Summary

  • No special diet or ‘miracle food’ can cure ankylosing spondylitis, or make your condition any ‘better’ or ‘worse’ 
  • A healthy, well-balanced diet with a wide variety of foods is the best diet you can have  

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Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that targets the joints of the spine. It first affects the sacroiliac (SI) joint, where the spine attaches to the pelvis, and then starts to affect other areas of the spine. The hips and shoulders can be affected, and so can the eyes, skin, bowel and lungs. Symptoms of AS include back pain, stiffness and reduced mobility in the spine. 

There is no conclusive evidence that certain foods or a specific diet can make your ankylosing spondylitis ‘better’ or ‘worse’.  The best thing you can do to maintain general good health is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with a wide variety of foods. 

It is also important that you ensure you have enough calcium and vitamin D each day. People with ankylosing spondylitis are more likely to develop the bone condition osteoporosis. Bones become fragile and more likely to break.

Calcium and vitamin D are important to keep our bones as strong as possible. Read our information on osteoporosis, and calcium and vitamin D to find out more.

Always seek the advice of your doctor or dietitian before changing your diet. You may be restricting your food intake unnecessarily or taking too much of certain products (such as mineral supplements) that may have no impact on your condition at all. Some supplements may also interact with your medication. 

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Dietary recommendations for ankylosing spondylitis

General dietary recommendations for a person with ankylosing spondylitis:

  • eat a well-balanced diet, including fruit and vegetables, protein foods, dairy, cereals and grains. This will help to maintain general good health and a healthy weight
  • avoid crash dieting or fasting
  • increase dietary calcium to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later life
  • drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, especially water
  • keep your weight within the normal range. Excess bodyweight increases stress on joints, especially weight-bearing joints like knees and hips. 

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Omega-3 fats and inflammation

Foods that contain omega-3 fats have been found to help reduce the inflammation associated with some forms of arthritis. These effects are modest compared with medication.

Omega-3 fats have few side effects, and may have other health benefits, such as reduced heart disease.  

Foods rich in omega-3 fats include:

  • fish – oily fish such as salmon and sardines, have greater amounts of omega-3 fats
  • linseeds and linseed (flaxseed) oil
  • canola (rapeseed) oil
  • walnuts
  • foods fortified with omega-3, such as margarines and eggs
  • some fish oil supplements.

It’s important not to confuse fish oils with fish liver oils (such as cod liver oil and halibut liver oil). Fish liver oils also contain vitamin A. Large amounts of vitamin A can cause serious side effects. Ask your doctor before taking any supplements, to make sure you’re taking the correct dosage.

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Glucosamine and chondroitin

The supplements glucosamine and chondroitin are popular – yet evidence about their success is limited. 

Studies show that glucosamine and chondroitin, taken either separately or in combination, may relieve pain for people with osteoarthritis where there has been a breakdown of cartilage. There is no evidence that these supplements are effective for ankylosing spondylitis. 

Glucosamine and chondroitin may interact with other medications, including warfarin, and should only be taken after consulting with your doctor. 

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Maintain a healthy weight

If you are overweight or obese, the extra load on your joints may be exacerbating your symptoms, especially if your affected joints include those of the hip, knee or spine. There is also a clear link between being overweight and an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis.

To lose excess weight you must be active, but this can be difficult for people with muscle, bone or joint conditions due to pain or stiffness. See your doctor, dietitian or health professional for information and advice. 

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Tips for managing your diet

If you think a particular food affects your condition or general overall health, keep a diary of your food intake and any symptoms you experience. After a month, you may have some idea about which food could be provoking symptoms. Discuss these results with your doctor or a dietitian.

Don’t cut whole food groups from your diet – for example, all dairy products – without talking to your doctor, as you may miss out on important vitamins and minerals.

The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can often change for no apparent reason. Don’t assume any improvement in your symptoms is due to what you eat or avoid. Be guided by your health professional.  

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Where to get help

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Things to remember

  • No special diet or ‘miracle food’ can cure ankylosing spondylitis, or make your condition any ‘better’ or ‘worse’ 
  • A healthy, well-balanced diet with a wide variety of foods is the best diet you can have  

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More information

  • Need information regarding your condition and commonly prescribed treatments? Or assistance navigating the health, disability and social services systems?  Do you want to speak to someone who has a chronic musculoskeletal condition, and can understand what you are going through? Contact our Help Line on 1800 263 265. 
  • Do you want to find out more about diet? Check out our library catalogue to see what items are available.  

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This information has been provided by the Better Health Channel and has been produced in consultation with and approved by: MOVE muscle, bone & joint health Ltd.

Move - muscle, bone and joint health, the new voice of Arthritis Victoria

Welcome to MOVE muscle, bone & joint health, the new voice of Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria.

We may have a new name but since 1968 we have been the leading provider of supported solutions and trusted knowledge to the one-in-three Australians who live with these conditions.

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