Are you planning a big holiday meal to make up for the family that can't be at your Thanksgiving table? I hope you enjoy all your favorite dishes. And that you safely celebrate this special holiday. But I also hope that all that indulging doesn't leave you with big toe pain. Because, unfortunately, I see a lot of cases of post-holiday gout.
That's why, before the big meal, I'm going to help you understand gout better. I hope that helps you make smart choices at Thanksgiving. So you avoid the terrible big toe pain that usually means a gout flare up. And you don't have to miss Black Friday for an emergency visit with me, your Houston podiatrist.
What is Gout?
Here's a strange fact. Gout is actually a kind of arthritis. But it's a very different kind of arthritis.
When you have osteoarthritis, your condition progresses. Pain gradually gets worse, as the arthritis does more damage to your joints. With gout, that's not exactly the case.
You see, gout is a chronic condition. But you don't always experience gout symptoms (more about those in a minute.) Instead, you're more likely to get "flares" of gout. And when you get those flares, like so many people do right after Thanksgiving? Your podiatrist is often the one to let you know it's gout.
Why is that the case? One of the most common gout symptoms is that your big toe is red, swollen and throbbing. That toe (and even more of your foot) will also be in so much pain that even the touch of a thin sheet is excruciating. Which means you won't be going back to sleep if you're woken up in the night by gout pain.
But what makes gout pop up? You develop gout symptoms when uric acid builds up in your joints. (While it usually starts in your big toe joint, it coudl happen anywhere.) Once that acide builds up, you get the violent, painful symptoms we just described. And thatdo's why you want to avoid gout flares as much as possible.
What Causes Uric Acid Buildups?
We say uric acid builds up in your joints. But really, you have to worry about higher than normal concentrations of uric acid in your body. And there are two ways that can happen.
Here's the first path to problems. Sometimes, your body makes too much uric acid. And here's the second way you get in trouble: your body loses the ability excrete those acids. Of course, these issues don't just happen for no reason. In fact, both of those situations are greatly affected by your diet. Which is why holidays like Thanksgiving or Super Bowl Sunday often send patients rushing to my office with gout pain.
Foods That Trigger Gout Attacks
You can't talk about a gout diet without talking about purines. Purine is a chemical compound that can increase your risk for a gout attack. And it's found in many different foods we love to eat on holidays. These include proteins (especially organ meat like pâté or chopped liver.) Seafood, like scallops and caviar, are also major sources of purines.
But so are some fruits, such as cherries. And high-fructose corn syrup can also be a problem. Which means even that favorite canned cranberry sauce could be a gout trigger.
And wait, there's more. Gout attacks are caused by an increased CONCENTRATION of uric acid. That means you've got uric acid from the food you eat. But it also means your body has less liquid to dilute that acid. In other words, when you're dehydrated, uric acid gets more concentrated in your body. Now let's get to the really bad news. Salty foods are dehydrating. So say good bye to those pre-dinner nuts. And so is alcohol, which means that holiday toasts (and your favorite beer) could cause major problems.
Now you see why Thanksgiving meals and Super Bowl parties create the perfect storm of gout-triggers. You munch on food that increase uric acid production. And you guzzle dehydrating beverages that increase the acid’s concentration in your body.
Diagnosing and Treating Gout in Houston
How will you know you’ve got gout? Don’t worry, it won’t be subtle! Your big toe will be very red, hot and swollen. And you’ll be in terrible, terrible pain.
Are you there already? Don’t panic: there are ways to stop the pain, fast! But first you have to get into my office. As fast as you possibly can. (But you'll probably need a ride, since driving could be too painful for you.
So, if gout pain wakes you up at night, don't stay at home and hope things get better. Instead, schedule an immediate appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider. I can diagnose your gout pain. And come up with a feel-better-fast plan that offers quick and effective pain relief.