Gout

Gout

Gout is a type of arthritis associated with raised blood levels of uric acid. Deposits of uric acid crystals form in the joints, tendons, kidneys and other tissues, causing inflammation and damage.

Symptoms

  • Gout is characterised by the sudden onset of intense pain, generally involving only one joint (commonly the big toe)
  • The affected joint is inflamed, red, swollen, hot and extremely sensitive to touch
  • Fever and chills may also occur
  • Episodes of gout may recur periodically without notice - the episodes may be weeks, months or even years apart

Causes

  • Under normal circumstances uric acid is filtered out of the bloodstream by the kidneys and is excreted in the urine. When this mechanism fails (e.g. due to kidney dysfunction, or because uric acid levels are excessive) the resulting accumulation of uric acid in the blood stream may lead to the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints and other tissues, where they trigger the symptoms of gout
  • Risk factors include being male, weight problems, and recent trauma to the affected joint (e.g. surgery or an injury)
  • Excessive consumption of foods rich in purines (e.g. red meat, offal, yeast and oily fish) increases uric acid levels and the risk of gout. Consumption of alcohol (especially beer) also increases the risk of gout
  • An especially indulgent meal or an alcohol binge may trigger the first and subsequent episodes
  • Gout may also be a side effect of prescribed medicines that raise uric acid levels (e.g. some diuretics)

Nutritional & Herbal Solutions

  • The anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and salmon oil may help to relieve the symptoms of gout, and minimise tissue damage
  • Celery seeds are traditionally taken to relieve the pain and swelling of gout and may work by promoting the excretion of the waste products that contribute to irritation and inflammation of the joints
  • Fruit containing high levels of anthocyanosides appear to have beneficial effects on gout, so taking bilberry capsules may also be helpful

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Gout may be indicative of underlying disease, and requires medical investigation
  • Don't drink alcohol (especially beer), because it increases the production of uric acid and simultaneously impairs kidney function. Many patients find that they experience gout less frequently when they stop drinking alcohol
  • If you have weight problems, achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. A low glycaemic index (GI) diet that's also rich in fibre and low in saturated fat is ideal
  • Avoid foods high in purines such as yeast (including bread, brewer's yeast and vegemite), shellfish, organ meats (offal, pate etc), sardines, chicken, turkey and dried beans
  • Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee, refined carbohydrates and saturated fats as they can raise uric acid levels
  • Try to include plenty of fresh or tinned cherries in your diet as well as other blue-purple coloured berries such as blueberries. They are rich in compounds called anthocyanidins, which appear to lower uric acid levels, and may reduce the frequency and severity of gout episodes. Bilberries contain similar compounds, so taking a bilberry supplement may also be beneficial
  • Don't take high doses of vitamin C or niacin
  • Drink at least two litres of water every day to flush out the kidneys and enhance the excretion of uric acid

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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