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8 Diet Do's and Don'ts for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Cindy Kuzma on February 15, 2022
  • seaweed salad, seaweed, salad
    Eat your way to relieving arthritis of the spine.
    Low-starch. Low-fat. Low-carb. When it comes to diets, the advice for staying healthy can make your head spin. If you have ankylosing spondylitis (AS), the fuel you choose can make a big difference in how you feel every day. Here are some rules for making the most of your meals.
  • vegetables, tomato, carrot, pepper, eggplant, squash, onion
    1. Do: Eat a well-balanced diet.
    Your body needs a wide variety of nutrients to cope with the challenges of daily life with AS. Eat plenty of fresh, healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Consume limited amounts of fats, especially saturated fats found in animal products. Steer clear of diets that eliminate entire food groups or allow you to eat only a few select meals.
  • oatmeal-with-apple
    2. Don’t: Fall for fad diets.
    You’ll likely come across ads or articles about the latest nutritional cures for arthritis. But no diet has been shown to ease all symptoms or cure the disease. Some of these plans actually harm your health. Avoid diets with high-dose alfalfa, copper salts, or zinc, or that severely limit calories and fat. And always work with your health care provider or a nutritionist to ensure you’re getting the proper nutrients.
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  • caucasian-male-checking-progress-on-laptop
    3. Do: Track your eating habits.
    Foods that might work fine for one person with AS can aggravate symptoms in others. Keeping a food diary for a few weeks can make a big difference. Write down what you eat and when, and then note what happens to your symptoms. You may find some foods trigger flares, while others help you feel better.
  • Dark beer
    4. Don’t: Drink too much alcohol.
    People with AS have a higher risk for the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. Beverages containing alcohol weaken your skeleton, especially if you sip more than two per day. Alcohol may also interfere with some medications. Check with your health care provider or pharmacist to see if drinking is safe for you.
  • Curly Kale
    5. Do: Get enough calcium and vitamin D.
    These two nutrients strengthen bones, reducing your risk for osteoporosis. Most adults need 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day, but ask your health care provider how much you require. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, kale, broccoli, and fortified cereals or juices. Vitamin D is found in some fish, and your body produces it when exposed to the sun. Your health care provider may recommend supplements.
  • swallowing, pills, pills in hand with glass of water, medication,
    6. Do: Ask how your medications interact with your diet.
    Different medicines for AS will affect your body’s ability to absorb electrolytes and nutrients in different ways. For instance, some medicines may cause you to retain sodium, while others reduce your levels of potassium or folic acid. You may need to eat special foods or take supplements to offset these imbalances. In other cases, you’ll need to avoid certain foods that can interact with your medicines. Your health care provider or pharmacist can explain more.
  • Man lifting weights
    7. Do: Maintain a healthy weight.
    Balance the amount of calories you take in with those you burn to stay in a healthy range. Extra pounds stress your joints and bones, potentially worsening your disease. On the flip side, being underweight increases your risk for complications, from fatigue to anemia to osteoporosis. Your health care provider or nutritionist can help you find middle ground.
  • Fish in a pan
    8. Do: Swap red meat for other options.
    Most people with AS do best if they eat no more than two meals per week containing red meat. That’s because meat contains a compound called arachidonic acid. This can aggravate the inflammation that causes symptoms. Fish is a good alternative because it contains inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. Keep fish consumption to twice a week, too. Flaxseed and walnuts are other great sources of omega-3.
8 Diet Do's and Don'ts for Ankylosing Spondylitis
  1. Calcium. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements.
  2. Questions and Answers about Ankylosing Spondylitis. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
  3. Diet's Effect On Spondylitis Symptoms. Spondylitis Association of America.
  4. Changing Your Diet. Spondylitis Association of America.
  5. Medication & Diet. Spondylitis Association of America.
  6. Feldtkeller E, et al. Core set of recommendations for patients with ankylosing spondylitis concerning behaviour and environmental adaptations. Rheumatology International. 2013;33(9):2343-9.

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Last Review Date: 2022 Feb 15
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