- This is why ‘The Disease of Kings’ is no laughing matter
- The foods that increase your risk…
- …and what you can do to reduce that risk, naturally
I feel like I ought to write today’s letter in Old English…
Sorry, Ye Olde English…
Because a surprising number of Good Lifers have written in about gout.
That’s right – gout. That staple of black and white comedies.
In fact, one of my favourite Laurel & Hardy films is based around one of the boys’ uncles getting his gout ridden foot trodden on, slammed in car doors, and attacked by a dog…
So for years, if I heard about anyone suffering from gout, it brought a smile to my lips. Terrible I know, but I just couldn’t help it.
Besides, gout was always associated with living the high life. Too much wine, too much rich food and gout would rear its comedy head.
But the truth is far from funny…
Gout is a form of arthritis, sometimes referred to as a crystal arthropathy where bits of hard rock like substances begin to form in the joints.
Needless to say this is particularly painful, and if you know a sufferer I bet they are completely fed up with everyone telling them that the condition is due to too much fatty meat, too much red wine and port and too little vegetables.
This is the received wisdom that we have for this condition, and those who succumb to it are made the object of ridicule.
The concept that only those of financial well standing could afford the debauched lifestyle that was linked to gout was the reason it became known as the disease of kings (and the king of diseases) – but in fact there is only evidence that one English king succumbed.
Henry the VIII had many health problems in his later life that included crystal arthropathies, syphilis and an ulcerated leg wound which would finally take his life.
The myth of wealth being the cause of the condition was continued by English caricaturists like William Hogarth and James Gillray who liked to portray the eighteenth century Tories as being overweight and gouty.
The truth is that anyone can suffer from gout, not just those of opulent tastes – so I think we can safely lose the ‘disease of kings’ tag now can’t we?
When you can take the good life too far…
If there was an awards ceremony organized by the country’s illnesses and diseases, Gout would definitely win the Best Comeback category.
It currently affects around 600,000 people in the UK, with us men being the main targets.
Now, you may think this is down to the fact that we like our food and drink more than the ladies, and tend to overdo it when Wales win a rugby match.
But that not the whole truth.
Over indulging in beer and wine, and stuffing your face with food will INCREASE your risk of a gout attack, but it’s not the CAUSE.
No – the blame for this ‘fashionable’ disease lies in the way your body deals with a natural chemical called urate.
This is a compound that the body needs to keep within specific limits. It is produced from the breakdown of specific proteins called purines which are found in foods like liver, game meat, anchovies, sardines and dried beans and peas.
The problem is we sometimes have too much of it.
Now usually, your body gets rid of excess urate through the kidneys. Problem solved. But some of us just can’t get rid of enough, which causes the urate to build up and form crystals in the joints.
And boy are they painful.
So what can you do?
Well, as ever, the mainstream just can’t reach for those pills fast enough…
The treatments with the nasty side effects
Currently there seem to be three treatments favoured by the medics…
The first port of call is to treat this condition with Acute attacks of gout non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. Naproxen).
That’s right – the dreaded NSAIDs are back!
And on the surface they seem to do a pretty good job in dulling the pain and helping ease inflammation.
But NSAIDs are notorious when it comes to side-effects…. indigestion, rashes, headaches, dizziness, even asthma can all be triggered by these man-made beauties.
And if that’s not enough, your doctor may be forced to reach for his prescription pad and get you on a course of cortisone drugs.
In short – steroids…. and I probably don’t need to tell you about the issues with them.
Lastly, the drug of choice now seems to be something called Allopurinol which does seem to be effective with few side effects. Although like NSAID’s Stomach upset, nausea, diarrhoea, or drowsiness may occur.
Now, if you or a family member suffers from gout, and your doctor prescribes you any of these – I’d have to tell you to go along with it. Always remember, your doctor’s advice should ALWAYS be acted on when it comes to conditions like these.
But I’m here to give you other sides to the story – ones which will make you more informed and more in control of your life.
The natural ways to tackle gout
- Colchicine is an old-fashioned remedy from meadow saffron (the autumn crocus) and as far as I can tell, it works just as well as NSAIDs. But without the side effects. Importantly this is also an option for your doctor to prescribe (but many don’t know about it!)
- Tart Cherry – tart cherries have long been used by traditional healers as a folk remedy for gout, because cherries are thought to lower urate levels in the body, due to a brilliant little substance called anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins block two enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2, which help produce yet another long, complicated word prostaglandins. All I understand is you DON’T want these hanging around – because they seem to be a vital part of the whole process of inflammation.
- Lose weight. If you’re overweight, there’s a greater chance that your urate levels will be higher than normal, so shifting a few pounds is a priority. However don’t go mad on this and look like a WAG.
Starving yourself to death or running till you collapse doesn’t help anyone. In fact, losing weight too fast can actually increase your urate levels! So take it easy, and lose weight bit by bit.
- Cut out this kids’ ‘nightmare food’. If you want to tackle gout, you’ll need to give up all those offally treats like liver and kidneys. Offal is incredibly rich in purines.
- Go green. One of the benefits of Chlorella (something I wrote about a few weeks ago) is that it helps the body remove toxins, and improves kidney function. This can significantly reduce the levels of urate in the blood.
For more information on gout – check out this site: The UK Gout Society
You can download a free information booklet ‘All About Gout: A Patient Guide to Managing Gout’.
So, I hope todays newsletter has been useful to those who have written in to me and for those who still think of gout as a good laugh I hope you now have a better insight into the condition.
I promise you that none of the sufferers will be laughing!
Yours, as always,