Without warning and, for some reason, in the middle of the night, gout strikes- an intense pain in a joint, most often the big toe, but sometimes other joints, including knees, ankles, elbows, thumbs, or fingers.
Attacks of gout can be unexpected and excruciatingly painful. With prompt treatment, the pain and inflammation usually disappear after a few days, but they may recur at any time.
More than 2 million Americans suffer from gout. Gout occurs more often in men than in women. Men usually develop it between the ages of 30 and 50. Women are more prone to gout after menopause, and it is rare in children and young adults. Men who are overweight or suffering from high blood pressure are particularly prone to gout, especially if they are taking thiazide diuretics (water pills).
Gout is actually a form of arthritis. It is the body’s reaction to irritating crystal deposits in the joints. The pain can be intense, but treatment usually works very well. Mild cases may be controlled by diet alone. Recurring attacks of gout may require long-term medication to prevent damage to bone and cartilage and deterioration of the kidneys.
Chronic gout sufferers may feel tiny, hard lumps accumulating over time in the soft flesh of areas such as the hands, elbows, feet, or earlobes. These deposits, called tophi, are concentrations of uric acid crystals and can cause pain and stiffness over time. If similar deposits form in the kidneys, they can lead to painful and potentially dangerous kidney stones.
What Causes Gout?
An excess of uric acid in the blood brings on gout. Uric acid comes from two places — produced by the body and from the diet. Any extra uric acid usually filters through the kidneys and gets passed in urine. If the body produces too much uric acid or fails to excrete it in the urine, crystals of sodium urate form in the joints and tendons. These crystals cause intense inflammation leading to pain swelling and redness.
What exactly causes gout to occur when it does? The most common factor that increases your chance of gout and gout attacks is excess consumption of alcohol, mainly beer. It used to be known as “the disease of kings” since it was mainly seen in wealthy men who drank and ate too much. Now we know it can occur in anyone and can be associated with injury or surgical procedures, hospitalizations, periods of stress, or reactions to fatty meals and certain drugs such as antibiotics.
Gout may also occur in the presence of some tumors or cancers. There is also a relation between gout and kidney disorders, enzyme deficiencies, and lead poisoning. Gout may also accompany psoriasis and is common in patients with transplanted organs due to medications that are often needed. Susceptibility to gout is often inherited and is often associated with other common illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Repeat attacks of gout are common if the body’s uric acid level is not kept under control.
Pseudogout is a similar but generally less painful condition caused by calcium pyrophosphate crystals in the joints. While it can affect the large toe, it is more commonly seen in larger joints such as the knee, wrist, or ankle. More common after age 60 in both sexes, pseudogout is treated with anti-inflammatory agents.
3 Herbal Remedies for Gout You Should Consider
If you are suffering from terrible gout attacks, what can you do? How about trying herbal remedies. Studies show that certain gout medications run the risk of organ damage when used long term. Herbal remedies for gout can help you avoid this problem. There are several natural treatments you can use to avoid this painful disease. Some of them work while you are having an attack and some help reduce the likelihood of occurrence.
Devil’s Claw As Herbal Remedy For Gout
Devil’s claw, otherwise known as Harpagophytum procumbens has been used over the centuries as an herbal treatment. This herb is useful for getting rid of gout because of it has the ability to lower uric acid concentration and because it helps flush out toxic waste. Several studies have shown that this herb has helped reduce pain in gout patients. Dosages varied among the studies, so depending on what naturopath you talk to you may get a different dosage requirement.
Devil’s claw has not only been used to help bring relief from gout pain, but also bring relief to people with chronic lower back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and arthritis. One of the reasons it would be helpful to gout patients is that gout is a form of arthritis.
Bilberry as Herbal Remedy for Gout
Bilberry, otherwise known as European blueberry, has been used for centuries to help with various ailments, including gout. Just as with blueberries, bilberry contains useful anthocyanins. Even though bilberries are physically smaller than blueberries, they actually have more anthocyanins than blueberries per the USDA anthocyanin rating chart. This is very important during an actual gout attack, because anthocyanins help with blood flow to your joints which helps reduce painful swelling.
Bilberries also contain many antioxidants, although not as much as its counterpart, the blueberry. Antioxidants are important in helping reduce the intensity or occurrences of attacks. They accomplish this by helping reduce uric acid levels. Because of the bilberry’s anthocyanin and antioxidant ability, it should definitely be considered as a remedy for gout. You can purchase it as a supplement or herbal tea at many nutritional stores.
Bilberry: Things to Consider
While most people should have no problem taking bilberry, as always consult with your doctor before taking any supplement. Some of the cautions regarding this herb are if you are diabetic. Bilberry can decrease your blood glucose levels, so if you are prone to hypoglycemia, this is definitely something you should consider beforehand.
Another consideration is if you have a bleeding problem because bilberry can thin your blood. This would also include then if you were on blood thinning medication such as warfarin, otherwise known as Coumadin, aspirin, NSAIDs, heparin, or any other medications or supplements that would add to a bleeding risk. Again, consult your physician or naturopath so you can tailor treatments to your specific case.
Nettle Root: The Stinging Herbal Remedy
Nettle root or “noedl” in German is another herbal remedy you can use to help treat gout. Nettle, also known as “stinging nettle” for it’s painful sting upon touching it helps lower uric acid. It contains vitamin C which studies show helps reduce uric acid levels when used on a consistent basis. One study showed up to a 50% decrease.
Potassium is another benefit of taking nettle. Potassium takes uric acid and puts it in an easier form for the body to eliminate, so taking other high potassium foods such as bananas can also help provide relief.
Nettle root is also a diuretic and can help alleviate symptoms by getting the kidneys to excrete excessive acid. While this is good on one hand, dehydration in gout patients is not. So you need to make sure you drink plenty of water regardless of whether or not you are taking nettle.
This herb is also a natural antihistamine. This is helpful for gout because the antihistamine helps reduce swelling. It is because of this antihistamine that nettle has also been used to aid in treating open wounds. Nettle can be used in soups, infusion teas, and in extracts. When used in soups, the heat eliminates the stinging ability.
As with just about any remedy, there are things you should take into consideration before using, again seeking your physician’s counsel. If you are taking high blood pressure medication or are a diabetic, consult your physician prior to taking this herb. While nettle contains beneficial potassium, because it is a diuretic, you should not use it regularly without supplementing your diet with potassium rich foods or supplements.