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Gout and Your Gut: July 18, 2014

Historically, gout was considered a ‘rich man’s disease’.  The product of excess, it was associated with indulging in too much.

“It’s a condition it’s been around for ages and ages. We typically think of it as a disease caused by poor eating habits. The classic scenario is somebody that’s drinking heavily; eating fatty foods,” says Dr. Gary Goforth, who is a family practice physician for Lee Memorial Health System.

To get relief from crippling pain, sufferers would sometimes prop their foot on a pillow, adding to the stereotype. In reality, gout has spread to the common man. It is actually a case of acute arthritis.

“That causes extreme pain, swelling and redness in joints. The classic scenario the joint at the base of the right toe. Usually it lasts 24-48 hours,” says Dr. Goforth.

It is brought on by a buildup of uric acid, which has crystalized in the joints. Some people have a genetic predisposition; medication can also cause it. A common source of uric acid comes from the foods we eat: seafood rich in purines, meats, sugary drinks and alcohol. On the flip side, other foods may help control it.

“We tell people to eat fresh vegetables, eat more dairy products, drink coffee,” says Dr. Goforth. “People that eat high amounts of low fat dairy products and drink coffee have lower rates of gout.”

One aspect of the long-held belief that gout is rich man’s disease is in part true. While it has no link to wealth, gout is mostly a man’s disease.

“We see it a whole lot more in men. It can occur in women but is much more common in men. And I usually see them middle aged 30s or 40s,” says Dr. Goforth.

Despite the misconceptions- there is still a link between gout and your gut.