I’m just about getting over a sharp bout of gout. This has to be one of the most painful afflictions. Within a day of the symptoms beginning my left big toe was incredibly painful, my foot was swollen and the shards of pain flashed down my leg. Unfortunately we were away on vacation as the attack struck, meaning the best drug available was double-dosed ibuprofen. The effectiveness of this drug is akin to peeing on a house fire. Unfortunately the affliction is largely invisible to folk, so they have no idea of the indescribable pain emanating from your big toe. If you’ve got a broken foot, people can see the cast. Slice your hand open and there’s a huge bandage. Even a cold is visible through your drippy, snotty nose, watery eyes and gravelly voice. But gout? None of that. Just a hobbling gait and winces every step.
Worse too, is the name. Gout. What kind of name is that for a debilitating affliction? Might as well call it ‘kitten foot’. Also, it’s caused by urea crystals gathering in the toe joint. Why the big toe? One of the most neglected yet most critical of all our digits – second only to the thumb, yet a poor relation in the world of digital dexterity. But back to the urea. My high school biology taught me that urea is basically urine, or a key component thereof. So this mighty affliction, this disabler of kings and noblemen is caused by crystallised wee-wee collecting in your big toe joint. Really?
Gout carries such a stigma also for the historic diagnosis. The rich-man’s disease. Caused by too much red wine and red meat. Gout is the condition the withered old General has, sitting in his bath chair with one foot raised and bandaged like a big balloon. Truth is, gout is caused by everything you have previously been told to eat for a healthy diet, and a few of the not-so-good items too, to be fair. So whilst organ meats and offal are key contributors, so too is shellfish, many of the oily fish which give Omega 3 fatty acids so vaunted for lowering cholesterol. Whole wheat bread is a no-no, so too are many vegetables. Beer apparently is a particularly bad contributor, yet wine is not such a problem. So much for the Port and Stilton hypotheses of old!
It seems also to be a condition that resolves itself, once the pain meds have eliminated the agony. My prescription is for anti-inflammatory drugs (not sure if they work on outspoken individuals too – maybe useful in quelling outbursts if they did). Nothing there to reduce urea levels – apparently the bodily caretakers just do that themselves. Presumably they use the toe joint as a convenient storage facility when there’s too much wee crystal for normal channels, or maybe a few of the cleaners took a night off to watch the footie – HA – pun!
So anyway, after a week, I can now get my shoes on and I can walk. So it’s now back to the gym, increase the water levels, reduce stress (oh, right!) and remove a few more of the nice-to-haves from my diet. You know, I’m not sure this healthy living actually makes you live longer, or if it just feels like that once all the nice things have been taken away from us!