A person’s weight can influence various aspects of ankylosing spondylitis (AS). For instance, AS chronic pain can limit mobility, reducing a person’s activity levels, which can lead to weight gain.

The relationship between weight and AS is complex.

On one hand, AS symptoms, such as pain and reduced mobility, can cause a person to live a sedentary lifestyle, contributing to weight gain. Conversely, complications, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), can lead to weight loss. A person’s body weight may also affect the efficacy of AS treatments.

Understanding the intricate relationship between AS and weight is crucial for managing the condition.

Read on to learn more about the link between AS and weight.

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People with AS experience chronic pain, fatigue, and stiffness. These symptoms can indirectly affect weight by reducing physical activity levels, decreasing the range of motion, and limiting daily activities.

As a result of decreased movement, calorie expenditure drops, and a person may gain weight.

Additionally, some medications used to treat AS can cause weight gain as a side effect. These include prednisone and TNF-a inhibitors.

Conversely, some people lose weight because of AS.

AS can trigger IBD and other digestive issues that affect weight and appetite. People may find it challenging to eat a balanced diet, which can lead to unintended weight loss and malnutrition.

According to research, about 1 in 4 people with AS experience malnutrition. It is important to note that this is not a healthy or advisable way to lose weight, as it can cause serious complications, even if a person is at a “normal” body mass index (BMI).

While weight does not directly worsen AS, obesity and higher body weight can adversely affect the disease’s severity, treatment response, and overall outcomes.

Excess body weight places additional stress on bones and joints. People with AS have more pressure on their vertebrae, which increases their pain. As a result, being at a higher weight may exacerbate this pain. The strain also accelerates the disease’s progression and damage to affected areas.

However, being underweight can also worsen symptoms.

A 2021 study found worse disease activity in both individuals who were underweight and had obesity. The authors note that for most people, it was best to aim for a moderate weight in order to achieve optimal treatment outcomes.

Maintaining a moderate weight is crucial for individuals with AS as it can positively impact disease management. It also reduces the risk of complications, such as heart disease.

Here are some tips for weight control tailored to individuals living with AS:

  • Eat a balanced diet: Focus on consuming a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet that contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Try to include anti-inflammatory foods, such as fatty fish, olive oil, nuts, and colorful fruits and vegetables. Consider consulting with a registered dietitian, who can provide personalized nutrition and meal planning guidance.
  • Try portion control: It is a good idea to be mindful of portion sizes to avoid overeating. Paying attention to hunger and fullness cues and practicing mindful eating by eating slowly and savoring each bite also helps.
  • Engage in physical activity: People can try low-impact exercises, such as swimming, cycling, and yoga. Consult with a physical therapist or exercise specialist to develop an exercise program that is safe and tailored to a person’s specific needs and limitations.
  • Seek support: Consider joining support groups or connecting with others with AS. Sharing experiences and tips with individuals facing similar challenges can provide motivation, encouragement, and practical advice for weight control. Organizations, such as the Spondylitis Association of America, provide valuable resources for helpful information.
  • Try stress management: Chronic stress can contribute to poor eating habits and weight gain. Explore stress-management techniques, such as relaxation exercises, meditation, deep breathing, or engaging in hobbies or activities that promote relaxation. Finding healthy ways to manage stress can support overall well-being and weight control.

Learn more about weight management tips.

Knowing when to contact a doctor is crucial for timely intervention and appropriate management. A person should seek medical advice if they:

  • experience new or worsening AS symptoms, such as increased joint pain, stiffness, swelling, or reduced mobility
  • have severe pain that current treatments do not adequately control
  • notice any unusual symptoms or complications beyond the typical manifestations of AS, such as eye problems or changes in bowel habits
  • experience bothersome side effects from AS medications

Also, as mental health is an integral part of overall well-being, a person should contact a doctor if they experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns.

The relationship between ankylosing spondylitis and weight is complex. It can influence disease activity, treatment response, and joint mechanics.

The key to weight control with AS lies in adopting a balanced diet, practicing portion control, engaging in regular physical activity, and effectively managing stress.

By maintaining a moderate weight, individuals with AS can potentially reduce their symptoms, improve their treatment outcomes, and enhance their quality of life.