There is a popular prejudice in favor of this class of foods, and a corresponding prejudice against the too free indulgence in animal foods. The purely starchy aliments, such as potatoes and the preparations of corn and rice, and even those which contain a considerable portion of gluten, like wheat, oatmeal, and barley, often provoke in gouty subjects a great deal of mischievous and painful indigestion.
January 1, 1885
Gout by W.H. Draper MD
BY W. H. DRAPER, M.D.
DIET.—The prevention of the accumulation of azotized matters in the [p. 128]blood involves, first, a consideration of the question of the diet appropriate to the gouty dyscrasia. The almost uniform counsel upon this point of all the authorities from Sydenham to the present time is, that albuminous foods should be sparingly allowed in the diet of the gouty patient, and that vegetable foods, especially the farinaceous, should constitute the principal aliment. This counsel is based upon the theory that uric acid is the offending substance, and, this being the outcome of a nitrogenous diet, the nitrogenous element in diet must be reduced. My own observation has led me to believe that while this may be a legitimate deduction from the uric-acid theory of gout, it is not supported by the results of clinical experience. If there is one signal peculiarity in the digestive derangements of gouty persons, it is their limited power to digest the carbohydrates, the sugars and starches. In whatever form these foods are used, they are more commonly the source of the dyspeptic troubles of sufferers from gout than the albuminous foods. They provoke the acid and flatulent dyspepsia which so generally precedes the explosion of the gouty paroxysm; and it must have attracted the attention of every observer who has studied the dyspeptic disorders of sufferers from inherited gout, who have sought to control their unhappy heritage by abstemious habits, that these disorders are especially provoked by over-indulgence in saccharine and amylaceous foods.
It is not possible to explain satisfactorily why the lithæmic condition should be induced by the carbonaceous aliments, but we believe there can be no question as to the fact. If, as modern physiological investigations tend to show, the liver is the organ in which urea as well as glycogen is formed, it may be that the overtaxing of its functions manifests itself more readily in the conversion of the albuminous than in that of the carbonaceous foods; or it is possible that the carbonaceous foods are destined chiefly for the evolution of mechanical energy, and that when this destiny is not fulfilled through indolence and imperfect oxygen-supply, they escape complete combustion, and so vitiate the blood. But whatever may be the cause of this anomaly, the clinical fact remains that in gouty persons the conversion of the azotized foods is more complete with a minimum of carbohydrates than it is with an excess of them—in other words, that one of the best means of avoiding an accumulation of lithates in the blood is to diminish the carbohydrates rather than the azotized foods.
The diet which a considerable experience has led me to adopt in the treatment of the gouty dyscrasia is very similar to that which glycosuria requires. The exclusion of the carbohydrates is of course not so strict. Abstinence from all the fermented preparations of alcohol is perhaps the most important restriction, on account of the unfermented dextrin and sugar which they contain. This restriction accords with the common experience respecting the part which wine and beer play as predisposing causes of the gouty disease and as occasional exciting causes of gouty lesions.
Next to the fermented liquors, the use of saccharine food in the diet of gouty persons needs to be restricted. This limitation also is one which common experience confirms. Sweet foods cannot be said to be as provocative of the dyspeptic derangements of the lithæmic subjects as wine and beer, but they are certainly often responsible for the formation of [p. 129]the dyscrasia and for perpetuating many most distressing ailments. Their more or less strict prohibition may constitute the essential point of treatment not only in controlling the progress of the constitutional vice, but in subduing some of the most rebellious lesions. It is important to observe that this prohibition sometimes involves abstinence from sweet and subacid fruits, in the raw as well as in the preserved state. Paroxysms of articular gout have been known to follow indulgence in strawberries, apples, watermelons, and grapes, and the cutaneous and mucous irritations which follow even the most moderate use of these fruits in some gouty persons are certainly not uncommon.
Next in order to the saccharine foods as the source of indigestion in gouty persons come the amylaceous aliments. These constitute, necessarily, so large an element in ordinary diet that the limitation of them in the dietary of gouty persons applies, in the majority of cases, only to their excessive use. This excessive use, however, is often observed. There is a popular prejudice in favor of this class of foods, and a corresponding prejudice against the too free indulgence in animal foods. The purely starchy aliments, such as potatoes and the preparations of corn and rice, and even those which contain a considerable portion of gluten, like wheat, oatmeal, and barley, often provoke in gouty subjects a great deal of mischievous and painful indigestion. This feeble capacity for the digestion of farinaceous foods is most frequently observed in the children of gouty parents, and especially in persons inclined to obesity, and in those whose occupations are sedentary and whose lives are passed for the most part in-doors, and they are least common in those whom necessity or pleasure leads to much active muscular exercise in the open air.
The fats are as a rule easily digested by gouty dyspeptics. This is a fortunate circumstance, for the reason that in the anæmia which is frequently one of the consequences of chronic gout the fatty foods are of inestimable value. In cases of persistent and rebellious lithæmia an exclusively milk diet constitutes a precious resource.
The succulent vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, cabbage, and the different varieties of salads, constitute for the gouty as well as the diabetic subject agreeable and wholesome additions to a diet from which the starchy and saccharine vegetables have to be largely excluded.