Transhumanism & Gout?

no, it’s not a Googlewhack. Hang on, I’ll just test that assertion. Nope, it’s definitely not a googlewhack

I read this article in the New Scientist earlier today and got rather excited. I’ll explain why in a minute. I wanted to share it with you but I knew – as you’ll have just confirmed if you clicked on the link – that the article is behind a pay wall. New Scientist is the one publication I subscribe to so can read stuff like that, but we’re a tiny minority.

So I went looking for another source for the story and came across this rather dry abstract. And because I’m that sort of nerd, I read it. And got almost as excited again.

That research may have filled a gap in our knowledge regarding the effects of ph on the human body. As a gout sufferer for the last 10 years I have had to research the condition and possible treatments or regimes. I have, by trial and error, discovered what works for me: an alkaline diet. The question is why?

The research is absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with gout. But it may, nevertheless, answer that question. What it is revealing is that if your cells are in an alkaline environment rather than acid, the potassium ion gates are opened and positive ions (which actually constitute or create the alkaline environment in the first place) are able to rush in.

As I’d just learned from the first story – the one I wanted to share – opening the gateway to positive ions turns out to be a good thing if you’re a mammalian cell. It allows the scavenging of “free radicals” like oxygen ions which are poison to the inside of a cell, but are formed as the waste product of cellular “digestion” and one or two other intra-cellular mechanisms.

This would explain why alkalinity tends to promote healing and dampen the infamous “inflammatory response” (which is a principle mechanism for most disease), so I immediately conjecture that the same process, through some related mechanism, also reduces the likelihood of precipitation of uric acid crystals from the blood into the joints – which is the precise cause of gout.

This matters because what I think we are gradually confirming is the reason that alkalinity is good for health generally, not just gout. Many sites around the web have been pumping out the Alkalinity message for over a decade. Many, unfortunately, are misguided nonsense talking about “Blood Alkalinity” and the importance of preventing “acid blood”. In fact, if your serum ph ever went acid, you’d be dead, pdq. Amongst other things, your haemoglobin wouldn’t be able to bind to enough oxygen to let you breath properly.

Blood ph is remarkably stable (typically 7.35-7.45) because it is homeostatically controlled. i.e. it will take whatever it needs from the body to ensure that it NEVER becomes acidic or too alkaline. If you are heading towards acidic, what will happen in the short term is that you’ll start breathing faster as your body insists on ejecting carbon dioxide, the result of which is a change in the serum bicarbonate production and rise in ph back to normal, if you’re lucky. If the problem is more long term your bones will start dissolving as the homeostasis leaches calcium to maintain the higher alkaline ph. Or the liver will break down more than usual nucleic acids resulting from protein digestion into urea, or worse, uric acid – which has the painful tendency to drop out of precipitation from the blood into the most painful places it possibly could – the joints of big toes for instance.

The abstract is essentially explaining the mechanism by which an alkaline diet will flood the system with positive ions, suppressing the requirement to leach the calcium or produce uric acid and leaving the body’s building blocks right where they belong. And allowing the cleanup of free radicals. So now we know…

It was impossible to find another source for the original story, unfortunately, but I did find the same source handily pasted into one of Kurzweil’s Transhumanist forums. Which means you can now read it without charge and I’m not the one in breach of copyright (for a change).

It’s obviously on the forum for precisely the reason I wanted to share it with you. One of the biggest challenges in developing “mind-uploading” techniques involves how we map the entire brain non-destructively. That “Positive Switch” story describes what will almost certainly be a major component of the solution to that problem. The same intracellular switches which will one day return Francisco Sepulveda to full normal (possibly better than normal) hearing, will eventually morph into the devices we need to read every cell in the brain for the purpose of mapping it to our digital clone.

And it looks like it could be ready to roll in the next 10-20 years. That’s got to be worth another spliff!

About Harry Stottle
Refugee from the Stumbleupon Blogicide of October 2011 Here you will find my "kneejerk" responses to the world and what I happen to bump into. For my more detailed considerations and proposals, please visit my website or my previous main blogging site.

6 Responses to Transhumanism & Gout?

  1. I can find no scientific evidence that an alkaline diet has any effect on gout. My research persistently comes across the word “believers”. Acid urine is more reliably and commonly treated medicinally. Your diet does not seem to fall easily into the category of an alkaline diet as it contains grains, cheese and fish, which at least makes for a more balanced diet. Also, alkaline diets have only transitory effects on blood pH. I don’t think you’re going to control gout by diet alone other than by reducing your exposure to “known” gout friendly foodstuffs. Fad diets won’t hack it, or there would be a cure on the market in the 21st century, given that the infliction has been known and written about from antiquity. “Follow my diet and you won’t get an attack of gout ever again!” Yer.

  2. Greetings Bronk. You’re quite right to point out the absence of scientific evidence. It’s why I was careful to make the point: “I have, by trial and error, discovered what works for me: an alkaline diet”

    Gout has been sadly neglected by the scientific community and even big pharma. In a sense that’s the point of this post. It is evidence which supports one of the main conjectures in the gout literature. Viz that alkalinity is important. The research begins to explain why.

    Re your comments on the transitory effects on blood ph, I think I dealt with that aspect pretty comprehensively in the post. Blood ph is a false target. The object is to prevent the homeostatic mechanisms which maintain blood ph from dumping uric acid out of the blood and into the joints.

    As to the alkalinity of my own diet, your criticism is misplaced. Yes it does indeed include grains, cheese and fish and even, occasionally, red meat, mushrooms, marmite and most of the other acid forming foods. However, what you’re ignoring (and you’ve witnessed it personally, so you have no excuse!) is that I mitigate the acid formers with alkalisers. For example, as you know, I start the day with porridge (Oats are acid formers) but my porridge contains 45g of Oats (acid), 45g of dried sultanas (alkaliser); 15g of toasted flaked almonds (alkaliser), 140g of live yogurt (mild alkaliser but good calcium source) and washed down with a pint of fresh orange juice (alkaliser). The overall effect is reliably alkalising.

    You will also recall that I’m constantly searching out sweet potatoes (excellent alkalisers) or just potatoes (reasonable alkalisers) and, what was I drinking every night at conference this year? A couple of pints of tomato juice (excellent alkaliser – although I’ve found since that even better is dilute organic passata). Furthermore, as you wouldn’t necessarily know because I don’t think I’ve previously mentioned it, I measure my urine alkalinity regularly and if by the time I’m ready for bed, it isn’t alkaline, I take a teaspoon of Andrews Liver Salts (strong alkaliser).

    Furthermore I know that these measures work for me because on the rare occasions I’ve relaxed the protocol, (like during last year’s two-week stint at the Reading Festival, when I was unable to control the diet as I usually do) I get an attack like the one I had to take to Australia in September. That was a bitch!

    And, of course, controlling ph through diet is clearly preferable to relying on medication.

  3. stone1two says:

    Hello Harry!

    Just to be able to comment here, I’ve set up my own wordpress blog: and made a single entry (which is a backlink to your blog).

    Some thoughts about your gout diet experiments: I’m glad for you that your alkaline diet seems to work well against your gout troubles, and such a diet is already a standard recommendation of doctors treating gout as a supportive measure, isn’t it? I’m no expert on the topic, being (hopefully still) too young to suffer from that wicked disease, and my own recent elbow troubles seem to have originated from overdone physical therapy. In my case it’s important to keep my urine a bit on the acidic side of the pH spectrum because otherwise I’d be prone to bladder infections. I even drink some pure vinegar (red balsamico preferably) to keep the bacteria down.

    On the other hand, your article makes me feel a tiny bit uneasy about this self-treatment. I might be prone to develop gout in the not so far future with this ‘acidic diet’. I’ve also read some stuff about alkaline diet but done away most of it as quackery for the quick buck. Reasonably balanced nutrition should suffice, though I concede that consumants of ready-made products who seldom cook with fresh ingredients or those who eat large amounts of red meat (especially if combined with cider beverages, which was for a long time the main nutrition of Austrian farmers, like my uncles) could develop a pH imbalance resulting in uro-crystaline joint deposits. The resulting primary question for a gout treatment in my opinion is how to wash these out or break them down?

    Hmm, I guess one major problem medicine has at the time being is the greed of big pharma on one side and the huge amount of esoteric (alternative, soft medicine) quackery on the other. Scientific progress seems to be hindered because lots of scientists and technicians are occupied with totally unnecessary studies (e.g. let’s try for one more time a study that proves the effectiveness of homeopathy although it’s been scientific nonsense for more than 200 years… just so that we can still sell those dried sugar pills for exorbitant pharmacy prices to gullible customers… bah humbug!). Reminds me of a Terry Pratchett character (was it the Unseen University dean?) with his dried frog pills…
    And closes the circle back to the economy topic on the RTP forum.

    I’ll consider having a glass of tomato juice in the evenings, but I’ll not substitute my evening ale with vegetable juice. Also let’s not forget that nutrition (for most Austrians at least) is primarily about taste and enjoyment, health aspects have to queue up behind those. I saw a documentary about british eating tradition, and almost panicked. I no longer wonder how a (from a haute-cuisine point of view) third-class cook like Jamie Oliver can be so successful in the UK. 30 minute menus, and the latest, 15 minute menus? For me that just shows disrespect towards cooking.

  4. dunno who advised you to go acid to reduce bacteria but that sounds like a major bum steer. Bacterial preferences for ph depend on species but, so far as I’ve been able to determine, the majority of the ones we DON’T want actually prefer neutral or acid environments. These include e coli, clostridium and, of course, h pylori (which lives in the highly acid stomach juices). Some of the few which prefer alkaline ph include pneumonia and the soil bacterium Nitrobacter. (See this for more depth)

    As to doctors, there is little or no “standard” advice for the reasons you touch on. The only way big Pharma can profit from gout is by selling a chemical. Dietary self treatment is very low on the medical agenda.

    But your comments on red meat accompanied by cider beverages raises a very interesting point. I have discovered, purely by accident, two things extremely relevant to gout diets. First, rather than drink the cider, marinade the meat in it. Doesn’t take much (less than 50 ccs for a kilogram of meat). Doesn’t take long (2 hours is sufficient). The result is that the meat becomes an alkaliser rather than acidifier.

    When I first observed this, I couldn’t believe it. I first tried it (for taste rather than ph manipulation purposes) with Turkey (a notorious acidifier) and when I tested my ph a few hours after eating it, it was nicely alkaline. Pure coincidence, I thought, but, since then, I’ve tried it with beef, lamb, pork and chicken on a total of more than 50 occasions and its completely reliable.

    By similar accident I discovered that slow cooked or previously cooked meat is similarly alkalised. That followed a meal at (what is now) my favourite Italian restaurant where they presented me with a superb slow cooked lamb shank. I expected high acidity and was preparing to counter it. When tested, however, I was nearly in the “dangerously alkaline” state. Again, I’ve repeated that test many times and, on each occasion, find slow cooking to change the effect of the meat from acid to alkaline.

    Caveat: Though I’m utterly certain this is true for ME it may not be true for anyone else (though I strongly suspect it will be). And this is highlights another aspect of the confusion over gout diets.

    If you go looking for what foods are acidifiers or alkalisers, you’ll find considerable agreement on some but considerable conflict on others. Meat, for example, is universally identified as an acidifier. (as far as I know, I’m the first to observe that cider marination and slow cooking can obviate the acidity and turn the protein into alkalisers) but some will be labelled as acidifiers by some sources and alkalisers elsewhere.

    The best example is the Tomato. You’ll find it listed as both acidifier and alkaliser. And to cut a long story short, the best way I can reconcile the conflict is to make two observations/guesses. First, there is some chatter that suggests the smaller the tomato (eg cherry, plum), the more like it is to be an acidifier. Conversely, the larger ones are more likely to alkalise. But I suspect the key difference is going to be very personal – your genetics.

    It seems reasonable to me that the way you process Tomatoes is going to be partly determined by your own dna and I happen to be fortunate in that mine turns tomatoes into a very useful alkaliser. Whether they do the same for you is something you have to determine for yourself. Which brings me to my final point.

    Anyone seriously interested in monitoring the effect of their own diet on their ph needs to start routinely testing their ph. I use Simplex Ph strips which cost about 9p a time. Pee on them a couple of times a day (when depends on your dietary schedule) and, over time, you begin to get a clear picture of you ph profile. There is no short cut.

    • stone1two says:

      Hmm, interesting.

      I was advised by several urologists to keep my urine acidy, there’s even a pill that lowers the pH-value and is given to people with bladder paralysis who have to self-cathederize in order to prevent or at least reduce bacterial infections, and I don’t take pills but always drink the marinade of my salads and in periods where I don’t prepare a salad daily (like now), I just drink a spoonful of vinegar.

      This procedure, with the supporting effect of a daily evening beer to flush my bladder, has brought down my rate infections from 3 to 4 per year to almost zero. Only when I’m abroad there’s a higher risk, next time I’ll take my own sterile water with me, damn that bad water in Paris, I had to take antibiotics for 5 days after my holidays.

      I guess it shows that we are all very individual, and what might be true for the mouth biotop (plague bacteria like an acidy environment – might be the other way round in the bladder. And because you have a healthy bladder, probably you don’t notice the difference when you alkalise your urine. Though if you test your pH regularly anyway, you could start a new experiment and use advanced test stripes that show the ca. amount of bacteria in your bladder, too. T’would be interesting if the figure rises or drops when your pH is higher or lower, respectively.

      And if we ask two doctors about that, we most probably will have at least three differing opinions!

      I don’t marinate my meat in cider, but sometimes in a honey-chili-soysauce, and wonder if that has the same effect? Slow cooking is something I like, too, but it’s hard to convince my wife of that. She likes high temperature frying (typical for a Viennese), but I educate her slowly though persistently.

      Have a nice weekend!

  5. think we’re straying into dangerous waters (!) here, both in medical and personal terms. You have to trust your medics to be better informed about your condition/s than non medics on the intaweb. But there’s no harm in asking them to justify their recommendations and, while you’re at it, get their views about potential buffering issues. There are certainly some diseases fended off by low ph but many more, it seems by the higher ph. As you say, it’s all very individual and what works for me might be entirely wrong for you.

    I strongly doubt the honey/chilli/soy marinade will have the same effect as the cider marinade, but, in any case, if you’re being medically advised to stay acid, you wouldn’t want it to! As it happens, I put 6 lamb chops in a rosemary, tarragon and cider marinade last night, in preparation for a slow cooked lamb stew I’m doing tomorrow. I should start my own recipe blog!

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