Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis. It is a painful form of arthritis that occurs when the high levels of uric acid in the blood cause crystals to form and accumulate in and around the joint. An attack may come after an illness or attack with pain the big toe being the first sign. Gout usually affects one joint at a time but can spread to other joints leaving them red and swollen. It is treatable and manageable with medication as well as dietary and lifestyle changes.
Causes, risk factors, and symptoms
Gout is triggered when the body produces too much uric acid causing uric crystals to form around the joints. It is the sharp needle-like crystals that cause the joint pain. Symptoms during a gout attack last for a week or two and include:
- Intense pain
- Tenderness even to light touch even from something like a bedsheet
- Warmth or feeling like the joint is on fire
Family history: you’re more likely to develop the disease if a member of your family has had gout.
Diet: certain foods increase the risk of developing gout including red meat, shellfish, alcohol especially beer, and drinking beverages sweetened with sugar (fructose).
Weight: if you are overweight your body produces more uric acid and your kidneys have a difficult time eliminating uric acid.
Recent surgery or trauma: recent surgery or trauma can trigger an attack as can innocuous things like receiving a vaccination.
Age and sex: men are more likely to develop gout because women have lower uric acid levels. After menopause, however, women’s uric acid levels come closer to that of men. Men are more likely to develop it within age 30-50 while women develop signs and symptoms much later.
Foods that trigger gout
Trigger foods are usually those that have a high purine content, yeast, MSG, sauces, and fructose. Uric acid is a byproduct of the breakdown of purine so the higher the purine content the higher the uric acid produced.
Meat from a variety of animals including cow, pig, chicken, lamb, and goat as well as wild meat including rabbit, turkey, goose, pheasant, quail, boar, venison (deer), and elk which has high levels of purine.
Fish specifically sardines and anchovies because of the high levels of purine. Other sea creatures to avoid include crabs, shrimp, crayfish, lobsters, oysters, clams, squid, anchovies, shellfish, scallops, mussels, and snails. The benefits of eating fish though may outweigh the risk of triggering gout.
Alcohol: has yeast which has high levels of purine.
Sugary foods and beverages including soda, sweetened cereals, baked goods including cakes, cookies, white bread, and candies. Limit consumption of naturally sweet fruit juices.
Lifestyle changes, home remedies, and treatment
Certain foods help reduce the frequency of attacks. A healthy diet low in saturated fats and trans fats and rich in unprocessed foods is advised.
Home remedies and treatment
Treatment is usually through medication that serves two purposes to block uric acid production and improve uric acid removal. Medication is the most effective way to treat gout attacks and prevent recurrent system flare-ups. However, lifestyle choices are recommended including dietary changes to help prevent and manage attack frequency.
Drink cherries or tart cherry juice
Ginger: drink ginger water and/or soak a compress in ginger water and apply it to the painful areas at least once per day for 15-30 mins. Ginger is useful in treating inflammatory conditions. Health: 5 Benefits Of Ginger
Drink warm water with apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and turmeric. Together they help lower uric acid levels and are frequently recommended at least anecdotally for gout. Spices: The Many Benefits Of Turmeric
Celery or celery seeds because it may reduce inflammation. 12 Health And Nutritional Benefits Of Celery
Dandelion teas, extracts, and supplements because it may help lower uric acid levels.
Nettle tea has long been used traditionally as a herbal remedy for gout. Health: The Benefits Of Nettle
Hibiscus is a garden flower that has traditionally been used as a folk remedy to treat gout.
Apples because they contain malic acid which helps lower uric acid.Health: 6 Reasons To Include Apples In Your Diet
Bananas: are rich in potassium which helps the tissue and organs in the body function properly. Anecdotal evidence suggests eating a banana a day. Bananas Are Good For Your Health – Here Is Why You Need To Eat More Of This Delicious Fruit
Bitter gourd aka Karela: Bitter gourd removes toxins in blood and also promotes blood circulation. Because of its cleansing powers, it relieves gout pain. Health: The Benefits Of Bitter Gourd (Karela)
Epsom salts: some people recommend a bath in Epsom salts to prevent gout attacks. It is rich in magnesium which may lower gout risk. Mix 1 to 2 cups in your bath water and soak your entire body in it or the specific joints. Health & Beauty: Epsom Salt Uses & Benefits You Probably Didn’t Know About
Topical cold or hot application as well as using ice packs
Here are some preventive measures to consider:
- Exercise and eat a balanced diet
- Eliminate diet triggers
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Drink lots of water
- Avoid sugary drinks
- Avoid excessive alcohol, specifically beer
- Eat less meat
- Get plenty of rest