Welcome back! Last week, we talked about suicide. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.
This week we are going to talk about Gout. I had a special request to cover this topic, and as with all special requests, we try to honor them. Sometimes when one requests a certain topic, I won’t cover it if it’s been covered before, so if you ask for a topic and don’t see it, check back through all the old blogs and you’ll find it covered there.
What is the definition of Gout?
The Mayo Clinic tells us that “gout is a common and complex form of arthritis that can affect anyone. It’s characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in one or more joints, most often in the big toe.
“An attack of gout can occur suddenly, often waking you up in the middle of the night with the sensation that your big toe is on fire. The affected joint is hot, swollen and so tender that even the weight of the bedsheet on it may seem intolerable.“
What happens in our body to create Gout?
Our bodies make something called uric acid. Something called urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood. Gout happens when those crystals build up in your joint and cause inflammation and horrific pain.
Uric acid is produced when your body is breaking down something called purines. Purines are found naturally in our bodies, but they are also found in some foods like red meat, organ meats (think liver), seafood such as anchovies, sardines, mussels, scallops, trout, and tuna. Drinks sweetened with fruit sugar, also known as fructose, also promote higher levels of uric acid, along with alcoholic beverages with beer being the biggest culprit.
Now, on a normal day, uric acid dissolves in your blood and you pass it into your urine. No big deal, a normal event. But on days when your body produces too much uric acid (or your kidneys don’t get rid of enough uric acid), then the acid builds up and forms super sharp, almost needlelike crystals in a joint or the tissue around that joint, which then causes the pain, inflammation, and swelling that we call Gout.
So who is more at risk of experiencing Gout? There are several risk factors.
- Family History: If mom or dad had Gout, you are more likely to get it as well.
- Age and Sex: Women generally have lower uric acid levels than men, so you will see that men come down with Gout more often than women. After menopause, however, all bets are off as then women’s levels equal that of men’s.
- Surgery or trauma: Having recently gone through a surgical procedure, or even something as simple as getting a vaccination can be enough to trigger an attack.
- Medications: If you take low-dose aspirin on a regular basis, or medication to control high blood pressure, those medications can increase uric acid levels.
- Medical Conditions: Untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart and kidney diseases, and obesity will increase your risk of Gout.
- Obesity: Having the medical condition of obesity means that your body produces more uric acid and your kidneys have a harder time getting rid of the acid. This is a double whammy for women following menopause, as that’s when weight tends to go up at the same time our body is now naturally producing more uric acid.
- What you eat: if you eat a diet that contains a lot of red meat and shellfish, and are drinking beverages made with fructose, you are at higher risk for Gout. Add in a beer and there ya go.
Gout in and of itself is horrific enough but it can, and sometimes does get worse.
Some folks get gout and they never experience it again. Others might have it several times a year. If you fall into the latter category, there are medications available to prevent those recurrent attacks. Please keep in mind, that untreated gout can cause erosion and destruction of a joint. It’s nothing to ignore.
Advanced gout may cause there to be deposits of crystals that form under the skin in what they call tophi (TOE-fie). Tophi are little nodules and can develop in areas such as your fingers, hands, feet, elbows, and Achilles tendons that run along the back of your ankle. On a day-to-day basis, tophi aren’t normally painful, but during a gout attack, they can become swollen and create pain.
Kidney stones are another side effect of people who experience gout. The Urate crystals collect in the urinary tracts causing kidney stones. There are also medications available to reduce the risk of these stones.
How do I change my diet?
Having had numerous friends that experienced gout, I can tell you that it’s worth preventing. Changes in lifestyle and medications will go a long way in resolving this issue. You don’t have to suffer, thank goodness. There is hope for a change in circumstances.
To help our readers, we are including a couple of websites that will help you manage your gout attacks. The first one is from John Hopkins Medicine. They give us gout-friendly recipes. For that link, click HERE.
The second link we’d like to offer is one that gives you a “food swap” option. Eat this, not that. This one comes from Very Well Health. For that link, click HERE.
Lastly, I would like you to consider switching to a plant-based diet. For your consideration, here is a link that is easy to read and makes sense. Click HERE. If you like what you see, there is a plethora of information online regarding plant-based eating. It is truly (in my opinion) a path to health.
As always, this blog is not a replacement for sound medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please make an appointment to see your healthcare provider and put a good plan in place that works for you and the needs of your body.
That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.
Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!