Gout is an excruciatingly painful condition that normally affects one joint, predominantly the big toe joint put can also affect the fingers, hands, wrists, ankles and or knees. It is a condition similar to arthritis and affects more men than women.
It typically affects men between the ages of 40 to60 and in women it is often diagnosed after menopause from the ages 60 to 80. Having gout increases your risk factors of developing arthritis at some time in life also. It is caused by the build up of uric acid in joints which causes needle like crystals to form in the tissues.
Typical symptoms include severe pain, inflammation and swelling. These symptoms can also severely interfere with activities of daily living, especially the ability to walk when the big toe is affected.
A substance called purine which is sourced from some of the foods we eat and produced by the body is the chief cause of uric acid crystals to settle in joints. This article discusses the early signs and symptoms of gout, current treatments, foods to avoid to prevent gout flare-ups and effective herbal treatments that can help alleviate symptoms.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Gout
Many cases of gout remain undiagnosed as the symptom of pain usually disappears after up to 10 days causing many people not to seek medical advice. Typical symptoms of gout are as follows.
Pain is usually sudden and unexpected. Often a person will first experience the pain after being woken up in the night by it. The pain is often described as being a sudden and jabbing pain. Placing any pressure or strain on the joint exacerbates the pain. Severe pain usually lasts up to 10 days before slowly reducing over a two week period.
- Swelling and Inflammation
The joint will appear red and be hot and tender to the touch. Marked swelling will be noted in the tissue around the joint. If it is present in the big toe joint, the swelling may make it difficult to fit into shoes and or wearing shoes extremely uncomfortable.
Blood tests can determine if a person has high levels of uric acid in the blood. A kidney function test may also be used to determine whether there is a problem with the kidneys not eliminating uric acid from the body. Medications can be prescribed to both treat symptoms and to prevent further gout flare-ups. Generally medications include both non steroidal anti-inflammatory’s and steroids including corticosteroids. A medication called colchicine can be used to help prevent further gout attacks. These medications can effectively address symptoms and prevent further attacks but do have unwanted side effects.
Foods to Avoid Gout Flare-ups
Some foods have high levels of the substance purine which is known to cause gout flare-ups. Uric acid forms from the breakdown of some food products and blood levels are regulated by the kidneys. Avoiding the following foods is recommended if you have been diagnosed with gout.
- Organ Meats
Although not eaten by many, organ meats contain one of the highest levels of purines of all food sources. Avoid eating hearts, brains, kidneys and other sweetbreads.
- Other Meat Sources
Bacon, veal, liver and meat broths also contain high levels of purine.
Relatively unknown, some seafood contains high levels of purines. Try to avoid sardines, anchovies, herring, mussels, scallops, trout and haddock.
Some game poultry contains high levels of purines. Avoid eating pheasants, turkey, goose and partridge.
It is well known by most chronic gout sufferers that they should avoid alcohol. Alcohol interacts with purines in the body and increases protein metabolism which can cause frequent gout flare-ups.
Herbal Treatments for Gout
Herbal remedies are not for everyone. They can have side effects and can interact with your current medication. If considering using an herbal treatment for gout symptoms, it is best advice to talk to your doctor first. The following herbal treatments have been found to be effective at alleviating symptoms for some gout sufferers but are not always scientifically proven to be beneficial.
- Devils Claw
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends the use of devils claw to treat the symptoms of gout. It can help alleviate pain and inflammation of the affected joints. Devils Claw is available in capsule form in most health food shops.
Alfalfa supplements have shown to reduce the amount of uric acid in blood serum. This effectively can help prevent gout flare-ups. It is also available in capsule form in most health food shops.
Boswellia is a potent anti-inflammatory. By reducing inflammation in the affected joints it helps to reduce swelling and pain associated with gout. It is also an effective pain reliever alone. It is available in capsule form in most health food shops.
Although there is little scientific evidence to support dandelions use as a treatment for gout, anecdotal evidence shows it to be effective at reducing inflammation and swelling of joints. It can be consumed as an herbal tea or use the herbal tea liquid to soak affected joints in. It is also believed to be a diuretic. Diuretics increase urinary output which can help to reduce excess fluid in joints contributing to swelling and pain.
In conclusion, gout can be severely incapacitating. If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms in this article, do not hesitate to consult your doctor. Conventional treatments can be very effective at alleviating symptoms and preventing gout flare ups. Chronic gout conditions can lead to long term side effects such as arthritis and kidney stones. Herbal treatments can be used as a trial and error scenario to evaluate whether they are effective for each individual case. Gout used to be known as the rich mans disease because the rich elites devoured the highest amounts of alcohol and sweetmeats. Today it is known that if you have a family history of gout, it places you at higher risk of developing this painful disorder.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.