Have you experienced painful joint swelling, especially around the big toe?
The earliest documented cases of gout were in Egypt in 2600BC and Hippocrates wrote about it in 400BC. Historically gout has been called “the king of diseases and the disease of kings” about its association with an indulgent lifestyle, affecting twenty times more men than women.
Gout is a form of arthritis, possibly the most common type of inflammatory joint disease. With gout, there is an overload of uric acid that builds up, usually in the big toe joint, forming sharp needle-like crystals of urate in the joint spaces that are then deposited in the soft tissue. The resulting painful joint inflammation and swelling, can be extreme and debilitating. The slightest touch to the affected area is excruciatingly painful. Acute gout attacks can be accompanied by fever and malaise. Usually gout will affect men in between 40 and 60, and if it occurs before 30, investigations should be undertaken to find the underlying cause. Post-menopausal women are also higher at risk.
Other than the big toe, gout can also occur in the heel, ankle, toe and other joints and tissues, and except in chronic cases its usually only in one joint at a time. Once lumps of urate crystals are deposited in a joint, recurrent attacks of gout can occur. Over time this inflammation can erode the bone. Other damaging effects of uric acid build up include kidney stones and kidney damage. Untreated, this can cause kidney problems from blocked tubules. More rarely, eye conditions can occur. Gout sufferers have a higher incidence of age-related macular degeneration.
How does this build-up of uric acid happen?
There are many reasons for this build up. Mostly it is because some people tend to produce too much uric acid, perhaps because of a purine-rich diet, some don’t excrete uric very well through the kidneys, and a small portion of people do both things.
The end-product of purine rich foods is uric acid and is associated with higher incidence of gout. Diets rich in purine foods contribute to uric acid levels in the body by more than 60% than in a diet free of purines. This tells us that diet can make a huge difference.
Genetics also play a role in the involvement of gout, so extra lifestyle and dietary measures are important to reduce the risk of gout, such as reducing beer and spirits. Some medications increase uric acid levels, as do certain diseases. Other factors that contribute to a higher incidence of gout include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and metabolic syndrome.
What you eat is important
There are foods that can significantly support healthy uric acid levels in the body, and for chronic gout sufferers, are good choices to focus most their diet on:
- Reducing or avoiding alcohol, particularly beer and liquor
- Avoiding high-purine containing foods, including organ meats, meat, and poultry
- Increasing wholegrain and complex carbohydrates, reducing refined carbohydrates
- Clean water – 30ml per kilogram of weight each day
- Fresh cherries and other berries
- Herbal teas over caffeinated drinks
- Once or twice a week a vegetable juice with celery as the main ingredient, and ginger, carrot, apple.
Maintaining an ideal weight will also be helpful, as will regular exercise.
Which herbs and supplements are helpful?
Research around gout discusses two main ingredients… tart cherry and celery seed, both of which can ease the symptoms by supporting the kidneys. Both are available in supplemental form.
HealthPost offers a wide range of products to support management of gout symptoms. These are available for secure shopping from our online shop.