Gout is a complex disorder that’s becoming prevalent in the United States and many developed countries. Almost two to five million Americans, 90 percent of them men in their 40s or older, currently suffer from this ailment. In 2011, the American College of Rheumatology announced that gout already affects six percent of males and two percent of females in the US.1
Gout used to be an uncommon disease, in fact, many centuries ago, it was known as an affliction of the rich and even called the “disease of kings,”2because it’s more common among aristocrats and noblemen who had access to fancy foods and liquor.
Gout should not be taken lightly. Ask anyone who has this condition and they would probably tell you how the excruciating pain caused by this disease – often likened to “being skewered by a hot poker” – has kept them awake for many nights.
Conventional medicine tells you that the only way to treat and relieve gout is to take drugs and painkillers, but I disagree – there are natural ways to relieve, treat, and prevent this agonizing condition effectively.
What Is Gout?
Gout is a type of arthritis characterized by pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the joints. The word “gout” was derived from the Latin “gutta” and old French “gote,” meaning “a drop.” Hundreds of years ago, people believed that gout was caused by viscous humors: in ancient Western physiology, humors are one of the four body fluids that determine a person’s temperament and features.3These humors would seep from the blood and become deposited in the joints, where they would cause excruciating pain.
This ancient belief isn’t very far from the truth, as gout was found to be actually caused by excessive uric acid that crystalize in your joints. Essentially, gout occurs when the metabolic process that controls the amount of uric acid in your blood breaks down.
Gout is more prevalent among men, who usually have higher uric acid levels in their blood than women. But this doesn’t mean women are exempt from this disease – it can actually affect them after menopause. Once a woman reaches menopause, her body drastically cuts its production of the hormone estrogen, which helps the kidneys excrete uric acid. Without enough estrogen, a woman’s uric acid level begins to increase.
By age 60, the number of cases of gout in women and men are nearly equal.
Gout Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of gout are generally acute – they can strike without warning, often at night. The condition usually affects your big toe (podagra), but can occur in any joint in your body.
Gout attacks, also called “flare-ups,” should not be taken lightly, as they come with a great deal of pain. Your skin becomes extremely sensitive, red, and inflamed. Putting even the slightest pressure on the affected areas, such as covering them with a bedsheet, becomes unbearable.
Here are some common gout symptoms:
Severe pain in the joints of your ankles, hands, wrists, knees, and feet, especially your big toe. The affected areas may feel warm or hot Nodules (tophi) in the elbows, hands, or ears Red, tender, and swollen joints Red or purplish skin(Many patients mistake this for an infection) Less flexibility and limited movement in the affected joints Fever
Acute 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. But, beware – if you fail to address this illness, you may be subjected to more gout attacks. The more gout flare-ups you experience, the more severe and longer they will become.
Having recurrent gout attacks can also inflict serious damage on your joints and the surrounding areas. This is why I highly encourage you to treat your gout as soon as possible before it causes irreversible harm on your body. There are natural, drug-free methods to help your body get rid of this ailment.
But before I go into your gout treatment options, let’s analyze first why this disease occurs.
The Link Between Gout and Your Uric Acid Levels
Gout can develop because of certain risk factors, such as unhealthy lifestyle habits and medical conditions. Genetics can also play a minor role in the development of this disease. If either or both of your parents had gout, you and your children have a high chance of acquiring it, too.
However, I believe there’s one significant factor that predisposes you to gout, and that’s consuming unhealthy foods that wreak havoc on your uric acid levels. Gout attacks occur when you have hyperuricemia, a condition where you have high levels of uric acid in your blood.
Normally, uric acid dissolves in your blood and passes through your kidneys without causing any harm. However, your body may either create too much uric acid or fail to excrete enough of it in your urine. This results in uric acid buildup that forms needle-like crystals in your joints and the surrounding tissues, leading to intense pain.
Hyperuricemia usually has no symptoms, but if you fail to address it and your uric acid blood levels continue to rise, your risk of a gout flare-up increases as well. It can also put you at risk of health conditions that include:
Diabetes High blood pressure High cholesterol Kidney disease Heart disease
Being Overweight or Obese Puts You at a Higher Risk of Gout
I’ve always warned against the dangers of being overweight or obese, and how it can lead to many health problems. Gout may be one of its consequences. Approximately half of all people with gout today are overweight.
Gout is an inflammatory condition – it’s caused by inflammation in your body, which is linked to metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism. According to medical data, there is a high prevalence of metabolic syndrome among gout sufferers.
What’s more, excess body weight can exacerbate gout attacks, as it requires extra support. This further irritates your already sensitive nerve endings. It’s not surprising that overweight gout patients are more prone to experience more painful and intense flare-ups. As a matter of fact, obesity can worsen any type of arthritis.
The best thing you can do is to simply lose the weight and keep it off. A 2002 study published in the journal Circulation proves this: researchers studied obese women with metabolic syndrome and found that weight gain, especially around the abdomen, increased the levels of a protein called cytokines in their immune system. Certain cytokines cause an inflammatory response that can contribute to the formation of fatty deposits in arteries (atherosclerosis).
The participants were asked to undergo a one-year program of diet, exercise, and behavioral counseling. At the end of the program, they each lost at least 10 percent of their starting weight, which is an average of about 22 pounds, and also reduced their levels of cytokines and other damaging proteins.4
A bit of thoughtful planning and a few natural lifestyle changes can actually have a significant impact on managing your weight and helping you avoid gout. I’ll discuss more about this later.
Unfortunately, conventional physicians ignore these natural tactics and instead recommend drugs as the “best” option for gout treatment – something that does not address the underlying cause.
Are Drugs Really Necessary to Treat Gout?
Over the years, physicians have been prescribing gout patients with different pharmaceutical drugs, such as:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) Corticosteroids Corticotropin (adrenocorticotropic hormone) Colchicine Febuxostat Aloprim Zyloprim
Not only is there NO solid evidence that these drugs can actually cure gout, but they also expose you to many side effects, including extremely dangerous ones.
For example, NSAIDs, one of the most widely prescribed drugs today, are known to cause:
Gastrointestinal upsets including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and decreased appetite Dizziness, headaches, and drowsiness Fluid retention Rashes Kidney and/or liver failure Shortness of breath Prolonged bleeding after an injury Ulcers
NSAIDs can also increase your risk of fatal stomach and intestinal reactions, which can occur at any time during your gout treatment and without any apparent symptoms. NSAIDs (except for low-dose aspirin) can also put you at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
Gout drugs like allopurinol and colchicine work by decreasing crystal formation, lowering your uric acid levels, or blocking your body’s natural inflammatory response. They also have very dangerous long-term effects, and since gout can be a lifelong condition, following conventional advice and taking these drugs for a very long time can potentially wreak havoc on your wellbeing.
The good news is that there are natural anti-inflammatory remedies that can help alleviate gout symptoms. Among these iscayenne cream, also known as capsaicin cream. Derived from dried hot peppers, it alleviates pain by depleting your body’s supply of substance P, a chemical found in nerve cells, which transmits pain signals to your brain.
Here are other holistic pain relief alternatives that I highly recommend:
Boswellia (boswellin or “Indian frankincense”). It contains active anti-inflammatory ingredients that may reduce pain. Krill oil. Animals studies found that its EPA and DHA omega-3 fats have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce joint inflammation and promote joint lubrication. Bromelain. This natural anti-inflammatory is found in fresh pineapples, but can also be taken in supplement form. Cetyl myristoleate oil (CMO).Found in dairy butter and fish, this acts as a joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory. I use topical CMO to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pains me whenever I use a non-ergonomic keyboard. Evening primrose, black currant, and borage oils. They contain gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that is useful for arthritic pain. Ginger. It’s a natural immune system booster with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. You can eat it fresh or seep it to make delicious ginger tea.
These are wonderful natural remedies with anti-inflammatory properties that are ideal not only for gout, but also for chronic pain and other types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Gout Treatment Starts with Your Diet
The modern American diet, which is loaded with highly processed and nutritionally deficient foods, is the primary reason why gout cases are consistently on the rise today. Therefore, if you want to avoid or reverse this condition, you must be very cautious of what you eat.
The common belief is that eating high-purine foods causes gout attacks. Organ meats, anchovies, mushrooms, asparagus, and herring are some gout foods to avoid. When your body breaks down the purine in these foods, uric acid is produced, which in turn elevates your blood levels and wreaks havoc on your joints. This is why the conventional gout diet that most health experts recommend doesn’t contain high-purine foods.
However, many people are not aware that there is another dietary culprit that wrecks your uric acid levels, putting you at high risk of gout: high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
I believe that having chronically elevated blood sugar levels is the REAL underlying problem that causes the inflammation associated with gout, as well as the subsequent damage it inflicts on your body, specifically your joints. Even if you reduce your consumption of high-purine foods, you will still experience gout symptoms if you continue to ingest HFCS, which is mostly found in processed foods.
A study conducted by US and Canadian researchers found that consuming HFCS-containing soda is strongly associated with an increased risk of developing gout. They found that men who consumed two or more sodas per day had an 85 percent higher risk of gout than those who drank less than one a month. The risk also significantly increased in men who consumed five to six servings of soft drinks a week. Fruit juices and high-fructose fruits like oranges and apples also increased the risk.
But how does fructose specifically affect your uric acid levels?
Apparently, fructose inhibits the excretion of uric acid, causing it to build up inside your body, which elevates your uric acid blood levels.
Uric acid is also a byproduct of fructose metabolism. Fructose is metabolized by your body differently from natural sugar, as it goes directly to your liver. When your liver metabolizes fructose, it produces numerous waste products and toxins, including a high amount of uric acid. In fact, fructose typically generates uric acid within minutes of ingestion!
Fructose has been linked to countless health problems and chronic diseases, including high cholesterol, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Fructose also converts to fat more readily than other types of sugar, making it a major risk factor for both diabetes and obesity – which, as previously discussed, may cause gout.
Thus, eliminating all types of sugar, especially HFCS, should be a major focus of your gout diet. Other gout foods to avoid are grains, including whole wheat varieties, as these also convert to sugar in your body.
Sodas and other sweetened beverages, including fruit juices and “healthy” sports drinks, should be avoided at all costs as these can aggravate or cause gout. Remember, an average 12-ounce can of soda contains 40 grams of sugar, at least half of which is fructose. Make pure and clean water your beverage of choice, as it will help remove excess uric acid from your body. As a standard recommendation, keep your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. However, for most people, such as those who are already at risk of gout and other diseases like diabetes, limiting fructose consumption to 15 grams or less is a recommended. This is because there are hidden sources of fructose in other foods that you may be eating.
Food manufacturers use HFCS because it’s cheaper, sweeter than table sugar, and easier to blend. Sugar, as well as added salt, can also stabilize food ingredients, extending the shelf life of foods. This is why many supermarket foods, and even processed meats, now contain high levels of fructose.
Biochemist Russ Bianchi claims that in some processed products, HFCS is either intentionally mislabeled or uses deceptively legally noncompliant names, like:
Chicory Glucose-fructose syrup/ glucose syrup/ iso glucose Inulin Dahlia syrup Tapioca syrup Crystalline fructose Fruit fructose Agave
When buying any food, make sure to check the label and keep an eye out for these toxic ingredients. In addition, make sure that wholesome organic foods, such as fresh, locally- grown vegetables, raw dairy, and eggs, make up the bulk of your meals.
Fresh Cherries and Strawberries May Help Reduce Gout Attacks
I often warn about consuming high amounts of fruits, which contain sugar that may become toxic in excess. However, studies have shown that fresh, organic berries, particularly cherries and strawberries, may hold benefits for gout patients, as long as they are consumed in moderation.
Tart cherries contain anthocyanins and bioflavonoids, two powerful antioxidants that can slow down the enzymes Cyclo-oxygenase-1 and -2, which help relieve and prevent gout and arthritis. A study found that among 600 gout sufferers, those who ate a half-cup serving of tart cherries per day (10 to 12 cherries) or consumed cherry extract had a 35 percent lower risk of a subsequent gout attack. Meanwhile, those who ate up to three servings in two days had a 50 percent reduced risk.
The same effect has been seen in berries, particularly in strawberries. Not only are strawberries a rich source of free radical-fighting antioxidants, but they also help your body eliminate uric acid.
If fresh berries are out of season, you can buy concentrated berry juice, but make sure to look for an organic, unpasteurized variety that is free of HFCS and other sugars. Cherry juice concentrate can have 55 to 60 tart cherries per ounce – this means you have to eat 55 to 60 cherries to get the same health benefits, and that is too much sugar! With a concentrate, you reap the benefits without the sugar. You can also go for organic frozen or canned tart cherries or strawberries.
Avoiding Alcohol Is Crucial for Successful Gout Treatment
Alcohol is a strong risk factor for gout. In fact, people who have hypertension, coronary artery disease, and are prone to excessive alcohol consumption are often afflicted with this ailment. Many people would argue and say that wine, especially red wine, is good for their health because of its high resveratrol antioxidant content. But beware, as wine can increase your insulin levels, which is a risk factor for diabetes. Alcohol can also raise your blood uric acid levels and may even initiate a gout attack.
So, as much as possible, limit your alcohol consumption, as it can hinder your gout treatment protocol. I believe that alcohol should only be reserved for people who have already achieved optimal wellness and do not suffer from any disease.
Is Exercise Recommended for Gout Treatment?
Many people who suffer from gout become extremely cautious about exercise, as they think this will exacerbate the pain or cause further injury. They end up being sedentary, spending their time lying down, hoping the pain will subside. But this is actually one of the worst things you can do if you have gout or any type of arthritis. Exercise is a crucial aspect of a healthy lifestyle and has a wide range of health-promoting benefits, including strengthening your immune system, reversing pre-diabetic condition, preventing depression, and alleviating pain. Exercise is also one of the most powerful tools for preserving bone density and joint function.
While I do not recommend exercising while your joints are in pain, this tactic can be very useful once your gout is under control. A well-rounded exercise program can help prevent further attacks by increasing circulation and normalizing your insulin levels, which will ultimately help normalize your uric acid levels.
When you exercise, make sure to avoid activities that may aggravate your joint pain or strain a significantly unstable joint. If you feel pain for longer than an hour after your workout, slow down or choose another type of exercise. You can also use assistive devices to decrease the pressure on the joints during the workout. Working with a professional physical therapist or personal trainer who can develop a safe range of activities for you is also recommended.
Other Lifestyle Habits That Can Help Prevent Gout
As I always tell my readers, virtually any chronic disease can be avoided by practicing healthy lifestyle strategies. Add these health tips to your gout treatment protocol to help you manage or treat this condition effectively:
- Limit processed foods and replace non-vegetable carbs with healthy fats. Processed foods are notoriously high in fructose and artificial additives and preservatives – avoid them at all costs. Meanwhile, replacing non-vegetable carbs with healthful fats helps optimize and normalize your insulin and leptin levels. Some of the best sources of beneficial fats include coconuts coconut oil, avocados, olives and olive oil, raw butter, and raw nuts like macadamias, walnuts, and pecans.
You should also get plenty of animal-based omega-3 fats, such as from krill oil, which have a profound impact on joint health, inflammation, and arthritis. Omega-3s can produce compounds called resolvins and protectins, which help control inflammation before it damages your tissues. Animal-based omega-3 fat krill oil in particular has been found to help combat inflammation-related disorders, including arthritis.15
You should try to focus your diet on whole, ideally organic or locally grown unprocessed foods. For a complete guide on which foods to eat and which ones to avoid, check out my Nutrition Plan.
- Drink pure and clean water. Your blood, kidneys, and liver need water for detoxification, in order to eliminate toxins and waste products such as uric acid from your body. So instead of drinking fruit juices and sodas that are loaded with fructose and toxic additives, opt for pure and clean drinking water.
- Get enough vitamin D from sun exposure. Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients everyone needs, and studies have proven its overall role in human health. It influences over 2,000 genes in your body and affects many body processes, making it a key player in the prevention of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The best way to optimize your vitamin D levels is not through oral supplements, but through sun exposure (or a safe tanning bed), as this allows your body to naturally generate water-soluble vitamin D3 sulfate, which can travel freely in your bloodstream. To optimize your levels, you need to expose large portions of your skin to the sun, preferably as close to solar noon as possible, for a few minutes, or until your skin turns a light shade of pink.16
To learn more about the benefits of vitamin D and how to optimize your levels, check out my Vitamin D resource page.
- Manage your stress. Even the conservative Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that 85 percent of all disease has an emotional element. When you’re stressed, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which puts your body in a “fight or flight” mode – your heart rate and blood flow increase, your lungs take in more oxygen, and parts of your immune system become temporarily suppressed, reducing your inflammatory response to pathogens and other foreign invaders.
However, when stress becomes chronic, your immune system becomes less sensitive to cortisol. Since inflammation is partly regulated by cortisol, the decreased sensitivity increases the inflammatory response, allowing inflammation to get out of control and cause chronic diseases. This is why employing effective stress management techniques is absolutely important if you want to maintain optimal health.
One of the techniques I highly recommend is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This acupuncture-like tool works by stimulating different energy meridian points in your body as you tap them with your fingertips and say uplifting verbal affirmations. EFT can help eliminate your emotional “scarring” and reprogram the way your body responds to emotional stressors, which helps diseases and other ailments to improve or disappear.
For a demonstration of how to perform EFT, watch this video featuring EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman.
- Get grounded. Grounding or earthing is simply walking barefoot and connecting your body to the earth. When you’re grounded, free electrons from the earth transfer into your body. These free electrons are probably the most potent antioxidants known to man and helps electrically neutralize the free radicals in your tissues. Grounding also thins your blood and makes it less viscous, which can help you avoid cardiovascular disease.
To incorporate grounding into your routine, I highly recommend exercising outside. The beach, close to or in the water, is the ideal location for walking barefoot, as seawater is a great conductor. You can also do this in a grassy, dewy area.
- Get enough high-quality sleep. No amount of healthy food or exercise can counteract the negative effects of poor sleeping habits. High-quality sleep is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, and without it, you can be exposed to many health ailments and diseases. Sleep deprivation also interferes with your growth hormone production, which leads to premature aging.
Most people require at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night, but sleep needs are highly individual and may also depend on your current state of health and stress levels. If you still feel sleepy upon waking or feel like you need a nap several times during the day, you’re probably not getting enough sleep.
For more helpful tips on getting high-quality sleep, please review my 33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep.
Gout can be managed, treated, or prevented with the right lifestyle habits. Remember that dangerous drugs are not always the best choice for gout treatment. Instead, focus on addressing the underlying cause of this painful condition using all-natural means, so you will not fall victim to this damaging disease.