The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

All I Want For Christmas Is a Gout-Free Holiday

Posted by on Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

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I’ll never forget the Christmas my mom got gout. I was planning to visit her house for Christmas dinner, but she called me Christmas Eve in tears. “You’ve got to help me! My foot ballooned in size, it’s hot, it’s tender to the touch, and it is KILLING ME!” she said. She had no idea what ailed her, but I had a pretty good idea it was gout.

gout attack
The holidays are the worst time to have a gout attack, but also the most common time.
Image Source: GoutEducation.org

What Is Gout? What Are the Symptoms of Gout?

By definition, gout is “one of the most painful forms of arthritis” that forms when uric acid builds up in the body, causing sharp crystal formation in the joints — especially in the big toe. Gout can also affect your instep, ankle, heel, knees, wrists, elbows and fingers. The pain is so bad, it can wake you from slumber. The area turns red, stiffens, and hurts intensely. The symptoms appear suddenly and can last from three to ten days, but then usually subside until the next “gout attack.”

What Causes Gout? What Are Common Gout Triggers?

In my mother’s case, it wasn’t hard to figure out what triggered her gout. Stress can bring about a gout attack — and with the holidays coming, it’s no wonder why so many people develop the condition at the worst possible time. More significantly, gout is caused by the buildup of too much uric acid in the body. This uric acid comes from the breakdown of purines. These natural substances are found in all your tissues and provide part of the chemical structure of genes. They serve as a helpful  antioxidant, too. However, gout proves you can have too much of a good thing. Purines are found in extremely high concentrations in many foods, such as:

– Organ meats like liver, kidney, and brains

– Gravies

– Sweetbreads

– Seafood like anchovies, mackerel, herring, sardines, and mussels

According to WHFoods.com, other foods to limit on a gout diet include: asparagus, bacon, beef, bluefish, bouillon, calf tongue, carp, cauliflower, chicken, chicken soup, codfish, crab, duck, goose, halibut, ham, kidney beans, lamb, lentils, lima beans, lobster, mushrooms, mutton, navy beans, oatmeal, oysters, peas, perch, pork, rabbit, salmon, shellfish (shrimp), snapper, spinach, tripe, trout, tuna, turkey, veal, and venison.

To celebrate Christmas Eve, my mother had eaten a nice hearty meal of bacon-wrapped shrimp with asparagus and a glass of red wine. She couldn’t have picked a worse smorgasbord! Of course, not everyone who eats these foods will suffer a gout attack. Her friend who dined with her was just fine.

Unfortunately, my mother had a lot of known risk factors against her. She suffers from obesity, type II diabetes, and high blood pressure. Hypothyroidism, dehydration, drug use, and alcoholism are other conditions that can increase one’s risk of gout. The hydrochlorothiazide water pills and low-dose aspirin she was taking have both also been linked to gout attacks. Cyclosporine, levodopa, and niacin supplements also have a gout connection, although my mother wasn’t on any of those.

What Can You Do If Gout Strikes During the Holidays?

Usually people would see their podiatrist to ask about their feet. Yet, being Christmas Eve, we were really in a bind. It wasn’t easy finding an emergency center to take her during the holidays. Many clinics were closed — and the ones that were open were jam-packed. (But it was better than the emergency room where you aren’t likely to be seen unless you are unable to breathe!)

gout medication
Your foot doctor will most likely recommend short or long-term prescription medication to manage your gout flare-up.
Image Source: HCPLive.com

For chronic gout sufferers, prescription medication can be just as crucial as diet. The medical staff gave her diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory medicine that would work quickly. Indomethacin and colchicin are other similarly prescribed medicines. People who suffer from gout frequently may take allopurinol pills daily to reduce the production of uric acid. If you’re really in a pinch, over-the-counter naproxen or ibuprofen can take the edge off. Drinking plenty of water, resting the affected joint, and using cold compresses several times a day can also help, says WebMD.

If this has been your first attack, don’t assume this will be the last. See a podiatrist to find out what you can do to manage your health! Half a year later, mom suffered another attack. This time her podiatrist told her about tart cherry juice supplementation. She’s been on it ever since and, thankfully, we haven’t had another attack.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.