I suffer from gout and would like more information about this condition. What foods should I avoid, and what foods can help me?”
–L.B., New York, N.Y.
Answer: Even though the pain may be in your big toe, what you put in your mouth really does matter. People with gout often wake up with an extremely painful, swollen joint, usually the big toe, but it could be any joint. You might have a fever, too. Gout occurs most often in men, and the condition can spread to other joints as the amounts of uric acid increase in the body.
Gout is associated with kidney stones, too, so getting to a physician is important. Now, if you wake up in the wee hours with gout, doctors usually recommend ibuprofen or naproxen to get you through the night because aspirin only makes it worse. As far as foods go, meats, especially organs (liver, kidney, brains) raise uric acid levels, increasing your risk for gouty attacks and kidney stones. You should also eliminate sugar and caffeine and go easy on anchovies, shellfish, mackerel, mushrooms and yeast (baker’s and brewer’s).
Another dietary consideration is to make your body more alkaline, and less acidic by eating more alkaline foods. Raw vegetables are a quick way to make your body more alkaline; lots of people juice them. People who go vegetarian make their body more alkaline naturally, so this is worth a try. There is some research to show that going alkaline can reduce arthritic pain. One popular book on the alkaline diet is “The pH Miracle,” by Dr. Robert and Shelly Redford Young, www.phmiracleliving.com
At some point, you should look in your medicine cabinet. Some drugs and supplements increase your risk for symptoms of gout. For example, insulin, levodopa (for Parkinson’s) aspirin, niacin (found in supplements and in the drug Advicor), excessive Vitamin A, cyclosporine (calms the immune system) and diuretics (water pills used for high blood pressure) can all contribute to gout.
Drinking alcohol matters too since your first attack may occur after excessive intake. Stress, overeating and bumping your toe have also been reported as factors in gout attacks. Colchicine is the prescription standard in treating gout and there are anti-inflammatory drugs your doctor can prescribe. Quercetin and bromelain are two natural and powerful anti-inflammatories which can reduce gouty attacks. Another simple supplement is a plant-based antioxidant, sold by your local health food store. Juice drinks are a tastier way to get the same type of antioxidants, which are very helpful at reducing inflammation and painful attacks. Obviously, if you have gout, life may not feel like a bowl of cherries but eating them can help tremendously. According to a popular folk remedy, you should eat a large cupful of cherries every day, fresh or frozen.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.