Gout is a debilitating condition caused by inflammation of certain areas of the body due to the accumulation of uric acid. It results in swelling, sensitivity, and intense pain, making even minor movements excruciating. High levels of uric acid in the blood (hyperuricemia) eventually accumulate as crystals (tophi) in body areas. This induces an immune response, resulting in inflammation which usually occurs in joints and tendons in close contact with blood vessels. Particularly common is the accumulation of tophi at joint of the big toe (metatarsal-phalangeal joint). Gout is an acute condition that reoccurs frequently depending on the uric acid levels in a person’s body.
The presence of gout limits mobility. It also causes intense pain and suffering to the patient. Gout pain manifests itself during periods of low body temperature, like during nighttime, making sleeping difficult.
Treatment of gout usually involves alleviating the pain on the affected joint, or preventing serum uric acid levels in the blood from becoming too high. Serum uric acid levels are increased by seafood, alcoholic drinks, meat and fructose rich food. These foods should be avoided to prevent raising the level of uric acid in blood. However, there are some foods that can help prevent gout as well as alleviate the pain associated with it.
Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C has been known to prevent the increase in serum uric acid blood levels. Tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries, and leafy vegetables all contain high vitamin C levels that can help improve gout symptoms.
Cherries have long been known as a remedy for gout. Eating cherries or drinking cherry juice 2-3 times a day can reduce blood uric acid content and also reduce inflammation. Cherries and berries are rich in anthocyanins, preventing bone connective tissue from being eroded by tophi.
To flush out uric acid from the body, several herbs may be used in combination. Celery seed, parsley, and birch tree leaves can effectively remove uric acid from the body when taken together or separately. Celery seed can be taken three times a day, each dose consisting of two teaspoons celery seed extract in a cup of warm water. Stinging nettle is also an effective herb in removing uric acid from the body. It can stimulate the body to excrete uric acid when taken in 250 mg daily doses. Additionally, it can be applied on the surface of the area affected with gout, to minimize pain and inflammation.
Pine bark and grape tree extracts can help in alleviating pain from attacks of gout. Devil’s claw can also reduce pain at the same time reducing serum acid and cholesterol levels in the blood. Turmeric can likewise be used to treat gout pain and inflammation.
The medicinal herbs mentioned above have certain compounds, which when taken in large doses, or if mixed with certain chemicals, could do more harm than good. Children and pregnant women should not take herbal medicines unless specifically prescribed by an expert or a doctor. Several drugs can also cause complications when taken with some herbal medicines, particularly colchicine.
Gout is a particularly painful and inconvenient condition. It prevents one from enjoying a full lifestyle and also makes nights particularly unbearable. Prevention of uric acid to reduce accumulation in joints is the first step to avoid having gout. Avoiding and minimizing intake of uric acid rich food can go a long way in preventing attacks of gout. Relieving pain and preventing more attacks are the objectives when gout does occur. Herbs, fruits, and vegetables can help with treating gout, but great care must always be exercised when using alternative medicine, especially in combination with prescribed drugs. Living with gout can be difficult but with the proper precautions and with knowledge of potential remedies, it can be made easier.
- Choi, H.K. (2010). A prescription for lifestyle change in patients with hyperuricemia and gout. Curr Opin Rheumatology
- Terkeltaub, R. (2010). Update on gout: new therapeutic strategies and options. Nat Rev Rheumatology