Over the years of living with ankylosing spondylitis, I’ve experimented with food and various diets all in an effort to reduce pain. I’m going back in my memory banks so I can share some of what I have personally done with you.
I decided becoming a vegan could be the answer I was looking for. Livin’ the vegan life for 2.5 years was not an easy one. If you looked inside my purse, you would have found a stash of healthy snacks, like a baggie of carrot sticks or vegan granola bars. Eating cheddar cheese or cooling off with an occasional ice cream cone wasn’t an option.
Why did I put myself through that? I was praying I would find some relief in my legs, particularly in my knees. At the time, I had my nose pressed up to my laptop (even though I use reading glasses) conducting tons of research into the project known as “Operation Lovaine.” I was desperately trying to uncover any type of food that would be my saving grace while battling constant flares.
One time, a work colleague in the staff room looked at my lunch and said, “Wow, you eat so healthy, I could never do it.”
I really wanted to tell him, “Well, I never dreamed in a million years I would be eating lettuce and veggies like a rabbit, but I have chronic pain.” Instead, I just looked at him and politely smiled.
I was testing out my theory by eating foods that were anti-inflammatory to see how my body reacted. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel a huge difference in my pain levels. To be honest, I think I continued to eat that way because I liked how my clothes felt on my body.
My vegan days were numbered though when my friends and family shared with me they thought I looked too skinny. As I was standing in front of the mirror one morning, getting dressed for work, I took a real hard look at my reflection. My Lord, I think they’re onto something, I thought. I looked very frail.
I announced to my family that meat was back on the menu. My kids, especially my son (who’s a voracious meat eater), were ecstatic. My son was sick and tired of being dragged to vegan restaurants, eating pretend meat for our family night out dinners.
I’ve also tinkered with the AIP (autoimmune protocol) diet. Again, I didn’t really notice much of a difference with this way of eating either.
Experiment With Your Diet
Eating is a very personal choice when it comes to managing a chronic disease. I wouldn’t tell someone what to eat or not to eat.
When I work with my coaching clients, I explain the benefits of eating anti-inflammatory foods to manage pain levels. It’s all about choice. It’s all about how you want to feel in your body as you play with your kids or when you’re working at your desk.
I was at my lowest weight ever in my life when I was a vegan, so I deliberately gained 25 pounds. (Yes, you read that correctly.) The extra weight felt so much better, and I was stronger.
My biggest point is this: Experiment with your food to see how your body reacts. Just because someone in a chronic pain Facebook group is following an AIP diet doesn’t mean you have to do so as well.
Keep track of what you eat in a food diary. Write down exactly what happens in your body after eating a cheeseburger, some chocolate chip cookies, or sweet potatoes. (Yes, even some foods you consider healthy may not agree with you.)
I’m not saying to never put your hand in the cookie jar. (Let’s be real here.) Just when you do, think about eating those cookies in moderation and perhaps remember how your body felt the last time you did.
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