By Allan Smiley, MD
When it comes to suggestions for managing gout, anyone living with the condition is sure to receive an endless stream of mixed messages. Drink cherry juice. Quit drinking beer. Avoid shellfish. Ditch red meat. The list goes on.
You have tips from well-intended family and friends. Then there’s what you read online or see on social media outlets. Then there’s insight from medical professionals.
Being inundated with advice, some of it conflicting, can be overwhelming for people who already feel overwhelmed by gout. But I want to help cut through the noise and offer two simple message that you may not be hearing:
1. Drink lots of water. Second only to taking your medication as prescribed, drinking water may be the single most important habit to adopt. Water not only keeps you hydrated, but also flushes uric acid through your system and prevents the build-up of painful uric acid crystals.
Don’t be distracted by all the different options in the beverage coolers: flavored water with vitamins, energy water with electrolytes, fruit and vegetable smoothies, fresh-pressed juices or kombucha tea. Choose water, plain and simple. Drinking one glass each hour will help you reach a healthy goal of 10-12 glasses per day.
2. Open up to your health care provider. People with gout are often embarrassed or ashamed. But there’s no need to feel that way with your health care provider – or in front of anyone else for that matter. Gout is more common than you might think, affecting millions of people.
Being honest – with yourself and your health care provider – is the first step in making a successful long-term plan for managing your gout. I’ve treated thousands of patients. I know the signs of gout and what causes it; I can usually tell when I’m not being told the whole truth. Remember, your health care provider is your ally and “honesty is the best policy,” just like your grandmother advised so many years ago.
We’re not talking about a scraped knee or a minor sunburn. Gout is a serious condition. And it can have serious consequences if left untreated.
When trying to master disease management feels overwhelming, start with these two simple steps. With your health care provider by your side, celebrate your initial successes and keep moving forward. There’s no reason to wait.
Allan Smiley, MD, is board certified in rheumatology and internal medicine and has been practicing for nearly 40 years. He’s also a member of the Alliance for Gout Awareness.