Doc: A new mattress bedding improves backache

Keith Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: We suddenly became responsible for our 90-year-old neighbor after the death of his wife. He complained of poor sleep and backache in the morning.

When his newly assigned nurse/caregiver changed the bedding, she discovered that the mattress was permanently sagging. When we questioned him, he said that in 40 years of marriage, he and his wife had never bought a new mattress, and probably had used the one he had before marriage.

We immediately replaced the mattress, and his sleep problems and backaches were gone!

Perhaps that is the case in a recent column of yours about an 80-year-old man with back pain.


Dear F.P.: You may be right, and I appreciate your writing. Unfortunately, I do see many people with persistent back pain despite recently buying a new mattress.

Dear Dr. Roach: My husband once suffered from frequent bouts of severe gout. One day he read that beer could cause gout. Since he drank one bottle of beer each and every day, he wondered if that was his problem.

We had a hops plant in the backyard (he was planning to make his own beer) that was in flower, so he ate a few flowers, and had an attack the next day. He replaced his daily beer with wine and went over 10 years without an attack.

Gout sufferers should know that avoiding beer might help.


Dear N.M.: Gout, a disease known to the ancients, is caused by deposition of uric acid stones into soft tissues, especially joints. Humans cannot metabolize uric acid, and gout happens in people who either make too much uric acid or cannot excrete it (through the kidneys) adequately.

Although some people do need medication despite doing all they can to reduce risk, these two letters show how important diet changes and avoiding alcohol can be. More-complete lists of high-purine foods can be found many places; my favorite place to start is the National Institutes of Health site (type “medline plus”’ into your browser, then search the site for “gout”).

Many authorities recommend avoiding alcohol entirely, but I agree with N.M. that wine tends to cause gout less often than beer does. Coffee and vitamin C (500 mg daily) reduce gout attacks in many people.

I would note that even poultry can raise uric acid levels and should be kept to reasonable serving sizes, such as 6 ounces daily.

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