Last week, my left eye started showing signs of uveitis, which was one of the first symptoms I had before my last significant autoimmune flare. The thought of going back to the intense level of pain I experienced during my last flare terrified me, and I immediately started to delve into research on what steps I could take to prevent another flare.
In my last post, I shared My Autoimmune Journey that led to my Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) diagnosis. I provide way more context in that post, so if you want all the dirty little details, I recommend checking that post out first.
If you are just looking for the cliff notes:
AS appears to have a genetic predisposition (gene HLA-B27) + an environmental trigger (Klebsiella Pneumoniae)
Klebsiella is a common bacteria within the gut biome that loves starch
An overgrowth of Klebsiella triggers an immune response in the body
Klebsiella bacteria appears similar to HLA-B27 molecule, causing antibodies to attack the bacteria and the host body
This leads me to believe I was somehow exposed to starch (I think from supplements I added to my routine or a packet of Moon Cheese that contained MSG - ugh!). After a lot of research and digging into anecdotal success stories within an AS community I belong to, I decided that attempting a “gut reset” to force the Klebsiella into a dormant state (and therefore reduce the immune response from my body) is my next best step.
Also, disclaimer here - I am not suggesting anyone else do any of these things. These are things that I have researched and feel are applicable for my health history, lifestyle, and goals. This content is not meant to be a guide for anyone else’s health journey. Instead, it is meant to inspire you to do your own research and create your own plan to live your best life.
Step One: Fasting
If you know me, you know I hate fasting. Which should tell you just how serious I am about preventing another flare. Most of the people in the Facebook group I belong to, the low/no starch diet for Ankylosing Spondylitis, recommend completing a 72 hour fast. I, however, am a weenie and only did 60 hours. Seriously though, I was getting super light-headed every time I stood up and needed to break the fast.
To break my fast and eliminate potential exposure to starches or histamine reactions, I decided to limit my diet to ground beef for the duration of this protocol. (A note on the histamine thing - I will do a post about this soon but ground beef was probably not the best choice)
Step Two: Kill the bad bugs, support the good bugs
When I broke the fast, I added in a natural antibiotic supplement that I take with every meal. The natural antibiotic is cool because it is supposed to kill the overgrowth while largely preserving the good bacteria in my gut biome. To further support the good bugs, one hour after my meal I would eat pre-biotics in the form of butter (yay, butyrate!) and pro-biotics in the form of kefir. I continued this protocol for 5 days.
Looking back, I don’t think the butter and kefir were necessary and may have prevented me from making more significant progress. Apparently, cow milk can be inflammatory for people with AS, a topic I need to research further and I am sure I will post about at some point.
Step Three: Maintaining dormancy
This is where I am at in the present time as of writing this post. For the next 5 days, I will continue the ground beef with antibiotics three times a day. Following that, my goal is to reintroduce other meats like fish, pork, chicken, and eggs (and likely in that order) while continuing to take one dose of antibiotics per day.
As mentioned, I am currently on the first day of stage three. My flare seems to have subsided, I no longer have uveitis symptoms in my left eye and my overall pain level is down.
Of everything I did, fasting seems to have had the greatest impact. At the end of the 60-hour fast, my pain levels were lower than they had been in 8 months! Obviously, continuous extended fasting isn’t a long-term health-oriented approach but I may look into incorporating extended fasts periodically.
Once step three is complete, I will assess how my GI is performing and how I feel. My hope is that my flare will go into remission and I will be able to eat more variety. Also, hi, if you are new here - I only eat meat - so more variety for me means more types of meat.
While I do think that this gut reset so far has been helpful, I don’t think it is the “answer” or the “fix” to my autoimmune condition. Even if this flare completely goes away, my biggest goal is to decrease my body’s reactivity to future starch (or other trigger) exposure.
In my next post, I will share how I intend to fortify my health to become stronger and more resilient to potential autoimmune triggers over time.