How Maasais avoid gouts

By Metro reporter
While most people consider Nyama Choma (roasted meat) as a lifestyle deli¬cacy and the in-thing that is associ¬ated with the wealthy generation, a few understand the side-effects the stuff can cause in their bodies later in life.
It’s called the rich-man disease, because it is believed the poor who cannot afford beer and roasted meat are out of reach of this widespread phenomenon.
Having gout, a disease that is characterised by an abnormal me¬tabolism of uric acid in the tissues, blood and which has also come to be christened a “rich man disease”, can be agonising.
Gouty arthritis is a common cause of a sudden onset of a painful, hot, red, swollen joint, particularly in the foot of the big toe.
The disease is reportedly the most common cause of inflamma¬tory arthritis in men over the age of 40. The age bracket may be even lower down thanks to meat roasting that has become our lifestyle.
Young men and women with means, drive out from the city to places like Ngong, Kajiado, Macha-kos, Ongata Rongai, Kiserian, Isenya or even Kitengela with fixed mind of where meat roasting joints are.
Eating too much roasted meat and watering it down with several pints of water frequently, according to Dr Jay Marks, may build up uric acid in the body that may cause joint inflammation (arthritis).
The inflammation is precipitated by the deposition of uric acid crys¬tals in the lining of the joint (syn-ovial lining) and the fluid within the joint.
Among the Maasai community meat eating is not even a lifestyle but a way of life. This community, in the earlier years, depended entirely on meat, blood and milk -- just like in western Kenya where ugali cannot miss dining tables in many homes.
So how have the Maasai sur¬vived being attacked by gout? Kite¬we ole Ntiwa, a local herbalist in Kitengela town, says although gout is not common among the Maasai there are such cases among modern young men who have abandoned herbal medicines that is normally taken every time meat is eaten.
Ntiwa says it was a rule, since immemorial, that Maasai morans are given herbal concoctions before they eat cooked or roasted meat.
The medicine is extracted from five medicinal plants, name¬ly; engiloriti (reduces acid in the body), orbatelon’go (adds blood in the body), losesiayi (cleans blood), orkokola (adds fluids to joints and backbone) and magotogot (flexes ligaments).
Extracts from all the herbal plants are mixed together and either mixed with soup or is taken prior to eating meat and that every moran adheres strictly to it.
Ntiwa further adds that, among the Maasai meat roasting for young men was not encouraged. “We used to prefer that young men are fed boiled meat. Boiled meat has no acid in human body like roasted one,” added Ntiwa.
The medicine-man who says he inherited his art from his parents la¬ments that most of his herbs, now in great demand locally and even across the borders, is not easily available due to what he terms as “wanton destruction of forests”.
He says most of the herbs are found in Tanzania, Mt Elgon in Uganda, Mt Kenya and some places in Meru that still retain indigenous vegetation.
According to medical experts, people with gout either produce too much uric acid, or more com¬monly, their bodies have a problem in removing it. It is said there are a number of possible consequences of this buildup of uric acid in the body, including acute and chronic gouty arthritis, kidney stones, and local deposits of uric acid (tophi) in the skin and other tissues.
Medical experts say gout may occur alone (primary) or may be associated with other medical con-ditions or medications (secondary gout).
Charles Soi, a resident of Isinya, has lived with gouty arthritis for the last 15 years. In his coat pockets you will never miss several pain-killers that he says keeps him going about his businesses in and around Kajia¬do County.
Soi says; “even with a ten-foot pole I won’t touch any roasted meat because I understand what it means to be a gout patient”. He says the hot inflammation on the big toes is un¬bearable and that at times when he is attacked without the drugs, he some¬times blacks out because of pain.
Although gout is associated with men, rumours has it that women above fifty years and not receiving their menstrual periods can also be attacked by this rich man’s disease if their do not check the amount of roast meat they eat.