Pain gets everyone’s attention. Whether it’s a stubbed toe or a headache, heartburn or arthritis, pain signals that something has gone wrong. With appropriate treatment, most of these conditions are manageable. Then there is pain that is impossible to ignore and hard to control, such as a gout attack.
What Causes Gout?
In this extremely painful condition, uric acid builds up in the bloodstream. Ultimately it precipitates in the form of needle-like urate crystals that lodge in joints.
The resulting inflammation causes redness, swelling, warmth and extreme tenderness. The joint that is most commonly affected is the big toe. That said, nearly any joint can be afflicted. Sudden severe pain in a joint deserves prompt medical attention for diagnosis.
Triggers for a Gout Attack:
Health professionals often blame diet as a precipitating factor. Historically, “rich” foods were considered responsible for gout. That’s because purine-containing meats and seafood are broken down in the body to urate. A diet that limits purine is frequently recommended. That means reducing consumption of red meat and seafood like shrimp.
High-fructose corn syrup is a particular culprit and should be avoided (American Journal of Medicine, Nov., 2016). To do that, stay away from soft drinks and read labels on other prepared foods. Limiting alcohol consumption, especially beer, is also important. Coffee, on the other hand, might be protective.
Another significant contributor to gout can be medications. Tens of millions of Americans take drugs that raise uric acid levels. Diuretics are among the worst culprits. One reader shared this story: “I was put on hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) for high blood pressure. I started having pain and tingling in my hands and then it became hard to walk or stand for any length of time. The pain would wake me up at night. “My ankles,
“I was put on hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) for high blood pressure. I started having pain and tingling in my hands and then it became hard to walk or stand for any length of time. The pain would wake me up at night.
“My ankles, knees and hands hurt on a daily basis. I was told by my doctors to lose weight, which wasn’t helpful. I stopped taking the HCTZ and the gout pain went away.”
Other medications that can trigger gout flare-ups include the immune suppressant cyclosporine, the Parkinson’s drug levodopa, other diuretics like furosemide, the pain reliever celecoxib and beta blockers such as carvedilol.
Alternatives to Avoid a Gout Attack:
If a medicine is contributing to high uric acid levels, it may be possible to substitute a different drug that will not produce such a side effect. Doctors can prescribe pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen or medication such as colchicine to reduce the inflammation and pain associated with a gout attack. Corticosteroids like prednisone may also be used. To prevent another attack, drugs like allopurinol or febuxostat are prescribed.
Home Remedies for Gout:
Many readers report success with home remedies such as tart cherries or cherry juice. There is even scientific support for this approach (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, March 1, 2016). Celery seeds may also reduce uric acid formation (Food Chemistry, Dec. 15, 2013). One reader reports:
“I’ve suffered from gout on and off for many years. Celery seed extract and nettle root extract are my remedies of choice–all natural with no side effects, and they work.”
To prevent another attack, susceptible people should drink lots of water and cut back on beer, soft drinks and starchy carbohydrates. Cherry juice and celery seed could make a good addition to a prudent gout prevention diet. You’ll find more about these remedies in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.