If you’re like me – and recently recovered from a prolonged gout attack, you are probably nervously wondering what you have to do to make sure you never go through this unusually painful, crippling trauma all over again. It’s bad enough when a gout attack gets you down for 3-5 days, but when the swelling and pain lasts for several weeks, it can be a life changing experience – one that you don’t ever want to go through again. The question then becomes, can you prevent a gout attack with reasonable changes to your lifestyle that won’t completely take the food, drink and fun completely out of your life? I am convinced there is a reasonable plan for preventing gout attacks. From my last, and most lengthy gout attack, I learned there are five Rules of action and prevention we should pay attention to in order to avoid re-occurrence of this burdensome ailment:
The Five Rules for Gout Prevention
- Starving to Death isn’t the answer
- Teetotalers Get Gout Too
- Not all water is created equal
- Don’t be an extremist.
- When gout pain starts, treat it early and often
A Gout-Free Lifestyle
Starving to death will definitely stop a gout attack dead in it’s tracks; both literally and figuratively. It may sound like I’m being faceitious, but as any gout victim knows, following the dietary restrictions and low purine diets from websites and doctors will eliminate all food from your diet. Just because high purine foods are associated with uric acid doesn’t mean they are the villain. Remember, an association is not a cause. For example, for years we’ve been told that foods which are high in cholesterol and saturated fats cause elevated cholesterol levels in our blood. That has been proven false: Fat and Cholesterol Myths. What’s worse, not everyone agrees on what foods are good for avoiding gout or what foods are bad for causing gout. A bit of common sense and moderation is in order here: For instance, know that lots of rich and processed meats probably are putting you at increased risk. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat bacon or other rich, red meat – it just means be reasonable and moderate. For instance, I noticed that my gout attacks often occurred after prolonged diets of rich ham and soups after the holidays, so I try to avoid prolonged, frequent, repetitive eating of those foods. Everything in life requires balance. Eat the foods you like, but make sure it is not too heavy on one particular type. Incorporate variety and enjoy them all. Eliminating something that is nutritious and good is counterproductive and could result in other health problems. Don’t make unhealthy habits a part of your gout prevention plan.
Notice how whenever we have health problems the first thing doctors tell us to do is tell us to stop eating and drinking all of the things we like: No alcohol; no coffee; no red meat – no fun! It feels like we are being punished for enjoying life. Does it have to be this way? For obvious reasons, alcohol and coffee can play a role in a gout attack because these things dehydrate body. By dehydrating our bodies we are promoting a higher concentration of uric acid production and prohibiting it from being flushed out through our kidneys. While alcohol and coffee can be contributing factors, they alone, are not the cause. I know people who don’t touch alcohol or coffee and who get gout attacks regularly. I also know of heavy drinkers who have never had a gout attack. Knowing how painful it is, if completely eliminating alcohol and coffee from our lifestyle was the answer, I think most gout sufferers would willingly make the decision to avoid coffee and alcohol for the sake of life free of gout attacks. Fortunately, that kind of extremism is not necessary. Why turn things we enjoy into the villain when they clearly play only one role in the problem? Gout is caused by a number of things and a combination of lifestyle choices. I will continue to enjoy alcoholic beverages and coffee in moderation as long as I know I’m drinking plenty of good water. That takes us to point number three in preventing or minimizing gout attacks.
Good and Bad Water: Is there a difference? I would have thought all water was pretty much the same. It’s wet, right? Not quite. Actually, not all water hydrates your body the same. Through all of my reading of the dozens and dozens of articles on gout I gained a better appreciation for water and how it hydrates the body. Cold water, for example, isn’t as hydrating as water drank at room temperature. The other important factor is the alkalinity of water. Water which is too low in PH is not nearly as beneficial as water which is higher than PH. Distilled water or bottled water is so low in PH that it can actually be counter-productive for hydration. Our water should be alkalizing enough to neutralize the acid that causes gout crystals to form. Our bodies PH balance is around 7.2 to 7.5. A perfect PH balance for water is between 8 and 9. Using my pool testing kit, I measured the PH balance of my tap water and bottled water. The tap water is 7.3 (which isn’t too bad). The bottled water is only 5.6 PH. Perhaps that explains why I always still feel thirsty after drinking bottled water? Numerous gout sufferers have sworn by the success of a gout remedy which prescribes an 8 ounce glass of water and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda every two hours. This might be a good way to fight a gout attack after it is already under way, but that much baking soda is not necessary as a means of warding off a gout attack. I’ve found that adding 1/8th teaspoon of baking soda to my tap water raises the PH from about 7.3 to 8.0. Another way to drink healthier water is to squeeze fresh lemons it. Though Lemons are acidic, they are alkalizing to the body as they are consumed. Lemon water is a very healthy way to keep the body hydrated. My latest gout attack has made me appreciate good water. I always plan on having lemon water around and if I feel like I may have put myself at risk with too many rich, acidic foods or alcohol, I will compensate for it with some baking soda water. The key is to avoid extremism, which is point number, four for gout prevention.
Extremism is the real villain behind a gout attack. A lot of alcohol, certain rich foods, lots of coffee and lack of proper hydration over an extended period of time is definitely going to put ourselves at risk for a gout attack or even a kidney stone. Is it any coincidence that gout attacks are most common after the holidays? We’re eating lots of rich, acidic foods and desserts; drinking plenty of wine, beer and other types of alcohol and doing it on a consistent basis between late November and January 1st. On top of this extreme behavior, we’re probably not doing anything extra to compensate for our body’s lack of proper hydration. By using simple, common sense and keeping an eye on what we’re eating, drinking and doing, we can put ourselves in a position of heightened awareness and take the above steps necessary for staying gout-free. When the first symptom of gout is pain in the toe, we know that some damage has already been done to our body. When it gets to this point then what do we do to for full-scale prevention?
The most important thing we can do is recognize that the pain or aches we feel in our toe or foot are probably not a sprain or strained joint, but the beginning stages of a gout attack. I can remember how my left, big toe was feeling tender for several weeks prior to this most recent, long-lasting gout attack. I ignored it for several weeks thinking it was either going to go away on its own or that if it wasn’t bad then, it wouldn’t get any worse. It’s no wonder my gout lasted so long – it took several weeks to get to the point where it became a painful enough emergency for me to do something about it. Lesson learned and I will never let this happen again. My new plan of attack is to begin progressiveness anti-inflammatory treatment immediately. At the very onset of even the slightest pain in the toe, I will begin taking 1 Aleve at a time, every 8-12 hours until the pain is completely unnoticeable. If 1 Aleve at a time does not completely erase even the slightest hint of pain, I will increase the dosage to 2 each day. If that doesn’t get rid of the pain, I will go for the recommended prescription therapy which is Indocin (Indomethacin). The key is to never let the gout get to the point where the pain and swelling are unmanageable. While taking drugs like Aleve or Indocin, I recommend taking a good antacid like Prilosec with each dosage to prevent the stomach problems caused by these pain killers. I am confident that had I nipped my slight, toe-pain in the bud months ago, I would have never had the occasion to write this article. I’m thankful for what I learned and hopefully this information will be helpful not only to me, but to others. To make it simple and easy to remember, here is my formula:
Gout Prevention Formula
[Regular Food] + [Good Water] – [Extremism] + [Pain Killers at First Sign of Toe-Pain]
Blood Donations for Gout
Since writing this, I’ve recently read some very convincing information about regular blood donating, brine baths and certain supplements which can virtually eliminate the risk for gout. Apparently, the iron in our blood which is measured by our ferritin levels should ideally be below 55. A standard blood test will not give you a ferritin reading – you will have to ask your doctor for that. Good luck with that – my doctor completely ignored me when I requested that. If you’ve already had a gout attack, chances are good that your ferritin levels are well above 150. You can reduce your ferritin by 20 points with each blood donation and blood can be donated every 2 months. SO, in a one year period, you can reduce your ferritin by a total of 240 points. According to the information I’ve read, however, having ferritin below 35 is not good either, so maybe a specific blood test for ferritin is a good idea. In addition to the regular blood donations, take 2mg of copper daily, 200mg of Magnesium and 800mg of Vitamin D. Read more about it here: Gout Prevention Through Regular Blood Donations
Brine Baths for Treating Gout
This same excellent website, Gout Online, also has another great tip: Brine Baths. Simply fill up your bath tub with hot water (as hot as you can stand) and about 6lbs of regular, table salt. You can buy table salt very cheaply in 50lb bags in a hardware or department store in the swimming pool department for under $6.00. This works best if you have a really deep bathtub – deep enough so you can be immersed up to your neck. The hot salt water actually extracts the uric acid and other toxins from your body while at the same time, providing relief for the kidneys. I’ve tried this and it is actually quite easy to do. The salt water doesn’t irritate the skin. The brine baths are obviously a great thing to do while you’re suffering a gout attack, but also recommended on a once-per-week basis for preventing gout attacks in the first place. Buy a 50lb back and make it a regular once a month or once a week habit. While my first part of the article deals mostly with short term tips to help avoid gout. These last two tips are long term ways to get gout out of your life entirely.
Cherries for Gout Help
It is a scientific fact that cherry consumption (especially the tart ones) acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Gout sufferers have reported great results in reducing their pain and swelling by consuming cherries. There’s only one problem – you need to eat lots of them regularly. Some recommendations are 40 or more per day. It’s hard to eat that many fresh cherries and extremely expensive buying enough cherry juice to drink every day. There is another way: Dehydrated Cherries.You can buy these in the 20oz bag online or at your local grocery or Costco store for about $14.00 or so. I’m not exactly sure how many cherries come in a 20oz bag, but it is quite easy to get 40 of them in one big handful. Since the cherries are dried, they are small and take up very little space. Even bags of cherries however, are expensive to eat regularly. IF you’re a gout sufferer, buy large bulk quantities of dried cherries and keep them on hand at all times. They are delicious. You can save big on cherries for gout by buying them in the 4lb box below.
Update: August 8, 2012
This last weekend I suffered my 4th Gout attack in about 8 years. They do seem to occur more often as you get older. I’m 51 and believe this stuff started about 8 years ago. I’ve given only two blood donations and according to the theory that blood donations help, it may take quite a few more than that before I begin to benefit from them. The ferritin levels in our blood should be between 35 and 55 according to one expert who swears by this theory: Scroll above to the title, Blood Donations for Gout for a link. Now back to my gout. This most recent attack started out as a very minor swelling on the tip of my 2nd, right toe on Saturday Night. I now know better than to consider the beginning of any gout attack as innocent or minor. They often seem that way at first and grow into a huge, traumatic ordeal if left alone too long.
Observations from Most Recent Gout Attack – Day -6
1. 3 x 200mg Ibuprofen every 4-6 hours seems to work much better than taking 2 or 3 aleve every 8-12 hours.
2. After the swelling from the tip of the toe was gone, I stopped taking the ibuprofen and two days later it’s back throughout the middle and bottom of the toe – and worse.
3. I’ve tried baking soda and brine baths – so far, can’t tell if they are doing any good.
4. Have been taking 1000MG of Cherry Extract and 1500MG of Celery Seen extract for 4th straight day. No noticeable benefits.
Day Six of Gout Attack
The pattern seems to be that the gout attacks in one small spot of the toe than moves towards the foot. I felt measurably better yesterday. Then suffered with aching, needle-like pains in my toe all night long and woke up with the swelling bigger than every, but in the larger part of the toe. This was after following the brine bath remedies. About the only thing that I can really, for sure, bring relief is the Ibuprofen (3 at a time). I stop taking those I hurt and the swelling comes back. The cherries, celery seed, baking soda and water, brine baths, and prior 2 blood donations have not seemed to help. But who knows if there is some long-term, accumulative benefit to all of these prevention techniques? More later.
Is it Gout or a Fractured Toe?
The pain and swelling I had in my toe above, turned out to be a fractured toe. I guess I was so fearful and dreading another gout attack so much that I jumped to conclusions. This explains why the hot bath actually made it feel worse. When the swelling got even worse than what is pictured above, I decided to have the doctor take a look at it. Also, I requested to have the fluid sampled. The doctor immediately suspected it was a broken toe. She told me there wasn’t enough fluid to even check it. The difference between gout and a broken toe is the swelling and sensitivity to touch. My toe did not hurt to touch it. Merely, lightly touching a gout victim’s toe is enough to send them through the ceiling. It is shockingly painful to have gout. A broken toe is a nuisance, but not unbearable. I kept ice on it and it subsided after about 2 weeks. My blood tests showed that my uric acid was in the normal range, but a little on the high side. Not enough to consider any of those dangerous drugs for uric acid reduction. My advice for preventing gout for sufferers is the blood donations and regular brine baths. Keep your circulation moving by wiggling your toes and keeping them warm – and by all means, do NOT slam your toe into a door when walking barefoot around the house.