Got gout? Here are a few tested and tried solutions for this old scourge.
Here at Wellzaa, I get a little giddy when I discover the remedies ancient people used to treat their physical woes. A poultice of animal droppings and herbs? A trinket of alleged dragon bones to ward off spirits? Yes please! So imagine my shock and disappointment to discover that colchicine, a drug that we prescribe for acute gouty attacks, is actually an old therapeutic. The ancient Greeks derived colchicine from the toxic flowering plant, autumn crocus, and used it as a powerful laxative 2000 years ago. Later in the sixth century AD, it was recognized as a specific treatment for gout by the Byzantine Empire.
But colchicine is not the only treatment strategy for gout that we’ve borrowed from the past. Diet has long been recognized as a factor in the development of gout. In the 1870’s, English physician AB Garrod was among the first to suggest that high uric acid levels in the blood (hyperuricemia) could be controlled by lowering the intake of purine-rich food. (As an aside, the risk of developing gout is strongly associated with the degree of hyperuricemia but hyperuricemia alone is not sufficient to develop gout.) And of course, today, if we hobble into a clinic with gout, we’ll hobble out with a handy-dandy print out of lists of foods we should avoid to reduce your blood serum acid level.
“Avoid alcohol, rib eye steaks, oysters, foie gras, and sodas?! No way!” you say. Well, thankfully, George Hitchings and Gertrude Elion came along in the 1940’s and developed allopurinol. Allopurinol decreases uric acid crystal deposits in the joints by blocking its formation. As such, it is used as a first-line agent for the prevention of gouty attacks.
Today, new therapeutics are being developed for this old scourge. In the meantime, we can thank the ingenious folks throughout history for giving us boring but effective solutions to keep gout in check.