(Me more recently... with a beard!)
First…because I get the question a lot: what are your credentials?
I'm not a doctor, nurse, dietician, or any other sort of health care practitioner. But I have Ankylosing Spondylitis. Why is that important?
Because I've always maintained a very healthy and active lifestyle, when I was diagnosed with AS, I was devastated. I decided, then and there in the doctor's office, that their prognosis (unending pain and continuous progression of the disease) was completely and totally unacceptable, and I made it my personal mission over the next several months after my diagnosis to find a way to live free of this terrible disease.
I'm a voracious reader and learner, and I absolutely devoured (over thousands of hours) everything there is to know about the condition. And then I applied it to my own body to see what worked and what didn't and found a real solution. A lot of it didn't work — it made me worse. But a few things did, and that's what my book's about.
Because of this intense learning and my own experiences, I believe I know more than most doctors do about AS.
Now, the basics: Male, born in Savannah, Georgia, USA on February 14th, 1983. Moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1990 and lived there until July, 2009 when I moved to San Diego, California.
My experience with AS: Since about age 14, once per year, sometimes more frequently, I would have inexplicable cramping and severe pains in my buttocks and lower back. These came and went, and I always dismissed it as being related to my heavy computer use (I've been a computer nerd since age 10).
But as I got older, the intensity of pain and length of the episodes steadily increased. They also started coming closer and closer together. However, I remained more or less pain free between these "flare-ups."
Around 2006 years ago, I had an flare-up so bad that I simply could not move. I remember coming home from work, sitting in a recliner in my apartment, and being stuck there. The pain was so intense I was incapable of getting up out of the chair just to use the bathroom. My girlfriend ended up calling 911, and I had to be carried out of my apartment on a stretcher.
At that point I decided something needed to change. I saw an orthopeodist who recommended physical therapy. I did that for six months and it seemed to help…
But then my lower back started aching…constantly. Getting worse and worse every day. The 10 Advil per day wasn't cutting it. On top of that, I had two more terrible flares in quick succession.
An MRI and a few blood tests later, and I'm diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. That very day, my research began.
What followed were probably the worst three months of my life. I made a commitment to myself that I would try everything that promised a cure or a solution. Most of it made things worse…much worse.
I was in constant, agonizing pain. Muscle relaxers, pain killers, you name it. And nothing seemed to help. Plus the anti-inflammatories the doc had given me were tearing up my stomach.
And then I found it. The research supporting the diet. The needle in the rough. And everything changed…
Within days I began to feel better, could feel the inflammation, the pain leaving my body. Within two weeks, I was a new man. I felt so good I took a trip down Highway 1 from San Francisco to LA by myself. (I might have even snuck out onto some rocks illegally in a state park just because I was so darn excited to be able to CLIMB rocks!)
Over the next year or so, I continued to experiment with the diet, verifying what I was already almost certain of — food is at the root of the problem for me, and it probably is for you, too. I tried various supplements, medications, etc. to see how all of them impacted how I felt, but the most important factor was always what I ate.
Once I had that nailed down, it was time to start living the life that had been stolen from me, so I took an extended 3 month trip through South America all on my own, learning Spanish in Buenos Aires, seeing the magnificent glaciers and mountains of Patagonia, experiencing the awesome power of Iguazu Falls at the Brazil / Argentina border, and the wonder of total desolation in the Atacama deserts of Chile. Then I wrapped it all up on the Carribean coast of Columbia on a small fishing island off the coast of Cartagena. To see about half of the photos I took on that trip, go here.
Since I've returned home, I moved across country, now living less than a mile from the Pacific in sunny San Diego. Even though my AS doesn't play a role in my life, unfortunately I am not physically invincible — I now get beat up and banged up from attempting to surf in waves far too big for me, have injured my neck doing a bodybuilding competition, etc... but I'll take it!