Living With Gout: A Lesson in Self Discipline
A Life of Pain
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 bad, 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 x-rays, groping, feeling and some blood work, the doctor determined that I had a case of the 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. 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 blood stream. Once the uric acid becomes too saturated, it begins to crystallize like shards of glass, and your joints become clogged with these painful crystals.
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 are 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.
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.
I love beer. I can’t say that enough, 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. The other white meat is also bad for many other reasons. See my blog on Hub Pages “The Other White Meat May Eventually Kill You”. As far as organ meats go, I never touch ‘em. But I did eat a lot of Salmon and Tuna, both either fresh or in many different forms.
Over the years, gout has developed into 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.
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, or having that extra shot of tequila with the boys. In fact, any alcohol at all is a no-no, but some types of liquor are less affective to the 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 3 glasses of red wine a week.
Like I 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 sucks to eat it, so I don’t. I also limit my portions of red meat as well, and drink about 2 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 awhile.
Lunch is usually whatever we have leftovers of from the previous night, but is usually chicken or ground turkey in a sandwich or a casserole. Dinner is about the same. My wife makes a delicious Turkey meat loaf, 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 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.
Copyright 2010 by Del Banks