Gout is a medical condition characterized by recurrent attacks of acute inflammatory arthritis that leave your joints swollen, hot, tender and red. Caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the blood that eventually form into needle-like urate crystals that deposit themselves in your joints, tendons and surrounding tissue, the disease usually affects the metatarsal-phalangeal joint of the big toe. It can also affect your ankles, knees, hands, wrists, fingers and elbows, and may even show itself in the form of kidney stones, urate nephropathy (decreased kidney function) and tophi (visible lumps of uric acid crystals under the skin).
Skimming common medical sites like WebMD, eMedicineHealth and MedScape can be scary and make you feel as if your gout condition is hopeless. But there are many simple things you can do at home to decrease your risk of gout flare ups and prevent the condition from forming in the first place. But first, you must know about uric acid.
Uric Acid: What It Is and How It Leads to Gout
Gout is caused by an elevated level of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid results from the breakdown of purines (which are found in many foods) and it usually dissolves in the blood and is then expelled via the kidneys, which turn it into urine. However, if the kidneys fail to eliminate enough uric acid or if a person ingests a lot of food or beverages high in purine, then the unusually high levels of uric acid can begin to build up in the blood (a condition called hyperuricemia). When these large amounts of uric acid crystalize and the resulting urate crystals deposit themselves into the joints, tendons and surrounding tissue, gout develops.
Some things that contribute to elevated uric acid levels in the blood include genetic predisposition, obesity or extra weight, eating foods high in uric acid, frequently consuming alcoholic beverages, taking certain medications (diuretics, aspirin, niacin and others), recent trauma or surgery, and other health problems like psoriasis, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, diabetes, hemolytic anemia and Lesch-Nyham syndrome/Kelley-Seegmiller syndrome (a rare condition in which the body lacks the enzyme needed to break down uric acid).
Simple Home Remedies to Prevent Gout and Gout Attacks
Now that you understand how gout develops, you can better understand the ways to treat it, reduce future flare ups and prevent the condition from forming in the first place. While there are several medications you can take to control gout, including steroids, colchicine and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), they often come with uncomfortable side effects. Luckily, there are many home remedies you can try to help the condition and not cause nauseating side effects.
Eat More Cherries
Several studies have found that ingesting cherries is an effective way to avoid gout attacks, as cherries are able to reduce uric acid levels and inflammation in the body. However, there seems to be a magic number associated with cherry consumption and gout attack avoidance: Eating 20 cherries per day (two servings, or one cup) can decrease your chance of developing a gout flare up by 50%. Eating any less isn’t effective in reducing future flare ups, and eating any more doesn’t seem to add any additional protection. However, ingesting any amount of cherry extract on a daily basis has been associated with a 40% lower chance of developing gout flare ups.
Avoid Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup has been linked to countless diseases and health problems, and gout is one of them. High consumption of high fructose corn syrup can inhibit your body’s ability to expel uric acid, which can lead to elevated levels that crystalize. Furthermore, any type of fructose is best avoided — even natural sources like orange juice and apple juice. As natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola points out, ingesting high amounts of fructose has been linked to diabetes and obesity — two conditions that increase your risk of developing gout.
Consume More Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Studies have shown that drinking 2 to 3 tablespoons of organic, non-filtered apple cider vinegar a day can decrease your chances of developing gout and reduce your chances of gout attacks. The reason is because the acetic acid in ACV helps to maintain an alkaline pH level in your body. Additionally, apple cider vinegar helps break up urate crystals, purify the blood, increase circulation and reduce inflammation and swelling in the joints.
Avoid Foods High in Purine
Because purine is broken down into uric acid, it’s best to avoid foods high in purine levels. Common foods that contain a lot of purine include:
- Calf tongue
- Kidney beans
- Lima beans
- Navy beans
There are many conflicting studies and articles about the effects of alcohol on your health, but one thing is clear: Those with gout should avoid it. Not only are beer and spirits linked to high levels of uric acid in the body and gout attacks, but consuming alcohol leads to a lowered immune system and can lead to weight gain, both of which increase your chances of developing gout.
Drink More Water
The standard eight glasses of water per day method works wonders for gout sufferers, as water helps flush the uric acid from your body and assists in proper circulation and hydration. It can also reduce the urate crystals from depositing themselves in your joints. So drink up!
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Approximately half of all gout sufferers are either obese or carry excess weight, meaning maintaining a healthy body weight can go a long way in avoiding the condition. Besides, obesity has been proven to worsen all types of arthritis, including gouty arthritis, and can lead to other risk factors including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Increasing physical activity can help you achieve an ideal body weight, and it also helps improve blood circulation — another weapon in your battle against gout.