Gout, Food Allergies, Nitrates, and Cherries

As some of you know, I have suffered from occasional attacks of gout for years. They range from a day or two of a little pain and swelling, to full-blown, can’t-walk, feel-like-a-migraine-in-my-foot attacks that last a week or longer.

My first attack came out of the blue many years ago, and when I tried to figure out what had caused it, the only unusual thing I could think of was that I had eaten an entire box of Hot-N-Spicy Cheezits. That wasn’t too unusual — I LOVE Cheezits, and I love the HNS kind especially. This time, though, I had really chowed down on them … and a day or so later, I was dying from the pain.

I told my doctor about the Cheezits, and he looked at me like I was nuts. So, I figured I WAS nuts, and gave up on the Cheezits theory. Till it happened again.

I started paying attention to what seemed to trigger the attacks, and spicy food looked to be the culprit. But it was weird — some spicy foods, like jalapenos, didn’t cause a problem, while others triggered an attack like clockwork. (And I mean literally like clockwork — pretty much exactly 36 hours after consumption.)

Chirachi sauce was a major trigger. Hot-N-Spicy Cheezits, but not regular Cheezits. The spicy chicken sandwich from this chain was okay, but from that chain it caused an attack. And so on.

Then, I had a major problem come up after a basketball game — but this time it was in my KNEE, not my foot. Specifically, it felt like it was in the muscles or tendons ABOVE my knee, not in the joint. The only thing I could think of that could have caused it was a foot-long hot dog I ate at the game. I had had a horrible migraine later that night, then the knee problem started a few days later.

I went to my doctor, who said she thought I had water on my knee, and sent me to an orthopaedist. He had his assistant try to drain my knee, but she couldn’t find any fluid. She called him in, and he couldn’t either. Finally he stood up and said, “I was wrong — there’s no fluid in your knee joint.” I had told them it wasn’t the knee that hurt, but the tissue above, but they hadn’t listened. After a week or so, the pain went away on its own.

After continually comparing ingredients, doing research, and noting which things caused attacks, I have finally decided that I have three food allergies that caused both my gout attacks and my leg pain:

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Paprika
  • Nitrates

The HNS Cheezits use paprika for color, and probably cayenne pepper as well. The chirachi surely uses cayenne. And that hot dog at the game? Loaded with nitrates, which caused both the migraine and the knee tissue pain.

I have avoided all of the above for about six months, and not had any more attacks. In addition, I’ve exercised more and drunk more water, which of course have helped as well.

Just to try out my theory, I have occasionally tried small amounts of foods that I knew contained one of the above ingredients. Sure enough, about 36 hours later I have a small amount of swelling in my foot, usually in my big toe joint.

Two More Notes

I read today that paprika sometimes uses — get this — nitrates in order to keep it fresh. The writer notes that if you have a reaction to paprika, but not to peppers, then it might be the preservatives that are really the problem.

And, if you suffer from gout and have read about the supposed benefits of eating cherries — believe it. That is one internet medical treatment that seems to actually work. During my last attack, I started eating dried cherries, and it seemed to lessen the swelling and speed up the relief. I continue to eat them regularly as part of the fruit in my diet.