To those who suffer from the gout, there is no mystery to the pain and debilitation it can cause. Linked closely to genetics, many ways are available to naturally prevent, and combat, the symptoms of gout.
What is Gout?
Gout is a painful arthritic condition of the joints, which can affect the ankles, knees, wrists, fingers and elbows. Gout occurs when too much uric acid builds up in the body. Uric acid comes from the breakdown of purines and is normally dissolved in the blood, where it passes harmlessly through the kidneys. It is possible for your body to either produce too much uric acid or excrete too little through your urine. When this occurs, uric acid builds up and needle-like crystals form in the joints, causing extremely painful side effects. These crystals can also cause kidney stones.
Stages of Gout
1.) Acute Gout
Acute gout is when urate crystals have been deposited suddenly and cause acute inflammation accompanied by intense pain. This sudden type of attack is referred to as a “flare” and can be trigged by alcohol, medications such as aspirin and diuretics, stressful events, or diet.
2.) Interval Gout
The next stage is called interval gout. This stage is the period of time between flares. Subsequent flare-ups may not occur for months or years; however during this time, urate crystals are being deposited in tissues. Left untreated, the flares can last longer and occur more frequently.
3.) Chronic Tophaceous Gout
The last stage is called chronic tophaceous gout. This is the most serious and debilitating form of gout, and often causes permanent damage to the joints and kidneys. This stage may take up to 10 years to develop; however a patient receiving treatment for the condition would rarely progress to this stage.
Symptoms of Gout
Gout flare-ups and symptoms are known for their intensity, pain, and quick onset. First attacks are prone to happen in the big toe, but can also be seen in wrists, ankles, knees, and other joints.
Signs and Symptoms Typically Include:
- Presence of uric acid crystals in joint fluid
- More than one attack of acute arthritis
- Arthritis that develops in a day, producing a swollen, red, and
- Attack of arthritis in only one joint; often the toe, ankle, or knee.
Causes of Gout
The American College of Rheumatology reports that over the past two decades the rate of Gout has been on the rise; now effecting more than 8.3 million Americans nationwide. A greater frequency of obesity and hypertension could be contributing to the increasing number of cases. Research shows that when these conditions are managed, less frequency of gout occurs overall. Although genetics play a key role in the development of this condition, diet is a large component and contributor to reducing the risk of gout from becoming a chronic life-long condition.
Other causes include age, alcohol intake, and medications such aspirin and diuretics. If there is a history of gout in your family, or you have other risk factors such as obesity or heavy alcohol intake, be sure to have your blood serum uric acid level checked. The normal serum level for uric acid is between 3.5 and 7.2 mg./dl. Only when uric acid levels are above this range is gout likely to occur. Maintaining a normal serum level will not only prevent gout flare-ups, but lessen the chance of uric acid kidney stones.
Treatment and Prevention
With proper treatment, patients suffering from gout can live healthy lives without many incidents or flare-ups. There are a variety of methods and therapies that can help reduce uric acid.
For those with elevated uric acid levels, allopurinol has been widely used to maintain normal uric acid levels and avoid flare-ups.
If severe flare-ups and swelling continue, patients can receive oral corticosteroids, or corticosteroid injections in affected joints to reduce inflammation. While quite effective, steroids must be used sparingly.
NSAIDS are very popular. They must be used with caution due to their potential side effects, including stomach ulcers, GI upset, and renal disease.
My preferred method of treatment is natural prevention. In my experience, at least 90% of gout attacks can be prevented through natural methods if the patient is motivated to follow through with the plan, as discussed below.
Find Alternatives to Medication
1.) Try to maintain your ideal weight. Medication should not always be the “go-to treatment.” Many studies show that weight loss and diet can help control symptoms and are much more natural than prolonged medication use. As anyone knows, changing a lifestyle and diet can be challenging, but the adverse problems associated with gout (that can be avoided with diet changes) is worth the struggle, not to mention it can save years of pain and potential debilitation.
2.) Avoid alcohol. It may raise uric acid levels in the blood.
3.) Hydration with non-alcoholic beverages keeps uric acid levels down, so drinking six to eight glasses of pure water daily is a great way to cleanse the system.
4.) Avoiding foods high in purines is a very important way to reduce inflammation and uric acid build up.
Commitment to the Gout diet is imperative to keeping healthy, without the constant flare-ups.
Foods to avoid include:
*Beer and grain liquors
*Red meat, lamb, and pork
*Organ meats such as kidneys, liver and sweetbreads
*Seafood; especially shellfish, shrimp, lobster, mussels, anchovies, and sardines
The Gout and Uric Acid Education Society reports a 2004 study, finding that “each additional serving of purine-rich red meat was associated with a 21 percent increase in the risk of gout in men over 40.” Avoiding these triggers is key to a healthy lifestyle.
5.) Avoid high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit, vegetables, and honey. However, high-fructose corn syrup is added to many foods in the typical American diet such as soda, sugary cereals, baked goods, and processed foods from fast-food restaurants. Finding healthy alternatives with fresh ingredients is the best way to avoid this toxic sugar and limit the amount in the body. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that ingredient labels are six ingredients or less. Also, if sugar is listed in the first few ingredients, it is most likely highly processed and the high-fructose sugar content is high. Look for foods that have ingredients that you can pronounce and understand what is actually in them.
The Mayo Clinic has written up a sample menu that can be helpful to start making the right changes in your diet and get on track for the best gout prevention and symptom reduction.
6.) While exercise is not recommended while your joints are in pain as it may cause further injury, it is very important once your gout is under control. Exercise will help prevent further attacks by increasing circulation and normalizing uric acid levels, primarily by normalizing insulin levels. Exercise also has many other advantages as well. It can help depression, strengthen the immune system, improve insulin resistance and reverse pre-diabetic conditions.
7.) Eat tart cherries (USDA certified organic, if possible). Tart cherries contain two powerful compounds, bioflavenoids and anthocyanins. These compounds slow down the enzymes Cyclo-oxygnase-1 and 2, which help to relieve and prevent arthritis and gout.
If cherries are out of season, or if you prefer it, concentrated cherry juice is excellent for gout treatment and prevention. When possible, buy USDA certified organic concentrated cherry juice.
Cherry juice concentrate contains about 55-60 tart cherries per ounce, so an ounce or two daily is an excellent way to reduce inflammation.
Strawberries help the body eliminate uric acid, and should be part of a healthy diet.
Natural Supplements For Gout
For acute gout flare-ups, as well as prevention, I often recommend two natural products: Diamond Nutritional’s Inflamments Formula and Diamond Nutritional’s Systemic Enzymes. These all natural, professional grade products help reduce, and prevent, inflammation and the pain associated with it.