The Day I Was Diagnosed
When I was 25 years old, I was at the peak of health. I was a semi-professional athlete, I was very active in a variety of sports, and ran several miles a day.
One day while running, I stepped in a gopher hole and twisted my ankle. I wasn’t hurt badly, and I could still keep running. The next day my ankle and foot were shiny red and swollen, and it was tender to the touch, and it felt hot. It was so tender I couldn’t even put on a sock. My new wife wasn’t able to drive me to the doctor at the time, so I called my dad and he took me over to the local ER.
After two hours of prodding, X-rays, and some blood work, the doctor determined that I had a case of gout.
I had never heard of gout, and he explained it to me and gave me a couple of pamphlets. “But I turned my ankle” I told him. He said that was just secondary, the gout was inevitably going to attack that joint and the weakening caused by the injury just sped things up a bit.
I had never heard of gout before that day.
What Is Gout?
Gout is an extremely painful condition that occurs when there is the build-up of excessive uric acid levels in the body, specifically in the bloodstream. Once the uric acid becomes too saturated, it begins to crystallize like shards of glass, and your joints become clogged with these painful crystals.
Causes of Gout
The causes of gout are typically related to your lifestyle. If you eat a lot of pork, salmon (and other dark meat fish like tuna), sardines, organ meats, and dark green vegetables, or drink a lot of beer, you may be destined to become a gout statistic.
The other white meat, or pork, is one of the worst things that you can put in your body. Pork, like the rest of the foods that I mentioned, has in them or produces a lot of purines in your body after ingestion. The purines are what are causing the high uric acid levels.
Signs and Symptoms
The physical symptoms of gout are pretty general. First off, you have excruciating pain in the affected area. The skin of the affected area will be, in most cases, shiny and red (and of course swollen). The big toe is generally the place where a first-timer will experience an attack. It has been said that a sudden and acute attack of gout feels much like somebody walking into your room at night, and while you are sleeping, hits your big toe with a hammer. This is no joke. I have experienced this myself. Other symptoms may include malaise and flu-like symptoms, other body aches and irritability. Sometimes even a fever.
Development Over the Years
Over the years, gout has developed in other issues in my body. The high uric acid levels have damaged my kidneys, caused me to have kidney stones, and has spawned the development of regular osteo-arthritis in nearly all of my joints. It used to be that I would have 10 times as many pain-free days as I would have painful ones, now it is the reverse. I feel pain almost all of the time. I have bone spurs in my knuckles, knees, ankles, and in my spine. Now, the doctors are suspecting that I may have developed rheumatoid arthritis as well. Oh, joy.
How I've Changed My Lifestyle
I am 53 now, on the cusp of 54. Like I said before, I had my first attack when I was 25, so do the math. I have been dealing with this painful situation for over half of my life. During this time, I have learned a few things. A lot of what I have learned about dealing with this malady is based on self-discipline.
So how do I deal with it? It is hard.
Being a creature of habits that are hard to break, I have to use a lot of self-discipline to keep from having a beer on a hot summer day. But I know that as little as one glass can have me crippled by the next morning.
I like the taste of pork, but as I said above, it is a bad thing to eat if you have gout. As far as organ meats go, I never touch ‘em. But I did eat a lot of salmon and tuna, either fresh or in other forms.
Any alcohol at all is a no-no, but some types of liquor affect gout than others. Like I said, beer is the worst. Any kind of malt liquor is also bad. Whisky, brandy, and dark rum are not good either, but the clear liquors such as vodka, white rum, corn liquor (moonshine, everclear) are not as bad. Tequila is in a grey area, which is good for me because I like tequila as much as I like beer. I limit myself to about three glasses of red wine a week.
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As I've said, I don’t eat pork (maybe once in a while during the holidays). Vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, and beans are limited. Tree nuts and peanuts are limited as well, as well as another favorite of mine, peanut butter. The all-natural peanut butter is better for me, but it still causes problems, so I don’t. I also limit my portions of red meat as well, and drink about two gallons of water a day.
So what do I eat for my meals? Breakfast will consist of eggs and whole wheat toast, or oatmeal. My wife likes to cook grits occasionally, but they seem to aggravate the gout (hominy). I will have turkey bacon or even beef bacon once in a while.
Lunch is usually whatever we have leftovers of from the previous night, but it is usually chicken or ground turkey in a sandwich or a casserole. Dinner is about the same. My wife makes a delicious turkey meatloaf, and you’d swear it was beef.
As I am writing this, I am nursing a badly swollen knee joint that seems to be a combination of gout and osteo-arthritis. The doctor took a lot of fluid out of it two days ago, but it still has to heal more. I am being treated with anti-inflammatory meds.
The treatment for gout is easy and inexpensive. The doctor will almost always prescribe Naproxen Sodium (Aleve), and you can buy it cheaper over the counter. Allopurinol and Colchicine are also good maintenance medications, taken daily as a regimen. Do not take aspirin. Aspirin is a blood thinner and it inhibits the kidneys' ability to function properly and remove the uric acid from your body. (However, aspirin is good for osteo-arthritis if you don’t have gout.)
Ask your doctor if he or she recommends a daily aspirin regimen for cardiac issues if you also have gout. Eating cherries or drinking cherry juice (available at health food stores) daily can help thwart an attack.
Good preventive maintenance will prevent numerous days of agony from an attack. Eat right, drink lots of water, and eat fresh cherries or drink cherry juice daily. A good exercise program will also help keep the gout away.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Del Banks (author) from Southern Blue Ridge Mountains on April 28, 2014:
Update: I have gone totally vegetarian and bread free. In the last 14 months, I have lost 85 pounds, but have not gone hungry. You can eat plate full of fresh veggies until you are stuffed, and still only take in 500 calories. And gout? Non existent in my body now!
Don on July 15, 2013:
Get on Uloric folks, it helped me now attacks are seldom unless I go drinking more that natural.
Sean on November 17, 2011:
I have been suffering from gout for the past 8 years. I recently came across an excellent article that explains the misconceptions in the medical industry surrounding the gout diet. This is a re-print of the original newsletter: http://smokinchoices.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/gout...
It's a must-read from start to finish, then follow it up with a google search of the paleo diet. Thanks and best wishes
Del Banks (author) from Southern Blue Ridge Mountains on November 25, 2010:
One thing I failed to mention here was shellfish, oysters in particular. Shellfish will cripple a gout sufferer as quickly as beer will, so watch out for the oyster stuffing during the holidays!
Del Banks (author) from Southern Blue Ridge Mountains on November 21, 2010:
I'll bet that pill was colchicine. It works fast, and the usual directions are to take two to begin with, then one every hour until the symptoms are relieved or you start vomiting or get diarrea. I usually get relief first, then diarrea the next day.
The romans used colchicine for many things, one of which was as a poison. It also stimulates plant growth, but you can't eat the plants afterwords. Go figure.
American Romance from America on November 21, 2010:
Had my first gout attack at 45, wich was just a few months ago, I woke up with it in the morning and the pain was horrible! My doctor gave me a pill that made me sick but killed it overnight! I too drink beer and love pork! thanks for information I did not know about!