Dairy products could worsen, or even trigger, the crippling condition ankylosing spondylitis. The disease first affects the spine and then fuses together bones on the spinal column; it can also cause a stiffening of the muscles and joints around the
Conventional medicine is uncertain of its cause, but reckons it could be hereditary. But recent research could offer new hope to the many sufferers, who are offered nothing but nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease the pain.
Researchers advised 25 sufferers to cut out all dairy products including milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream and butter from their diets. After six weeks, 13 patients reported improvements, such as less pain and morning stiffness, fewer joint and spine symptoms, and less need for NSAIDs.
Surprisingly, perhaps, none of the 10 sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis showed any improvement, despite sticking to the diet.
The reasons for the success with ankylosing spondylitis are unclear, but the condition seems linked to a bacteria which is found in dairy products. The bacteria survives even the high-temperature processing that dairy products go through (Annals of Rheumatic Diseases 1994; 53:481-82 as reported in Townsend Letters for Doctors, April 1995).