Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating Gout Naturally

July 05, 2019

"Without adequate treatment and dietary changes, gout attacks are likely to recur, and generally will become more frequent, more painful, and last longer than the first attack."

Today, we’re talking about one of the most painful inflammatory conditions out there — gout. The rate of this condition is on the rise — doubling over the last 20 years. Find out why in today’s live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, holistic nutritionist. 

Today you’ll learn exactly what gout is, the common symptoms of gout, and specific causes and risk factors. We’ll also review some natural ways to treat and prevent this extremely painful condition, and you’ll learn some delicious, natural anti-gout recipes. 

Video Highlights

  • 02:38: What is Gout?
  • 05:32: A few interesting facts about gout
  • 08:21: Understanding Gout
  • 09:39: Uric Acid
  • 12:36: Other symptoms of gout
  • 14:08: Purines
  • 17:08: Gout Risk Factors
  • 19:45: Diagnosis and Common Treatments
  • 20:44: Natural Gout Remedies
  • 25:17: Top 5 foods to avoid
  • 26:17: Top gout-busting foods
  • 32:33: 3 natural anti-gout recipes
  • 35:30: Wrap-up

What is Gout?

Gout is really painful, but do you know what it actually is? Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that develops in some people who have high levels of uric acid in the blood. Excess uric acid can form these tiny needle-like crystals in your joints, which causes sudden, severe episodes of extreme pain, tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling.

The rate of gout has doubled over the last 20 years. Roughly 8.3 million adults — 6.1 million men and 2.2 million women — are diagnosed with this painful, inflammatory condition. This sharp increase has been largely due to the negative trend, across the U.S., of poor diets, obesity, and lack of exercise. 

A few interesting facts about gout

  • 8.3 million adults — 6.1 million men and 2.2 million women suffer from gout
  • Over half of all gout sufferers are obese or overweight 
  • Studies show that men who consume two or more sugary drinks per day are 85% more likely to develop gout than those men who only consumed less than one sugary beverage per month. High sugar intake increases inflammation, which increases the levels of uric acid in the body.
  • People with high uric acid levels have increased risk of heart attack and stroke. 
  • The white chalky substance in bird droppings is uric acid. Think about what that does to your car paint, and then imagine what uric acid is doing to your joints.
  • While Gout can develop in any joint, it most commonly develops in the joint at the base of your big toe.

Understanding Gout

The crystals formed by uric acid are extremely sharp. It’s like tiny needles or shards of broken glass stabbing into your joints.

As these crystals develop and settle into your joints, they cause intense pain, heat, swelling, and inflammation that many describe as unbearable.  In fact, most gout flare-ups begin at night, and people report that even the sensation of sheets touching the affected joint is excruciatingly painful — it’s that intense!

Uric Acid

Gout occurs as a result of uric acid build-up. Uric acid is a natural waste product from the digestion of foods that contain purines. 

Now normally, your body filters out uric acid through your kidneys and in urine. However if you consume too much purine in your diet, or if your body can’t get rid of it fast enough, then uric acid can build up in your blood, leading to a condition known as hyperuricemia — this means your blood and urine are too acidic and this is also when these painful uric acid crystals are most likely to develop in your joints.

Painful attacks of Gout typically last between 4 and 12 hours, but the lingering pain and discomfort can last 7 to 10 days. Generally, you will experience swollen, tender, warm, inflamed joints, and a limited range of motion; in other words, you won’t be able to move the affected joint normally. 

Without adequate treatment and dietary changes, they are likely to recur, and generally will become more frequent, more painful, and last longer than the first attack.  

While the big toe is the most common site for gout to develop, gout can actually develop in any joint. It’s common to experience severe gout-related pain in joints of the feet, ankles, knees, hips, wrists, hands, fingers and back.

Other symptoms of gout include:

  • Noticeable discoloration in the affected joints; they may become deep red or even purple at onset, and change color through the attack.
  • Joints that are swollen and stiff and hot to the touch
  • A fever of up to 102.2°F, with or without chills.
  • Hard lumps or bumps at the joints.

Additional attacks are likely to last longer, affect more joints, and be more painful. In recurrent attacks, bumps just under the skin may appear on the hands, feet, elbow, knee, or by the outer ear. These lumps are extremely painful and can lead to the destruction of the joint, bone and cartilage and could actually cause permanent deformity. When this occurs, it is called chronic tophaceous gout.

Purines

So your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines.

Purines are found in certain foods, including: 

  • Red meat
  • Organ meats like liver, 
  • Seafood and shellfish, including anchovies, sardines, shrimp, scallops, oysters, and mussels
  • Alcoholic beverages, especially beer
  • Drinks sweetened with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or fruit sugars (fructose).

Normally, when things are functioning properly, you are hydrated, and you are not eating foods that increase uric acid levels in your blood, uric acid dissolves in your blood and passes through your kidneys into your urine. But sometimes either your body produces too much uric acid or your kidneys excrete too little uric acid. When this happens, uric acid can build up, that’s when you can develop those painful, sharp, needlelike urate crystals in a joint or surrounding tissue that cause pain, inflammation and swelling we’ve been talking about.

Gout Risk Factors

You're more likely to develop gout if you have high levels of uric acid in your body. Factors that increase uric acid levels in your body include:

  • Diet. Eating a diet rich in meat and seafood and drinking beverages sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose) increase levels of uric acid, which increases your risk of gout. Alcohol consumption, especially of beer, also increases the risk of gout.
  • Obesity. If you're overweight, your body produces more uric acid and your kidneys have a more difficult time eliminating uric acid.
  • Medical conditions. Certain diseases and conditions increase your risk of gout. These include untreated high blood pressure and chronic conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart and kidney diseases.
  • Certain medications, like those commonly used to treat hypertension and low-dose aspirin also can increase uric acid levels — make sure you talk to your doctor about your gout risk if you are taking any of these medications on a regular basis.
  • Genetics/Family history. If other members of your family have had gout, you're more likely to develop the disease.
  • Age and gender. Gout occurs more often in men, primarily because women tend to have lower uric acid levels. After menopause, however, women's uric acid levels approach those of men. Men are also more likely to develop gout earlier — usually between the ages of 30 and 50 — whereas women generally develop signs and symptoms later on, most often after menopause.

Diagnosis and Common Treatments

At the onset of gout symptoms, your doctor will most likely do a physical examination and may order joint fluid tests, blood tests, and imaging tests to confirm you are suffering from gout and not some other form of arthritis or other health condition. 

Unfortunately, gout is not curable, so that means your doctor will most likely prescribe you medication with the focus on relieving the pain and discomfort associated with the condition, as well as prescribe other medications in an attempt to reduce future complications of gout or uric acid issues.

Natural Gout Remedies

While there are times where you will need prescription medication, it’s important to note that the foods you eat, your hydration, and other really important lifestyle choices, including reducing chronic inflammation, minimizing stress, and getting regular exercise are very effective at preventing long-term gout related issues. Many doctors have found these tips to be more effective than the prescription medication approach. They are also free of the dangerous and damaging side effects which medications can cause, including diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, mood changes, increased blood sugar levels, elevated blood pressure, rash, low blood counts, and sudden headaches and/or confusion.

While gout is not curable, there are a number of things you can do to prevent and protect against future gout attacks, including:

Stay hydrated 

Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. You don’t have to stick strictly to water, however make sure you are avoiding sweetened drinks, sodas, sports drinks, and caffeinated teas and coffees. You also want to limit your alcohol intake — especially beer, as research shows that drinking beer increases risk of gout, especially in men.

Maintain a healthy body weight

Choose portions that allow you to maintain a healthy weight. Losing weight decreases uric acid levels in your body — however, you really need to stay away from fasting or rapid weight loss, as both have been shown to temporarily raise uric acid levels. Opt for slow, consistent weight loss until you reach your goal.

Since so much of gout and uric acid levels depend on what you eat, it’s important to avoid or limit the foods that are most likely to increase uric acid levels.  

Top 5 foods to avoid if you are at risk for gout

  • Purine-rich foods, including red meats, anchovies, yeast, mushrooms, and dried peas and beans
  • Oxalate-rich foods, including beets, chocolate, black tea, wheat bran, and strawberries
  • All dairy, gluten, and food additives
  • Refined sugars and flours
  • Alcohol, especially beer

On the other hand, there are a number of foods that support your health and minimizing your risk of developing gout.

Top gout-busting foods

  • High fiber options, including brown rice, avocados, sweet potatoes, and even the occasional banana
  • Vitamin C-rich foods including: broccoli, strawberries, guava, kiwi, citrus fruits, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Magnesium-rich foods including: pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocados, figs, artichokes, cashews and wild-caught salmon.
  • Cherries and unsweetened cherry juice.
  • Omega-3 rich foods like wild-caught salmon and tuna, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.

In addition, there are also some specific foods you should add to your diet, especially if you have any of the risk factors for gout we discussed earlier. Some of these are already on the list above, but we’ll take a closer look at them.

Cherries and Cherry Juice

Researchers have found that two days of cherry intake can reduce recurrent gout attacks by 35%. Researchers also found that when combined with allopurinol, a prescription medication, the risk of recurrence of gout was lowered by 75%.  Cherries are known to reduce inflammation and even promote weight loss; drinking unsweetened cherry juice during a gout occurrence can provide relief. Some people find straight cherry juice really intense, don’t worry - I’ll show you a great recipe I use in just a few minutes.

Celery and Celery Juice

Rich with antioxidants, celery and celery juice helps to decrease uric acid in the body. Only use organic celery to eat and juice — others are contaminated with pesticides, insecticides and other harmful chemicals. You can sip celery juice throughout the day to help relieve gout symptoms while reducing the length of the occurrence.

Vitamin C

Multiple studies, including recent double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial have shown that higher vitamin C intake significantly reduces uric acid levels in your body. If you’ve had gout before, be sure to consume foods rich in vitamin C on a daily basis, or at least take a high-quality vitamin C Supplement daily.

Turmeric

One of the most effective inflammation-fighting compounds available, turmeric can help with the inflammation. Multiple studies have shown turmeric’s active compound, curcumin is excellent for fighting inflammation. Turmeric drinks and elixirs are yummy, but it is really difficult to get enough the active curcumin compound from turmeric alone. It’s not powerful enough because the curcumin comprises only 2-3% of turmeric root. Smarter Curcumin is a great curcumin supplement, not just to help make sure uric acid levels are low as part of a daily wellness plan, but also to help minimize the many other damaging effects of inflammation in the body. 

3 Easy, Healthy Drinks that Support Lower Inflammation and Uric Acid

Lemon-Apple Cider Vinegar CV-Turmeric Elixir

Mix juice from half of an organic lemon into 8 ounces of warm water. Combine with 2 teaspoons of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Stir in a few drops of local organic honey and a pinch of pink salt to taste. Drink up to two or three times per day. It’s a great option to drink first thing each morning!

Organic Ginger and Turmeric Tea

Boil some filtered water and steep 2 teaspoons of fresh, organic ginger root and 1 teaspoon of fresh, organic turmeric root for 10 minutes. Add some fresh mint, a little lemon or orange, or honey to taste and enjoy as a hot tea or iced tea.

Cherry Juice- Lime-Seltzer

Here is a great way to get your daily dose of cherry juice! Pour 3 to 4 ounces of unsweetened cherry juice over ice, add your favorite seltzer, squeeze in some fresh lime, and you have a perfect gout-blasting, refreshing drink for summer.

Wrap-Up

Today we covered a lot of information about gout and the damaging, painful effects that uric acid can have on our bodies — and especially our joints.

We talked about the most common symptoms, causes, and risk factors that lead to increased levels of uric acid and increase your chances of developing gout.

We also shared the top 5 foods to avoid if you’ve had past-gout issues, including:

  • Purine-rich foods, including red meats, anchovies, yeast, mushrooms, and dried peas and beans.
  • Oxalate-rich foods, including beets, chocolate, black tea, wheat bran, and strawberries
  • All dairy, gluten, and food additives
  • Refined sugars and flours
  • Alcohol, especially beer

We also reviewed some of the best, natural foods that specifically lower uric acid and reduce the risk of gout, including cherries and cherry juice, celery and celery juice, and turmeric.

You learned three of our favorite, easy-to-make natural drinks that are great to support your fight against inflammation and to help you reduce uric acid levels in your body:

  • Lemon-ACV-Turmeric Elixir
  • Organic Ginger and Turmeric Tea
  • Cherry Juice- Lime-Seltzer

Gout and uric acid are nothing you want to mess around with.  If you’ve had gout before, you know how painful and debilitating a gout attack can be.  Please, make sure you are taking the natural steps with your diet and exercise to keep uric acid levels in check and minimize your risk of gout.

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