Gout sounds like an old person’s or an old-fashioned disease. But it is neither. This painful form of arthritis is very much with us today — and it affects adults of every age.
An attack of gout comes on quickly — it commonly affects the joint at the base of the big toe or other joints, such as the ankle, thumb, wrist, elbow or knee. Inflammation leaves the joint red, swollen and so tender that it hurts to have clothes or bedsheets touch it. Good news: Gout can be treated very effectively with a natural approach that features detoxification… nutritional supplements… and diet changes. Here’s what you need to know…
WHY IT OCCURS
Gout results from elevated blood levels of uric acid, a waste by-product created when your body breaks down purines, compounds found in foods such as organ meats, anchovies, asparagus, mushrooms and beer. Gout traditionally was associated with the consumption of fatty foods and alcohol, which is why it was once known as a rich man’s disease. Today, we know that gout is not always related to diet. With this condition, the kidneys are unable to filter high levels of uric acid out of the blood. Over time, excess uric acid forms crystals that accumulate in joint tissue, leading to attacks of joint pain. Men are more likely than women to get gout. Women are more susceptible after menopause.
Insulin resistance, obesity, fungal overgrowth and hypothyroidism all have been linked to gout. Taking niacin for heart disease can exacerbate gout. Regular use of aspirin (any dose) and some blood pressure medications (thiazide diuretics) can cause gout.
Gout medications lower blood levels of uric acid, but these medications all have side effects, ranging from nausea and skin rash to disruptions in liver enzymes and blood-cell production. Fortunately, gout can be treated very effectively without these harsh drugs.
TREATING AN ACUTE GOUT ATTACK
I recommend starting the following regimen at the first sign of joint pain caused by gout. Do first: The first two on the list below, then the others. These remedies, which all are available at health-food stores, are safe to take together. There are no side effects except as noted.
Juice detoxification. In an acute gout attack, it’s essential to quickly eliminate uric acid from your body. You can do this with a three-day juice fast, which flushes excess purines from the body. I usually recommend drinking eight to 10 cups of juice daily, mainly from vegetables. Good choices: Green drinks, such as those made from wheatgrass, chlorella and spirulina… pure water… and herbal teas. Another good choice: Unsweetened cherry juice. Just a few tablespoons give you the beneficial anthocyanins that can decrease blood uric acid levels. Dilute the juice with as much water as you like. Don’t fast for more than three days. Prolonged periods without food can raise uric acid levels. (Most middle-aged people with gout have no trouble going without solid food for a few days, but it is wise to consult your doctor before fasting.)
Celery seed extract. This anti-inflammatory herb (not to be confused with the spice celery seed, which is much less concentrated) can ease joint pain. Celery seed extract contains compounds that inhibit the enzymes that produce uric acid. The extract comes in tablet and capsule form. Dose: 400 mg to 500 mg three times daily during an acute attack. Do not use this herb if you have kidney disease (because of its diuretic effect) or if you are pregnant.
Other helpful remedies to take during an attack of gout…
Homeopathic colchicum. This remedy can relieve acute gout attacks in which pain worsens with movement. Dose: During waking hours, take a 30C-potency pellet every two hours for no more than two days.
Nettle root (also known as stinging nettle root). This herb, available in liquid or capsules, neutralizes uric acid. Dose: 250 mg of concentrated root extract three times daily during an attack.
LONG-TERM GOUT PROTECTION
When gout symptoms have eased, I have my patients implement the following preventive regimen…
Celery seed extract. I recommend taking this important antigout supplement at a reduced dose of 400 mg to 500 mg only once daily.
Fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent gout-related joint inflammation. Dose: 2,000 mg of combined EPA and DHA daily.
Vitamin C. Studies have shown that vitamin C can reduce the risk for gout. Dose: 500 mg daily.
- Antigout diet. You will want to avoid foods that increase uric acid production, including those with refined flour or sugar, and those containing saturated, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. Concentrate on consuming moderate amounts of protein (such as cold-water fish and soy products) and plenty of plant foods. And high-fiber foods, such as whole grains and nuts, can help your body eliminate uric acid. Drink eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water throughout the day to keep uric acid flushed from your body.
- Antifungal diet. Fungal overgrowth in the digestive tract may increase uric acid. You may want to try an antifungal diet, which involves eliminating sugar, grains and yeast products and taking antifungal herbs.