What is Gout?
Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when too much uric acid crystallizes and deposits into joints. It can be extremely painful and is often characterized by redness and inflammation. Patients often say that their big toe hurts just from having the sheet touch it. However, it can impact any joint including elbows, knees, and hands. Often times it strikes in the night and without warning, leaving people waking in agonizing pain, wondering what in the world happened to them.
What Causes Gout?
Gout is caused by the build-up of uric acid in the body. When the body breaks down purines, it creates uric acid. Normally, uric acid dissolves into the blood and passes through the kidneys and out in urine. However, when you have too much uric acid and the kidneys cannot keep up, the acid builds up. This excess of uric acid can lead to the crystallization of uric acid crystals in the joints. Often these crystals deposit in the fluid surrounding the joints (synovial fluid) leading to severe pain. Causes include diets high in carbohydrates, hydrogenated fats, processed meats, and alcohol. Those with insulin resistance, diabetes, have high blood pressure, are obese, prone to kidney stones, and suffer from stress are at a greater risk of developing gout.
Lifestyle Changes to Avoid Gout
Without adequate treatment and dietary changes, gout is likely to reoccur and worsen in frequency, duration, and intensity with time. Beyond conventional treatments, there are some lifestyle modifications individuals can take to decrease the frequency and severity of attacks.
Foods That Cause Gout
The most effective thing you can do is to combat gout is to avoid foods high in purines. Purines are amino acids that help form uric acid. Food high in purines include, but are not limited to, processed and cured meats, organ meats, spinach, and shellfish. In addition, you want to avoid fried foods loaded with hydrogenated oils, alcohol, high sodium foods, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. Refined carbs quickly turn into sugar and can make insulin resistance and gout worse.
Gout Diet - Friendly Foods
Make sure to drink lots of water. This helps to flush uric acid from the system. Potassium rich foods like bananas, coconut water, and avocados can help balance intracellular fluids which help to relieve gout. Remember, uric acid crystals are depositing in the joint fluids. Fresh berries and cherries are good for neutralizing uric acid while wild caught fish high in omega 3’s (think salmon) help to reduce inflammation and pain associated with gout. High fiber foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds also reduce uric acid build up in the body.
Since obesity is linked to gout, get moving! Gout or no gout, exercise should be a part of your lifestyle. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can do wonders for your health.
Natural Therapies for Treating Gout
If you are already suffering from a gout flare up, below are some tips to help treat the symptoms and alleviate the attack as quickly as possible. They can also be utilized to help prevent flares all together.
Black Cherry Juice
Black cherry and cherry juice extract have been found to reduce inflammation and uric acid buildup in the body. Studies have shown cherries to be beneficial in gout treatment and one study in particular showed individuals with gout treated with cherry extract over a two day period to have a 35 percent lower risk of gout attacks. In addition, when the cherry intake was taken with allopurinol (a prescription drug), the risk of a gout attack was lowered by 75 percent. (1)
Celery Seed Extract
Celery seed extract and juice decrease uric acid buildup in the body. Due to its high antioxidant nature it has been found to be extremely beneficial in treating a wide range of conditions made worse by inflammation. Pull out your juicer and make your own or look for a high quality supplement to help relieve the symptoms and duration of gout.
Turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory and can help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with gout. Look for a supplement with BioPerine® or piperine (black pepper) in order to improved the absorption of the turmeric. (2)
Since gout is a form of arthritis, and fish oil is an effective treatment in those with arthritis, it can help decrease the risk of gout. (3) Fish oil is great for reducing inflammation throughout the body. Look for a high quality supplement or just work to incorporate more omega 3 rich fish into your diet.
A lot of you will like this one. While I don’t want you to go overboard and become addicted, both regular and decaf coffee have been shown to lower uric acid levels. (4) At this time, no studies show the exact mechanism behind how coffee improves gout, but if you are already a coffee drinker, it’s something to consider. If you are wondering if coffee is personally good for you, click here to read more.
If you think you have gout or are experiencing symptoms of gout, make sure to visit your local physician to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.