats (some types being worse than others), create pro-inflammatory hormones. The monounsaturated omega 9 oils, like olive oil have a neutral or minimal anti-inflammatory influence.
To apply this, I eat a lot of fatty fish high in omega 3s (lots of herring) and supplement with fish oil. To reduce the omega 6 content, I only cook with olive oil and coconut oil and I try to buy free range / grass fed poultry and beef. Since dairy has a high degree of saturated fat, after a great struggle, I have almost gotten over a whipping cream addiction.
While eliminating starch made the most significant improvements, balancing fats has greatly helped (especially adding fish oil and reducing dairy). The pain is still lurking there, but now I feel that I have more control over it. With more energy from not always fighting the pain, I have been able to move forward in other areas of my life, like starting a family and training for a job I'm better suited for.
Reading about other peoples' experiences and successes with A/S has provided me with some much needed support, guidance and hope; I hope reading my story can also help you see some “light at the end of the tunnel.”
I wish you all the best in your journey to improved health.