Rich Man's Gout: The Disease of Kings
Gout Throughout History
- Gout has been plaguing humanity for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Four thousand year old Egyptian mummies have been found that exhibit skeletal evidence of gout.
- Gout is one of the most extensively-documented diseases throughout history. Starting with the writings of Hippocrates in 400 BCE, the symptoms of gout have been documented in many medical texts, along with some interesting suggestions for cures.
- Some historical methods for curing gout were actually quite effective. Many medical texts encouraged sufferers to abstain from meat and alcohol, but consume dairy products. Other effective methods for reducing pain include soaking the affected area in cold water, which is still sometimes used today.
- Other cures were less effective. Some texts advise bloodletting as a cure. There are also many recipes for herbal poultices.
- People have come up with many explanations for the causes of gout over the years. From the first through early twentieth centuries, gout was thought to be divine punishment for living an excessively indulgent lifestyle.
- In reality, gout is caused by an excess of uric acid in the blood. This acid can crystallize and deposit in the joints. One of the main sources of uric acid is purines, which are found in rich foods. Gout flare ups are also associated with alcohol consumption and obesity.
- Historically, meat, alcohol, and obesity were luxuries only of the very rich, so gout was perceived to be a disease of the rich.
Some famous sufferers of gout:
- King Henry VIII
- Alexander the Great
- Queen Anne
- Leonardo DaVinci
- Christopher Columbus
Who is really at risk for gout?
There are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing gout. Although diet is a common risk factor, there are many others. If you have any of the following characteristics, you may have a higher than normal risk for developing gout.
- Gout usually affects men more than women, because men tend to have higher levels of uric acid. After menopause, women have increased levels of uric acid and are more at risk for gout.
- Gout usually appears between the ages of 40 and 50, although it may appear at other times.
- Genetics are also a factor. One in five people with gout has a family history of the condition. If gout runs in your family, you may have a higher risk level.
Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of developing gout. These include:
- High blood pressure
- High levels of cholesterol or fat in the blood
Certain medications can increase your risk of gout. These include:
- Some medications used to treat high blood pressure
- Anti-rejection drugs (used by organ transplant patients)
Historically, there was little that could be done about gout other than a change in diet. Fortunately modern medicine has developed many effective treatments. There are many prescription drugs available for the treatment of gout, although these may have adverse side effects and come at a high cost.
There are also many safe, effective alternative methods for treating gout, including eating certain foods and herbal supplements. Some foods that have helped some people with their gout include:
- Cherries, strawberries, grapes, pineapple, blueberries
- Celery seeds
- Low-fat dairy products
- Water (dehydration can exacerbate high concentrations of uric acid)