If you have ever broken a toe (I usually do it once a summer, thanks to a tendency to go barefoot), you know how debilitating it can be. The same thing is true with gout. This form of arthritis has the capacity to stop even healthy, strong men in their tracks with a “pain in the toe.”

Gout is on the upswing in the US. Some 90% of the people afflicted with this painful condition are men over age 40. About half of them are overweight.


Gout is a type of arthritis, or inflammation of the joints, caused by excess uric acid in the blood. The excess uric acid forms crystals that lodge in or around the joints, especially the big toe. Pain develops very rapidly.

Gout victims may feel absolutely fine one moment and suffer incredible pain the next.

The bad news is that gout attacks tend to become more frequent and severe over time. The good news: Most people can keep gout under control. Here’s how…


  • Lose weight. Ask your physician for a target weight — and strategies to achieve your goal. Lose the weight slowly and carefully. A crash diet can increase uric acid levels. Consider consulting a nutritionist. More good news: Many health insurers will pay for weight-loss programs if you have a documented medical problem.
  • Eat right. Avoid foods that may precipitate an attack. These include…
    • Beer and other alcoholic beverages
    • Anchovies, sardines packed in oil, fish roe, herring
    • Yeast
    • Organ meat (liver, kidneys, sweetbreads)
    • Legumes (dried beans, peas)
    • Meat extracts, consommés, gravies
    • Mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower

Smart choices:
Pineapple contains bromelain and papain, enzymes that can function as anti-inflammatories. Dark berries, such as blueberries and blackberries, may contain chemicals that lower uric acid and reduce inflammation.

  • Drink water. A glass or two of water in between meals will help flush the system of excess uric acid. While water is very good for gout sufferers, alcoholic beverages and sodas are bad. Juices in general also are good, and green tea may be helpful as well.


For a good “short-term” fix, ask your doctor about trying the centuries-old herbal remedy Stinging Nettle. Luckily, you no longer have to pick it yourself. (The leaves really do sting!) You can get it from health-food stores or on-line suppliers.

According to botanical medicine expert Francis J. Brinker, ND, co-facilitator in botanical medicine, Stinging Nettle can be used in a tincture or tea to relieve gout attacks.

Tincture: Take up to 40 drops — in a liquid or under the tongue — three times daily.

Tea: Steep two or three tablespoons of dried leaves in one cup of water for 10 minutes. Have one cup three times a day. If you can’t find loose leaves, make a tea by dissolving the contents of two capsules in a cup of steeped water.


Your doctor also may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease the pain, such as indomethacin (Indocin) and naproxen (Naprosyn). Ask your physician about possible side effects. Although long- term use can impair the functioning of the liver and other organs, short-term risks usually are minimal.

Other prescriptions come with more side effects. Colchicine, a more toxic anti-inflammatory, is very effective, but it can cause nausea, diarrhea and other side effects.

Also available: Several medications — including sulfinpyrazone (Anturane) and allopurinol (Zyloprim) — decrease uric acid levels. But they can’t be used during an acute attack… and actually may make the condition worse.

Although gout won’t kill you, it certainly can be unpleasant to live with. A few lifestyle changes and strategies for the occasional flare-up can have you tiptoeing through the tulips in no time.