GEORGE BALLING: Red wine and your health

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For those of you who are true long-term readers of this column you might recall that it all started about seven or eight years ago with a column I joint authored with Dr. Geoff Emry. Dr. Emry from Ironwood Family Practice here in Coeur d’Alene is our family doctor who has also attended many seminars and studied the beneficial effects of red wine on one’s health. While he is not contributing to this column, he does have a place in it to be sure.

We were recently talking to one of our customers who had been diagnosed with the gout; the full name of this painful disease is gouty arthritis. I was also diagnosed with the gout over 10 years ago. The gout is caused by the body making too much uric acid which forms in crystals in the joints of your lower extremities. Ninety percent of gout cases strike men and postmenopausal women. It normally only affects one joint at a time and subsequent outbreaks will move from joint to joint.

I know this not as a medical professional by any means but as a long term sufferer from this disease. Gout outbreaks are extraordinarily painful, at times unbearable. The worst I ever had was in one of my ankles and was so devastating I nearly ended up in the emergency room. After the outbreak is over residual damage shows in the affected joint as it deforms the joint.

Dr. Emry fixed my gout. In addition to talking to me a lot about diet, and the importance of staying hydrated, he prescribed Uloric. Uloric at the time it was introduced was the first new drug for Gout in decades. It is magic! Since going on the drug I have not had a single outbreak, and the residual damage to my joints is gone, to the point I was able to wear shoes that had not fit in 10 years. I have had no side effects.

So right about now you are asking, “What the heck does this have to do with wine?” When you are afflicted with a disease like gout you do a lot of research, at least I do. Our talk with our customer this past week caused me to reflect on one important thing I learned before Dr. Emry fixed my issue. Our customer was telling me that the doctor he had seen had told him not to drink red wine, a “deal breaker” for our customer. I don’t blame him; I would feel the same way.

The good news, I let him know, is that is not the best advice. Red wine has many positive health benefits and while responsible consumption is vital with any substance such as alcohol, as a gout trigger it is pretty unlikely. Again all I know is from a patient’s perspective and you should always listen to your medical professional.

But and there is always a but… One of the compelling pieces of research I came across some years ago on alcohol and how it relates to gout attacks was a study that came out of the UK that looked not only at how alcohol contributed to onsets of the gout but also what type of alcohol was more responsible for causing gout. The research piece seemed well credentialed and supported by research, at least from a layman’s standpoint.

Here is the punch line. Beer has the highest correlation to attacks of the gout; brown spirits like bourbon and whiskey have the second highest correlation and clear spirits the third. Wait for it… wine has absolutely no correlation to attacks of the gout, red or white wine at least according to this study does not cause gout attacks. It is only one study, of course. It is self serving since I love wine and sell it for a living, absolutely! For this one self serving study though wine is OK, in fact on most counts good for you.

As I said, always listen to your own doctor, and always consume alcohol responsibly. Also though, ask the question about wine and the gout with the added context of studies like this one. You may be able to continue your wine journey while still managing your gout.

If there is a topic you would like to read about or questions on wine you can email or make suggestions by contacting the Healthy Community section at the Coeur d’Alene Press.

• • •

George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party — a wine and table top décor shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. George has also worked as a judge in many wine competitions; his articles are published around the country and is the wine editor for Coeur d’Alene magazine You can learn more about the dinner party at You can get all of these articles as well as other great wine tips by friending us on Facebook!/dinnerpartyshop.

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