Dairy and gout, and going vegetarian

Going (predominantly) vegetarian.

Look, this is not some new-age, save the animals, alignment of my chakras thing. I don’t even want to think of it as going vegetarian, because then that means i am committed to this title – and I hate titles.

I am simply considering leaning towards a more plant-based diet because of pure selfishness. You see, I suffer from gout, and I have done so since I was 26 years old. For those who have ever experienced a gout attack, you will completely understand my thought process, especially when you consider I suffer attacks twice a year at a minimum, but that number is increasing.

Gout is a condition where there is excessive uric acid levels in your blood. When a protein called Purine is broken down, Uric Acid is a byproduct. Uric acid then crystalises into pin like structures in the joints, impinging on nerves, causing immense pain.

I briefly dabbled with vegetarianism during my pre-gout university days. That didn’t last long because the fact of the matter is, I love eating red meat and I love seafood even more. However, the pain I experience during each gout attack is too debilitating to ignore.  I know I get gout attacks when I eat too much seafood, and when I drink even a little bit – Which sucks, because I love seafood, and let’s face it, drinking is still a social lubricant. It actually pains me to think that I can not eat prawns and shellfish as carefreely as I used to.

I know people who have long endured gout to the point where they needed surgery to extract and replace bones in their feet due the the degradation caused by decades of gout attacks. I don’t want that to happen to me.

Having said all that, I am still torn. I fundamentally believe that we as human beings, are natural omnivores. Yes, some people will argue that you can live a life of pure vegetarianism, but that lifestyle usually ignores the cost of other things, such as the mass manufacturing of soy derived products, which to me is not a sound argument if you are approaching it from a holier than thou perspective – Think about that scene from “Seven Years in Tibet”, where His Holiness The Dalai Lama objects to the use of machinery to build the movie theatre because of the many bugs and worms that could be harmed by such a process. Seriously, you cannot make the zero-harm argument by ignoring the zero-harm part.

To emphasise, I am not arguing for the zero-harm aspect, I think that line of argument is flawed.

I recently read a 2004 research report on the effects of dairy and gout. There I found some surprisingly good news. It turns out that milk and other dairy products help to reduce uric acid levels in the body. It also found that high purine vegetables do not adversely impact gout sufferers. Take a look at the report for yourself.

Based on that 14-year-old research report, I have come to the conclusion that a plant-dominant diet with abundant amounts of dairy products is a good way to go.

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On a side note, gout has made me realise that my body is more in tune with my environment than I realise. Thanks to Facebook reminders, I now know I consistently get gout attacks in Hong Kong at around April-May and again around September. This happens to coincide with the changing of the seasons, usually when things turn more humid.

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