So how does it all work?
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a chronic form of inflammatory arthritis. It is a systemic autoimmune disease, meaning that it affects the entire body, and it is caused by the immune system identifying the body’s own cells as a threat and attacking them.
It causes inflammation in the spine and major joints. Over time, chronic inflammation of the spine (spondylitis) leads to complete fusion and immobility (ankylosis). You may have heard it referred to as poker back or bamboo spine. These are the elderly people you see hunched over, unable to stand straight. Some unable to walk at all. If left untreated, this disease is completely debilitating.
The interesting thing about AS is that it is genetic. The most commonly known gene is the HLA-B27, however, research is continually discovering new genes that may play a part in passing on the disease. A common bacterium found in everyone’s gut known as Klebsiella pneumoniae, mimics the HLA-B27 gene. As the bacteria multiply, the immune system attacks them and, inadvertently, begins to attack itself, resulting in painful inflammation throughout the entire body.
So how do we stop this badass bacterium?
Luckily for AS sufferers, a man named Professor Ebringer made the connection between the disease and the bacterium, and looked for a way to stop this internal warfare. He found that the klebsiella feed on indigested starch in the gut, and that by removing all starch from the patient’s diet, he was preventing the bacterium from multiplying. So to stop the body from attacking itself, he was simply starving the bug.