By Dr. Mercola
Rates of gout have skyrocketed in the UK, rising 64 percent between 1997 and 2012.1 That equates to about a four percent rise every year, and this painful condition now affects one in 40 people!
Unfortunately, many of the media outlets that picked up this story have been focusing on the researchers' finding that access to medication was a problem, and rates of people using uric-acid-lowering medications remained "suboptimal."
If you struggle with gout, as increasing numbers of people do, the message to take home is that you don't need to take drugs to deal with this potentially excruciating condition.
You can address the underlying cause of excess uric acid formation through all natural means, and very effectively at that. Gout is, after all, primarily a lifestyle-related disease.
The Symptoms of Gout Are Related to Excess Uric Acid
Uric acid is a normal waste product found in your blood. High levels of uric acid are associated with gout, which is a type of painful arthritis and inflammation, and about half the time, targets the base of the big toe.
It has been known for some time that people with high blood pressure, overweight, and people with kidney disease often have high uric acid levels as well.
Uric acid functions both as an antioxidant and as a pro-oxidant once inside your cells. So, if you lower uric acid too much, you lose its antioxidant benefits. But if your uric acid levels are too high, it tends to increase to harmful levels inside your cells as well, where it acts as a pro-oxidant.
When the metabolic processes that control the amount of uric acid in your blood fail to do their job effectively, gout occurs. The stiffness and swelling are a result of excess uric acid-forming crystals in your joints, and the pain associated with this condition is caused by your body's inflammatory response to the crystals.
The symptoms associated with gout can be excruciating. In fact, gout is described as one of the most painful forms of arthritis. Most often, gout attacks the big toe first, with sufferers often describing it as being burned by a flame or skewered with a hot poker.
Gout symptoms usually go away within three to 10 days, and the next attack may not occur for months, or even years, if at all. However, oftentimes, gout becomes a lifelong problem, with attacks occurring with increasing frequency and severity. In time, this can permanently damage your joints and surrounding areas, especially if you don't take steps to help reduce your uric acid levels.
Why Drugs Are Not the Long-Term Solution for Gout
Conventional approaches to the treatment of gout typically involve the use of drugs like:
- Allopurinol, which works by reducing the amount of uric acid made by the body
- Colchicine, which blocks the inflammation caused by uric acid crystals
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
These drugs may work in the short term, but they also may have very dangerous, long-term side effects. Because gout is frequently a lifelong condition, you may end up staying on these drugs for very long periods of time, which can wreak havoc with your health.
Any time we're talking about reducing inflammation, please remember that your diet is your number one priority. This is especially true with gout, as it's known that meats and purine-rich foods can raise uric acid. Even more importantly, however, is the fact that one of the most potent ways to raise uric acid is by consuming large amounts of fructose!
If You Have Gout, Carefully Limit Your Fructose
Limiting fructose in your diet is one of the most important parts of managing and preventing gout attacks, and you can find a simple guide for doing so using my nutrition plan. You'll want to be sure to cut out soda, fruit drinks, and other sweetened beverages, as these types of drinks are a primary source of excessive fructose. Instead, drink plenty of pure water, as the fluids will help to remove uric acid from your body. Other top tips include:
• Limit Alcohol Consumption, Especially Beer: Gout is more likely if you drink too much alcohol but beer in particular may be problematic. It turns out that the yeast and all that's used to make beer work together to make beer another powerful uric acid trigger. While this concept is still new, pilot studies support Dr. Johnson's findings, so beer consumption is also something to definitely consider when you're watching your weight and trying to improve your health.
• Eat Tart Cherries in Moderation: Cherries contain powerful compounds like anthocyanins and bioflavonoids, which are known to fight inflammation and may help lower your uric acid levels.5 If you eat cherries for their therapeutic value, 10 sweet cherries or 1 cup of sour cherries contain about 4 grams of fructose, so be sure to take that into account for your total daily fructose consumption.
• Eat More Potassium-Rich Foods: Potassium deficiency is sometimes seen in people with gout, and potassium citrate preparations, which are known to alkalize your urine, may help your body to excrete uric acid.10 A proper balance of potassium both inside and outside your cells is crucial for your body to function properly, but if you eat a highly processed diet (the same type often associated with gout), you may not be getting enough. Potassium is widely available in fruits and vegetables, but I've included some of the most beneficial sources below. If you want to supplement, consider using potassium bicarbonate, which is probably the best potassium source to use as a supplement. I personally use it every night in my dental irrigator.
✓ Swiss chard (960 mg of potassium per 1 cup)
✓ Avocado (874 mg per cup)
✓ Spinach (838 mg per cup)
✓ Crimini mushrooms (635 mg in 5 ounces)
✓ Broccoli (505 mg per cup)
✓ Brussels sprouts (494 mg per cup)
✓ Celery (344 mg per cup)
✓ Romaine lettuce (324 mg per 2 cups)