The Best Superfoods for Reducing Gout
Nearly everyone has heard of gout but not everyone knows what it is or that this complex disorder afflicts somewhere between two and five million Americans. While women also are known to have this ailment, it occurs three times more often in men, most of them over the age of 40. The American College of Rheumatology estimated in 2011 that two percent of American women and six percent of men in the US suffer from this condition.
Several centuries ago gout was known as “the disease of kings” because it was known to afflict the wealthy and aristocrats who were consuming rich foods and liquor. If one were to ask someone who is unfortunate enough to have this disease they might admit the food and alcohol is not worth the terrible pain they endure, which is sometimes compared to being impaled by a hot poker. The pain is the cause of many sleepless nights for gout patients.
Although conventional medical practitioners may support the theory that gout can only be treated with painkillers and drugs, natural treatments can be used to alleviate and treat the symptoms and even to effectively prevent this condition.
Gout – What is it?
This condition is actually a form of arthritis which is known to cause stiffness, pain and joint inflammation. The term comes from the Latin word “gutta” and the old French word “gote,” which means “a drop.” Several hundred years ago, the general consensus was that gout was caused by “viscous humors,” which were thought to be one of the body fluids which were believed to form an individual’s features and personality. People thought these fluids would seep from the bloodstream and deposit themselves in the joints, thereby cause severe pain.
In more modern times this belief was given some substance: gout is now known to be the cause of excessive uric acid that crystalizes in one’s joints. The reason men have gout more often than women is because males typically have higher levels of uric acid in their bloodstream. However, after menopause women can also become afflicted with gout. Reaching menopause causes the body to dramatically cut production of estrogen, which aids the kidneys as they excrete uric acid. When estrogen levels drop, uric acid levels rise. By the age of 60, cases of gout in men and women become almost equal.
The Symptoms of Gout
Gout’s symptoms can strike without any warning, and frequently occur at night. While gout typically strikes the big toe it can also occur in any of the body’s joints. Attacks of gout are called “flare-ups” and come with intense pain. Along with the pain the skin around the infected area is suddenly red, inflamed and very sensitive. Even small amounts of light pressure are nearly unbearable, such as touching the area with clothing or bedsheets.
Some of the common symptoms associated with gout include:
- Pain in the joints found in the big toe, wrists, hands, ankles, knees, and feet. Affected areas may be warm to the touch.
- Red, swollen and tender joints.
- Nodules located in the ears, hands or elbows.
- Purple or reddish skin that gives the appearance of an infection.
- Loss of flexibility in the joints or limited movement.
People who suffer from gout discover the symptoms typically last for only three to 10 days. Their next “flare-up” may not happen for months, years, or not at all. The best way to help ensure this attacks will not continue to recur is to address the condition before truly serious damage occurs to the joints and the surrounding tissue in the body.
Another good reason to treat gout as soon as it begins to occur is that most people find their flare-ups become longer in duration and more sever when no treatment is sought to contain the illness.
But why does this disease happen in the first place?
Gout and Uric Acid Levels
Certain risk factors have been detected that frequently give rise to the illness. These include certain medical conditions and lifestyle habits that are unhealthy. A minor role in the onslaught of gout can be attributed to genetics. When one or both of an individual’s parents had gout, the chances that the person and their offspring will be stricken with it as well are much higher.
Many modern-day alternative health practitioners believe the one factor that may predispose a person to eventually having gout is consuming unhealthy foods. Attacks of gout happen when the person has hyperuricemia, or extremely high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream.
Uric acid normally dissolves in the blood and then goes through the kidneys without any pain or damage. When uric acid builds up, sharp crystals are formed in the joints and their surround tissue, causing severe pain.
While hyperuricemia typically does not exhibit any symptoms, failing to address this condition and allowing uric acid levels to rise in the blood increases the risk for gout flare-ups. Other health conditions that can accompany this condition include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
Weight Plays a Part
In today’s society we are inundated with the unhealthy consequences that can occur due to being overweight or obese. One of the many health problems now associated with being overweight includes gout.
Nearly half of overweight people today also have gout.
The probable reason behind this is that gout is an inflammatory condition in the body, and is linked to an illness characterized by obesity – metabolic syndrome. Today’s data further shows that gout sufferers also have a high prevalence of metabolic syndrome.
As we now know that obesity can cause the worsening of any type of arthritis, it is not surprising that gout attacks can be exacerbated by being overweight. Excess body weight equals a need for extra support, further irritating the body’s nerve endings. The extra weight also makes the attacks worse than those of their more moderate counterparts.
The best solution for alleviating gout is to lose the extra weight and don’t put it back on.
Weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, increases the levels of cytokines in the immune system. Some types of cytokines provoke an inflammatory response the contributes to atherosclerosis, a condition where fatty deposits form in the arteries.
When study participants underwent a program of exercise, diet and behavioral counseling for one year, by the program’s end they had each lost at least 10 percent of the weight they began with, or an average of 22 pounds. Their levels of cytokines and other potentially damaging proteins were also reduced.
Their conclusion: planning and some lifestyle changes to include more natural choices can have a significant impact on maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding gout.
Foods and natural treatments found to be beneficial for reducing the symptoms of gout
The best option for gout when addressed by conventional physicians is to use drugs instead of these natural treatments. Unfortunately, such an avenue does not take into account the underlying cause of gout.
Colchicine and allopurinol are gout drugs which work by lowering the body’s uric acid levels and decreasing uric acid levels. However, these drugs also have harmful long-term effects, especially since gout can last for one’s lifetime if not treated properly.
Many health-conscious people also turn to natural anti-inflammatory foods and herbs (or products containing these) which will help to alleviate the symptoms associated with gout. One such remedy is capsicum cream, which is derived from dried hot peppers. The product works by depleting the body of substance P, which is a chemical in nerve cells that sends pain signals to the brain.
Other holistic remedies which have been shown to reduce inflammation to some extent include:
- Boswellia (Indian Frankincense) – This product contains anti-inflammatory ingredients that are known to decrease pain.
- Krill oil – The EPA and DHA omega-3 fats in krill oil reduce joint pain and promote lubrication in the joints.
- Bromelain – A natural anti-inflammatory that comes from pineapples, bromelain can also be taken as a supplement. The bromelain in a pineapple is actually found in the core – so don’t throw it away!
- Cetyl myristoleate oil (CMO) – This anti-inflammatory and joint lubricant is found in fish and organic dairy butter. Topical CMO can be used for ganglion cysts and carpal tunnel syndrome relief.
- Evening primrose – This product contains gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid used to alleviate pain caused from arthritis.
- Ginger – Eaten fresh in food or steeped as a tea, ginger is a natural immune system booster that has pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. It is more potent added to food (such as in stir fries and curries) however if you find the taste too strong taking a good quality organic ginger supplement is recommended.
The above natural treatments can also be used for other types of chronic pain such as osteoarthritis, arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Modern diets contain vast amounts of highly-processed foods which are nutritionally deficient, which is a leading cause of gout becoming a prominent condition today. Most people who want to avoid gout or hope to alleviate a current case of gout should be wary of eating unhealthy foods and drinks.
Some foods to avoid include high-purine foods such as herrings, asparagus, mushrooms, anchovies and organ meats. Another culprit that can give rise to gout by raising uric acid levels is high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS.
Some experts believe that the chronically-elevated blood sugar levels in gout patients is the underlying cause of this condition. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can be found in processed foods and perhaps the worst item contributing to gout are sodas that contain this . Fructose is known to inhibit the excretion of uric acid from the body, elevating uric acid in the bloodstream.
Therefore suffers may benefit significantly by eliminating as much sugar from the diet as possible to avoid gout or to alleviate its symptoms.