Ankylosing spondylitis: Eat well for bone health
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine. Although there's no definitive research suggesting a specific diet that's good for ankylosing spondylitis, a healthy diet is good for everyone, including those with this health problem. It's also important to get enough of certain nutrients that help reduce your risk of thin, weak and porous bones, called osteoporosis, a common complication of ankylosing spondylitis. And a healthy diet can help you manage your weight, which may affect your symptoms.
If you have ankylosing spondylitis, be sure to:
- Get enough calcium. Calcium is needed for strong bones. Adults between the ages of 18 and 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. Women ages 50 and up and men older than 70 need 1,200 milligrams a day. Good sources include low-fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, canned salmon, and tofu and other soy products.
- Don't skip the vitamin D. Vitamin D improves the body's ability to absorb calcium and improves bone health in other ways. It's possible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight. But sunlight may not be a good source if you have limited sun exposure — for example, you live in a high latitude or you regularly use sunscreen or avoid the sun. A good starting point for adults is 600 to 800 international units (IU) a day, through food or supplements. Up to 4,000 IU of vitamin D a day is safe for most people.
- Limit alcohol. Drinking more than one or two alcoholic drinks a day speeds bone loss and reduces the body's ability to absorb calcium. Drinking alcohol with meals slows calcium's absorption, as well. Mixing alcohol with certain medicines also can cause serious side effects to the liver and kidneys.
- Hold the caffeine. Caffeine can slightly increase calcium loss during urination. But much of its potentially harmful effect stems from drinking caffeinated beverages instead of milk and other healthy drinks. Moderate caffeine use — about 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day — won't be harmful as long as your diet contains enough calcium.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts added stress on bones and joints. Being underweight increases the chance of bone loss and fractures. So maintaining a healthy body weight is good for your bones and for your health in general. Keep in mind that certain ankylosing spondylitis medicines and complications may contribute to weight loss or gain. Talk to your health care provider if you're struggling to maintain a healthy weight.
Some medicines you use may limit how your body is able to use the nutrients you eat. Ask your health care provider if you need to take supplements to get enough of the vitamins and minerals you need.
The general guidelines for a healthy diet also apply. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits, seek out whole grains and lean proteins, and limit fat and processed foods. When choosing what you eat, remember that a healthy diet will help you manage your weight and protect your bones.
March 01, 2023
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- Ankylosing spondylitis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Ankylosing_Spondylitis. Accessed May 2, 2019.
- Diet's effect on spondylitis symptoms. Spondylitis Association of America. https://www.spondylitis.org/Diet-Nutrition. Accessed May 6, 2019.
- Osteoporosis. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351968. Accessed May 7, 2019.
- Goldman L, et al., eds. Osteoporosis. In: Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Elsevier; 2020. www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 15, 2023.
- Bordeaux B, et al. Benefits and risks of caffeine and caffeinated beverages. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 14, 2023.