The effects of diet on ankylosing spondylitis

Published Mar 11, 2024 • Updated Mar 12, 2024 • By Candice Salomé

Diet plays an undeniable role in maintaining good health. It can also prevent or calm inflammation. In fact, diet can influence inflammatory or immune responses, either directly or indirectly, via the microbiota, and thus have an effect on the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

So what role does diet play in the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis? Which foods are best and which ones should be avoided?

We explain it all in our article!

The effects of diet on ankylosing spondylitis

What is ankylosing spondylitis (AS)? 

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory joint disease affecting the axial skeleton (the vertebral column and sacroiliac joints in the pelvis). AS provokes inflammation and cartilage degeneration.

It is characterized by periods of acute pain, known as flare-ups, and periods of milder (or no) symptoms, known as remission. After many years, the disease may progress to stiffening of the affected areas (ankylosis).

Thanks to early detection and treatment, this is now rare.

Treatment of ankylosing spondylitis is based on a combination of medications and non-drug treatments: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying treatments (methotrexate, sulphasalazine and biotherapies) - when NSAIDs are not enough, regular physical exercise, functional re-education, occupational therapy, etc.

An anti-inflammatory diet can also help reduce inflammation during flare-ups. 

Ankylosing spondylitis and diet: what is the link? 

First of all, it is important to keep in mind that a change in diet should not be used as a substitute for taking disease-modifying treatments. They are essential to the management of the disease, as they have an anti-inflammatory effect, helping to reduce pain, and also prevent joint deterioration. Specific dietary changes may, however, prove a useful addition to the treatment plan, without abandoning medication.

As mentioned above, ankylosing spondylitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the joints. Adopting a diet rich in certain nutrients, and avoiding certain foods, can help limit the progression of symptoms.

For example, according to a review of interventional studies published in the journal Nutrition, consumption of omega-3 fatty acids could have an anti-inflammatory effect in patients suffering from inflammatory joint disease. These nutrients could therefore boost the effectiveness of treatment by reducing pain and slowing down the progression of the disease.

Another example, calcium, is a mineral that guarantees good bone and joint health. It is therefore important to include it in your diet in doses that correspond to the recommended nutritional intake of 950 mg per day for adults (without exceeding 2500 mg per day).

It is however recommended to avoid exclusionary diets: vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, etc. These diets do not have any effect on the disease, but they expose patients to the risk of having vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

It is also important to remember that certain foods such as processed and ultra-processed foods and sugary industrial products may have a pro-inflammatory effect, so it is better to limit their consumption.

Ankylosing spondylitis: what should you eat? 

By including certain foods in your diet on a regular basis, you may be able to reduce the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Here is a list of foods that may be beneficial for ankylosing spondylitis patients: 

Blue fish, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids 

It includes sardines, anchovies, mackerel, mullet and horse mackerel. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can modulate and relieve inflammatory mechanisms. 


Turmeric, thanks to one of its components, curcumin, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. According to a review of interventional studies published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, turmeric extract-based supplements are effective in treating all the inflammatory processes associated with ankylosing spondylitis.

Mediterranean diet 

The so-called Mediterranean diet is based on eating plenty of diversified plant-based foods, eating less animal products and leading an active daily life. The Mediterranean diet offers antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombogenic benefits. In the case of rheumatism, a number of studies have shown a reduction in symptoms and an improvement in quality of life of people who have been following this diet.


Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a disease that causes inflammation and cartilage degeneration, which leads to painful flare-ups. 

Disease-modifying treatments are essential in the management of this disease, as they have an anti-inflammatory effect and prevent joint degeneration.

It is possible to make changes to your diet in order to reduce inflammation. It is recommended to eat fresh foods, such as fruit, vegetables and fish, while avoiding processed industrial foods. Alcohol should also be avoided, as its consumption causes an increase in general inflammation.

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avatar Candice Salomé

Author: Candice Salomé, Health Writer

Candice is a content creator at Carenity and specialzes in writing health articles. She has a particular interest in the fields of women's health, well-being and sports. 

Candice holds a master's degree in... >> Learn more

Who reviewed it: Laury Sellem, Doctor of Nutrition

Laury holds a PhD in Nutrition Sciences (University of Reading, UK) and a master's in Nutrition and Human Health (AgroParisTech, France). She has conducted clinical and epidemiological research projects in Nutrition... >> Learn more


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