By: Rick Bellanti – Aug. 2017
As a gout sufferer for almost 20 years, I thought I could shed a little light on this painful yet manageable disease.
Back as early as 1997, I was suffering from a severe amount of foot pain (more specifically my big toe and on both feet). It eventually got so bad that my toes became really swollen and red during this painful time; I thought I was suffering from a bunion and after a few days the pain would subside and eventually go away for a few months and then come back. Each time it would come back, it seemed to get worse. It made it hard to plan trips and vacations where you can do a lot of walking. I did all I could to help my “bunion” problem, until 2005 when the gout attack was so bad, I could no longer put a shoe on or walk normally, and at the time I was a Security Officer and walking was a major part of my job.
I made an appointment with a podiatrist and as soon as I walked in, his reaction was shock as he said: “That’s the worst case of gout I’ve ever seen”. This was the first time I had heard of the word gout and certainly not the last. He put me on two different medications and almost immediately the pain and swelling went away. I still take these two medications every day to keep my gout away or at least keep the attacks at a very minimal, because there is no cure but there is a way to keep it manageable.
So what is gout?
Gout is a form of painful arthritis and inflammation, and occurs when uric acid crystals build up and settle in your joints, some people experience it in the knees or elbows, most common is the big toe (which is where mine is). If you have high levels of uric acid in your blood it’s called hyperuricemia, your liver metabolizes the uric acid, and the kidneys get rid of it when you go to the bathroom. The levels of uric acid build up when not enough uric acid is eliminated or too much uric acid is being produced. Purines in our food which makes the uric acid levels in our blood increase, brings on gout attacks but also, heightens your risk for developing kidney stones.
When you are experiencing a gout attack you will notice the effected joint will feel hot, swollen, even turn red and will become very sensitive to the touch, the onset of pain will increase for 24-48 hours if untreated. Blood and urine tests are always recommended to measure the level of uric acid in your blood. Taking in fluids dilutes the levels of uric acid, so drinking at least 64 ounces of water a day is ideal for breaking down uric acid levels to the point where gout pain decreases.
If you are experiencing gout flare-ups, it could be one of a few reasons and risk factors; males over 40 years old, family members with a history of gout, obesity, aspirin medications, a diet consisting of high purine foods or high-fructose drinks, like juices, energy drinks and sodas and also consuming alcohol on a regular basis. Even though obesity is one of the factors, so is losing weight too rapidly, can also bring on an attack, if you are already suffering from high uric acid in the blood.
More often than not, it has to do with our diet and what we are eating. It’s best to stay clear of certain foods when you have high uric acid, have had gout attacks in the past or family members that have had it as well.
Those foods with high purine levels should be avoided at all costs such as: game meats, like liver, kidneys, goose, duck, pork and lamb, too much red meat and processed meats like cold-cuts, bacon, hotdogs and sausage are very bad. Canned fish like herring, anchovies, crab and sardines are very high in purine. Peanuts and peanut butter and anything with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners are best to stay clear of, or enjoy very small amounts in your diet (as long as you are not in the middle of a gout attack).
Alcohol consumption and Gout: Studies have shown that men who drank as little as 4 beers a week increased their chance of gout attacks by 25%, and those that drink at least two beers a day increased by two hundred percent. That amount jumps another 60% with a hard liquor drink although there have been no signs of increase among wine drinkers.
A clean diet of fresh organic fruits and vegetables, low fat milk and cheeses, eggs, brown rice and whole grain breads, almond butter (instead of peanut butter) drinking plenty of water to flush out those kidneys and medications prescribed by your physician will help keep flare ups from happening. During a flare up, 100% cherry juice or fresh cherries has been known to help with the pain.
Losing weight is a plus, so get out there and walk and get more daily exercise in. Burn some calories and eat smart and you’ll feel much better.
Rick Bellanti is a health and wellness columnist and is on a journey himself to lose 240 lbs, and has lost 160 lbs since the start of 2015. If you have any questions or comments, please post them to his Getting Healthy with Rick Bellanti Facebook page and once a month he will address a few of the topics here.