Gout is a chronic and progressive condition that affects 8.3 million Americans. With 90% of gout patients having conditions like obesity or high cholesterol making it more difficult to manage their symptoms, you can see that a tie between gout and GI health is evident!
On today’s episode, we’re chatting with author and gout expert Spiro Koulouris. Spiro takes us on a deeper dive into the world of gout and shares ways we can change our diet to improve our gout symptoms.
Click the play button above to listen to our conversation with Spiro Koulouris.
Highlights from Today’s Episode
- What gout is and who it affects.
- How gout manifests and different treatment options.
- The role diet plays in management of gout symptoms.
- Lack of diversity of bacteria in the gut could be a biomarker for gout
- Examining the bacteria present in the gut could potentially serve as a noninvasive diagnostic tool for gout
- Treatment of Gouty Arthritis is Associated With Restoring Gut Microbiota And Promoting Production of Short Chain Fatty Acids
- Gout Statistics and Facts
Industry Spotlight: Spiro Gout and You
Spiro Koulouris will help you understand how to maintain a healthy diet to improve your gout symptoms.
- Learn More: Gout and You
About the Colon Health Podcast
Co-hosted by Dr. Dac Teoli and Ariel Bridges, the Colon Health Podcast features guest interviews with expert physicians, leading researchers, nutritional scientists, integrative health specialists, and other foremost experts in colon health.
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Ariel: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the “Colon Health Podcast.” I’m your host, Ariel Bridges. And today, we have Spiro Koulouris. Did I say your name correctly?
Spiro: Yeah, pretty close, Spiro Koulouris.
Ariel: Spiro, thank you so much for being here with us today. Could you share what it is that you do with our audience?
Spiro: Basically, what I do, I’m a gout sufferer who specializes as a dietician for gout sufferers. So I have a blog, I’m an author. So basically, I blog about gout and help gout sufferers with my website and my books so they can live a better lifestyle and change their dietary habits.
Ariel: Excellent. And on this podcast, I always like to go in and ask everybody what their story is. I heard you already said that you are a gout sufferer yourself. Can you share a bit about your story and how you came to be a dietician and author and all of the other wonderful things that you do?
Spiro: Yeah, so basically, I got my first gout attack at the age of 26 years old, which is relatively young for gout to strike a person that young. Usually gout occurs in people 50 and over. Majority of men will get gout I would say about 75% compared to women at 25%. So, I got gout and one night I was drinking a lot of whiskey with friends at a bar, and then I went home and around 3:00 a.m. I got struck with a very painful gout attack in the big toe. It was so painful that I couldn’t even put a bedsheet on it. So I decided to go to the doctor the next day, which I was basically limping there. And my doctor diagnosed me with gout. Obviously, I did not know what that is, but he told me it’s a lifetime, something you have for life and you would have to take medication for life to control it.
So I doubted him, but then we did blood test work and sure enough, my uric acid levels were way higher than normal. And I was diagnosed with gout so I had to live with that reality. I remember I got it also in the big toe and in the big knee afterwards. So I had to take some medication to get rid of the inflammation. It was very painful. I was on crutches for a couple of weeks. And then I had to basically regulate my uric acid levels with allopurinol which is the main drug that controls uric acid levels to keep it on the healthy level. And then basically I decided to start doing more research on gout online. I didn’t find lots of good information. Most of it was medical-based, right, from studies and doctors. So I wanted something on a patient level. I learned more about dietary information.
So I dug into the studies actually and found all of the ones that they’ve experimented with diet. And then I decided to start my website, which is goutandyou.com, and started writing about gout in more detail, so what foods are offensive to it, which foods to avoid and which ones to eat, and what diet specifically to follow in order to avoid a worsening of the condition over time and basically trying to naturally remedy it and control it so you don’t have to increase your medication usage, right, and so on over the years. And also since gout sufferers are at a higher risk of developing other conditions, like type-two diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, it’s something you wanna take very serious when you’re diagnosed with, and you do wanna change your dietary habits and change your lifestyle.
And then I wrote the book, which is “Gout and You: The Ultimate Gout Diet & Cookbook,” which goes into great detail about the ideal gout diet, which I advocate on my website as well, which is to eat the majority of your daily calories, about 80%, that’s complex carbohydrates, so such as fresh vegetables, legumes, some fruit, 100% whole-grain breads and rices, and 100% whole-grain pastas. And you could limit your protein and fat to 10% each. So protein, you could have a little lean meat as in lean turkey, chicken breast, some fresh fish, not too much red meat. If you do have some red meat, make sure it’s lean. And with gout, some of the worst offenders are processed meats. You wanna avoid those 100% of the time and you wanna avoid seafood, which raises uric acid levels in the blood. That’s another offensive food. So with protein, that’s where gout sufferers get in trouble. Mostly when somebody gets gout, it’s usually because they’ve been eating a lot of meat or a high protein diet for a very long time and it eventually catches up to them.
And the other final 10% is fat, again, animal-based fat, so you wanna limit that as well. So stuff like milk, yogurt, eggs, butter, and so on, cheeses, you wanna limit that as well. The reason being is anything that comes from animal as in meat or dairy, fat and so on, the kidneys take longer to process it and break it down, which strains them, makes them work overtime and that raises uric acid levels, and then those uric acid levels or uric acid crystallizes in your joints and you get a gout attack. So basically, that’s a little summary of what I talk about.
Ariel: You came in hitting us hard with the facts and the information, I hope all of our listeners had their pens and their papers ready and took some extensive notes. There’s so much incredible value and information. Thank you so much. I want to back it up. You touched on this, I think during your summary that you just gave, but I wanna give readers kind of an explicit definition here in just one little chunk of their listening experience. So would you mind again explaining exactly what gout is and who it affects?
Spiro: Gout is an arthritic condition. It’s probably the most prevalent one. It affects about 2% of the general population, again 75% men, 25% women. The reason women are not affected as much is usually because they are protected through a chemical…until menopause and after menopause, the estrogen levels go lower and then they’re at a higher risk of developing gout. So it mostly affects men. What happens with gout is foods have something called purines, which is a chemical compound that breaks down in the body as you consume it, right? And the higher the purines, the harder the kidneys then work to break it down. So think of meats, meats usually are high in purines, alcohol is very high in purines, processed foods are high purines, dairy like cheeses and so on, seafood. So as you consume it, those purines get broken down, everybody produces uric acid. A healthy person will excrete that uric acid via the urine, but somebody that consumes too much over time and the kidneys get strained and can’t break it down as efficiently, that uric acid stays in the blood.
And then what happens is it crystallizes in the joints, usually in the big toe, the majority of the time, and you get a gout attack. Now you could get other gout attacks in other parts of the body and other joints. Usually, after that, it would be the ankle, the knee, the elbow, the fingers for some. So basically, it’s an arthritic condition. It’s very painful, but the good news is it’s not like rheumatoid arthritis. You can control it with medication and live a healthy lifestyle, and obviously by changing your diet and incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains and limiting your intake…you know, fat intake, you could live a very gout-free life and no more gout attacks for the rest of your life if you’re careful.
Ariel: Yes. That caught my ear when you were sharing your story, you mentioned that your first gout attack was in your big toe. I always, whenever I hear about gout, I think of my dad who also had it in his big toe and it was a similar thing where he could not even…the sheets couldn’t even touch his toe. It was so painful. He wasn’t able to walk. But now that you’ve explained it as sort of like an arthritic condition, it makes sense that other gout attacks would occur in other joints like ankles and knees and things like that. So, you also started talking about the diet that you can eat to improve your gout experience. And you’ve written a book called “Gout and You: The Ultimate Gout Diet & Cookbook.” You also mentioned another book that you wrote. As always, I’m going to link all of these books and things in the show notes below, so you can easily access them if you’re listening. But can you share a little bit more about the role that diet plays in gout and how some of these things, having a healthy diet for gout, can also help you with having a healthy diet for your colon as well?
Spiro: Yeah. Well, the two go hand in hand because a bad colon as well is due mostly to a lot of meat intake, right, over the years, processed meats and so on, processed foods, they go hand in hand. So basically with gout, you wanna get in control of diet. And I’ve done it personally. A lot of my followers who follow me as well, who changed their lifestyle, have written to me how they feel better and have controlled their uric acid. So by incorporating more complex carbohydrates like fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and so on, 100% whole grains, your kidneys will work less and break down those foods much easier. So they clean in the body. And the same thing can be said for having a healthy colon. So the diet is very similar for patients that have colon issues. They wanna cut down on the meats and they wanna cut down on the processed meats, and processed foods, and the fats so basically, your system could work better. So there’s a big commonality, I would say, between a gout diet and a healthy colon diet, that’s for sure.
Ariel: Absolutely. And I wanted to ask you too, you mentioned some of the people that you work with or that follow you. How can our audience work with you and learn more if that’s something that they’re interested in doing?
Spiro: So, yeah, they could visit our website, start by visiting our website at goutandyounew.com. Read the articles, there’s a lot of helpful information, a lot of tips and advice, and so on. And then if you wanna get the book, you get the book and you learn more about the specific ideal gout diets, which I talked about previously, which I advocate around 80% of your daily calories should be complex carbohydrates, 10% protein, and 10% fat. And then after that, they could also supplement their gout diet with our line of dietary supplements, which help cleanse the kidneys and liver, and that helps as well to support healthy uric acid levels. And yeah, that’s pretty much it. I respond to all emails. I mean, if somebody has any questions about gout, just email me on [email protected], and I usually respond within 24 hours.
Ariel: Excellent. We love a quick response. Have you found that the people that are working with you, they have to reach for their allopurinol? Last, how does controlling your diet affect your medicine use?
Spiro: In my case study, basically I started at 300 milligrams of allopurinol and that’s usually the average given or prescribed to gout patients. With my dietary changes, lifestyle changes, basically I cut that down to 100 milligrams daily. Now, there’s some people that write to me that they’ve completely stopped taking their medication. I would say great but tread carefully, always. If you wanna decide to do that, follow and work with your doctor’s advice because you could have a great timeframe of a year or two of no gout attack, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get a gout attack in the future. So, if you wanna go down that road, make sure you take frequent blood tests, at least every six months, to see where your uric acid levels lie. And yeah, that’s pretty much it.
Ariel: That’s pretty encouraging. From 300 milligrams to 100 milligrams is great. And I know we have a lot of people that listen to the podcast that are interested in doing what they can to modify diet and things like that to control how much medication that they have to take. But that’s excellent advice, always make sure that you are in communication with your doctor before you make decisions and things of that sort. Spiro, we’re just about coming to the end of our time. Is there anything else that you wanted to share with our listeners about gout or anything that you have coming up?
Spiro: Yeah. So another thing I forgot to mention is a lot of gout sufferers usually get gout also because they’re overweight. And I know with colon issues, a lot of folks are overweight as well. So do lose the weight. When I got my first gout attack, I was 50 pounds overweight. So make sure you incorporate a new diet slowly. It’s not gonna happen overnight. Try and hit a gym or if you don’t wanna go to a gym, get a Fitbit, start walking, at least walk 10,000 steps a day, right, anything to drop those pounds, because that’s gonna help as well control your uric acid levels and definitely have better health with your colon. So, I strongly recommend to anybody that’s listening, if you know anybody that’s suffering from gout or you’re suffering from gout, make sure you lose that weight.
Ariel: A healthy and helpful final tip. Thank you so much. Thank you again for being here with us, Spiro. I really appreciate it. I learned so much that I didn’t know about gout before.
Spiro: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Ariel. Appreciate it.
Ariel: And as always everybody, we all have colons, we all wanna feel good, so let’s make sure that we take care of ourselves. Ask questions, do your research. And we’re here for you if you need help. All right? Thank you so much. We’ll see you next time. Bye, everyone.