So, recently, I was diagnosed with gout. When the doctor said the word “gout,” immediately, I thought: “Gout? What am I, a Charles Dickens character?”
It started when I was walking through Bayshore Towne Centre on my way to meet the wife for a lovely (albeit prohibitively large-portioned dinner) at The Cheesecake Factory. I felt a pain in my right big toe as if someone (a lower-class, ne’er-do-well street urchin, no doubt) had stabbed it with a knife.
Dinner was egregiously delicious; forcibly pinning my taste buds under its bulk before having its way with my esophagus. But my toe pain continued to worsen.
The next morning, it was red and swollen like a vine-ripened Roma tomato. For nearly a week, I “manned up.” I limped around in what I hoped looked like a paratrooper bravely walking away from a ‘chute mishap, when, in fact, I probably looked more like a doughy pirate in a pique polo.
Finally, I went to the doctor. I hate doctors. I don’t hate them as people; rather I hate visiting them. They’re reminders that my body is indeed breaking down. I prefer to ignore my mortality on a day-to-day basis; I find it’s easier to run to Home Depot for some landscaping stones when I’m not rocking back and forth having an existential crisis. Doctors shatter the illusion. Doctors are there to assure you that your long, slow march towards death is making progress.
My doctor was a short man with salt and pepper hair on his head and in his ears. He wasn’t fat, but he was certainly stout. In another time, he would have been a doctor that made house calls and preferred Lucky Strikes because they were toasted.
He was very professorial and pedantic; as if he was convinced that not only did I not understand Medicine, but English. And on this particular day, he was training a resident from Concordia.
He told her to tell me that I had gout.
Gout is a kind of arthritis that is caused by a build-up of uric acid. Uric acid is created when the body breaks down foods containing purines. The uric acid then forms painful crystals in certain joints like the big toe.
The doctor prescribed an anti-inflammatory called Indomethacin, and sent me hobbling on my way.
The prescription worked well enough, but when the pills were gone, the gout came back. I even followed the recommended dietary changes. Sure it was difficult to give up sardines, “organ meat,” asparagus and brewer’s yeast, but somehow I managed. And still it came back.
With nowhere else to turn, I looked up some “Alternative Medicine” websites. I was fully expecting remedies like: “With a mortar and pestle, grind the dried penis of an albino Chupacabra. Add one drop of Belladonna milk, and combine with a liberal tincture of birthday clown tears…” But, instead, at the top of every list of alternative cures on every alternative medicine website was the same advice: “Drink lots of water.” “Duh,” they could’ve added, but thankfully didn’t.
It made perfect sense: Water will flush the kidneys, dilute the solution of uric acid, dissolve the crystals in the joint, and send the whole sordid affair out and, because I’m male, in the general vicinity of the toilet.
So, over the course of that first day, I drank a gallon of water, twice the recommended amount. There was never a point when I didn’t have a cup, canteen or bottle. Sure enough, the swelling began to subside. The next day, I did the same. Towards the end of the third day, for the first time in two weeks, I put all of my weight on my gouty foot. Today, the swelling is totally gone due, I’m convinced, to drinking “lots of water.”
Turns out, it worked better than Indomethacin, but nobody ever got rich by writing a prescription for water.
Is water a cure-all? Obviously not, and no Journals of Medicine are going to be re-written based on an anecdotal blog in an obscure corner of the World Wide Inter Tubes, but dehydration exacerbates so many conditions, and the benefits of water are undeniable.
If you’re ever diagnosed with gout, give it a try, and for God’s sake, stay away from “organ meat.”