If you ever suffered from a gout attack, you will know just how painful this condition can be. While the big toe is particularly susceptible, gout can also affect the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers.
Gout is not a modern-day ailment. In fact, throughout history, gout has been recorded as causing people great pain and discomfort. Egyptian mummies revealed that ancient Egyptians were discovered to have uric acid crystals in their joints. Gout was, also, a common occurrence in Roman times amongst wealthy aristocrats who paid the price for their extravagant indulgences in rich food and abundant wine.
This painful, inflammatory arthritic condition usually occurs more commonly in men — almost 80 percent of people with gout are male. One reason for this is the female sex hormone oestrogen lowers urate levels and is therefore protective against gout in pre-menopausal women. And gout is more common the older you get. It affects 0.2 percent of Australian men in their 20s, increasing to 11 percent over the age of 85.
Modern medicine now understands that there is a direct relationship between specific foods and the creation of the painful urate crystals that accumulate in the synovial fluid and soft tissues of the joints, most commonly in the big toe.
The Gout-Purine Connection
Uric acid crystals are a result of the natural breakdown of purines — a class of chemical compounds found in all foods. When uric acid isn’t flushed out of the body properly, it can build up and create crystals. These crystals most commonly form in the joints and kidneys, causing pain and inflammation.
Alcohol is associated with the biggest risk factor for gout. Alcohol is a high-purine source. These compounds produce uric acid when broken down by the body. Alcohol also increases the metabolism of nucleotides. These are an additional source of purines that can be turned into uric acid.
A 2021 review found that most studies linked gout to the consumption of alcoholic beverages, such as beer and spirits. The researchers recommended that people with gout, as well as those at risk of developing the disease, limit their alcohol consumption to prevent gout episodes or flares. Different types of alcohol contain different types and amounts of purines. Beer is high in a type of purine called guanosine. In one analysis, researchers discovered that a high intake of alcohol led to twice the risk of developing gout.
The researchers concluded that “Episodic alcohol intake triggers gout attacks, regardless of the type of alcohol. Thus, individuals with established gout and pre-existing risk factors should limit all types of alcohol intake to prevent gout episodes.”
Another study investigated the association of sugar-sweetened beverages and fructose intake with gout. They found that these sugary drinks were significantly associated with an increased risk of gout. And in a large study of over 46,000 men, researchers found that two or more sugar-sweetened soft drinks a day were associated with an 85 percent increased risk of gout in men. Thus, all forms of sugary foods, i.e., cakes, candy, cookies and other sugar-added foods, should be avoided.
Another risk factor for gout is high-purine organ meats. Although not the most popular items on the menu, offal, liver and kidneys need to be reduced or eliminated from your diet to lower your risk of high uric acid. Also, Deli meats such as salami, deli turkey and bacon are high in nitrates, sodium and saturated fats and may trigger gout.
If you have a history of gout, it is best to dramatically reduce your meat intake, and seafood as well, although to a lesser extent. Although it may be difficult to avoid all meat, try keeping your meat intake to small servings a couple of times a week, and introduce more plant-based foods into your diet.
Tart Cherries – An Ancient Natural Treatment for Healing Gout
Mother nature has hidden within the natural world the wisdom for health and healing. The ancient cultures relied on the wisdom of Nature to provide relief and cures to restore health. As we regain our knowledge of the benefits of fruits, herbs and the many medicinal plants found in Nature, we are able to truly benefit from the wisdom passed down to us from ancient times.
The tart cherry is a healing fruit that has been recognized by many ancient cultures as an effective natural medicine to relieve pain and suffering. Its knowledge goes way back thousands of years. In fact, the use of tart cherries for gout can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Greeks. These cultures recognized the therapeutic properties of tart cherries and utilized them for many conditions, including alleviating the symptoms of gout.
The Sumerians, one of the earliest known civilizations in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), documented the use of cherries for medicinal purposes. They recorded the consumption of cherries to treat various ailments, including gout.
In ancient Egypt, cherries were highly regarded for their healing properties. The Egyptians believed that cherries possessed anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving qualities, which made them an effective remedy for gout. Cherries were incorporated into the diets of individuals suffering from gout, helping to reduce symptoms and alleviate joint pain.
The ancient Greeks, known for their advancements in medicine, also recognized the benefits of cherries in managing gout. They used tart cherries for various healing purposes. Cherries, including both sweet and tart varieties, were highly valued in Greek culture for their medicinal properties and were incorporated into traditional remedies and treatments. Tart cherries were particularly known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The Greek physician Hippocrates, often referred to as the “Father of Medicine,” recommended cherries to his patients as a natural treatment for gout.
The knowledge of tart cherries was passed on to the ancient Romans, who also cultivated and consumed them for their medicinal properties. In ancient times gout was a serious health problem for the Roman aristocracy who were notorious for their extravagant indulgence of wine and rich foods. Cherries were used to help alleviate their symptoms of pain and inflammation, such as joint pain and arthritis.
It is now known that tart cherries contain compounds such as anthocyanins and flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. While these ancient cultures didn’t have the same scientific understanding of gout as we do today, they observed the positive effects of tart cherries and incorporated them into their medical practices.
In recent years, scientific studies have investigated the potential benefits of tart cherries for gout. Studies found that tart cherries have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help to reduce gout symptoms. Since tart cherries are rich in anthocyanins, which are known for their anti-inflammatory effects, including tart cherry juice on a daily basis is a wise choice to help reduce the pain and swelling associated with gout.
The Big Message for Gout Prevention
There is a direct association between high-purine foods and an increase in gout. Since gout is an extremely painful condition, modifying your diet will make a big difference in developing or aggravating gout. Overall, the best diet to reduce your risk of getting gout or reduce your risk of gout attacks is to focus on an anti-inflammatory diet. This means reducing (or eliminating) alcohol, all forms of sugar and refined carbohydrates, organ meats and some forms of seafood.
It is best to choose a primarily plant-based diet with small portions of meat. Include low-purine foods (e.g., whole grains, vegetables, plant-based protein like nuts and legumes). Include known gout-reducing foods such as tart cherry juice and foods high in vitamin C (e.g., oranges, spinach, kale). Make sure that you are well hydrated and drink 8 glasses of filtered water daily. Reduce stress. Increase moderate exercise.
It is evident that gout is caused primarily by the dietary choices you make. Therefore, choose your diet wisely to create greater health and wellness, thus making the pain and suffering from gout a condition of the past.
Sherrill Sellman, ND, is a Naturopathic Doctor, best-selling author, holistic health expert, psychotherapist, contributor to health magazines worldwide, lecturer, and host of two weekly podcasts. She can be found at www.drsherrillsellman.com and @sherrillsellman.
| Gout Risk Factors
Tart cherries, also known as sour, dwarf, or Montmorency cherries, have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. Compared to sweet cherries, which tend to be enjoyed fresh, tart cherries are often consumed dried, frozen, or juiced. Tart cherry juice is made from the fruit of the Prunus cerasus tree, native to southwest Asia and Europe, and is linked to a number of interesting health benefits (1Trusted Source).