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Natural Remedies for Gout

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Updated September 13, 2013

What is Gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis characterized by sudden, intense pain, redness, heat, swelling, and tenderness in the joints. Gout usually affects the large joint of the big toe, but symptoms can occur in your feet, ankles, knees, hands, and wrists. Attacks typically last about five to 10 days.

Gout is caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals, a waste product that's formed from the breakdown of purines - substances found naturally in the body and in foods such as organ meats, asparagus, anchovies, herring, and mushrooms.

Natural Remedies for Gout

Alternative therapies are popular among people with gout. However, if they are used, they should complement and not replace conventional care. There is very little evidence right now that shows alternative therapies are effective for gout. Here are some natural remedies that are commonly used.

1) Vitamin C

Some evidence suggests that vitamin C may help to reduce uric acid levels. In one well-designed study, 184 people took either vitamin C supplements (500 milligrams per day) or a placebo.

After two months, uric acid levels were significantly reduced in people taking vitamin C but not in the people taking the placebo. Although this study suggests that vitamin C may help prevent or treat gout, many more studies are needed before we can conclude this.

People with kidney disease should consult their doctor before taking vitamin C supplements. Vitamin C increases the absorption of some types of iron from foods, so people with hemochromatosis should not take vitamin C supplements. Vitamin C in doses over 2,000 milligrams per day may cause diarrhea, gas, digestive upset, or interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12.

Vitamin C supplements may raise blood levels of aspirin and acetaminophen. There have been rare reports of vitamin C interfering with the effectiveness of the medication warfarin (Coumadin). Vitamin C may also increase the effects of the effects of furosemide (classified as a loop diuretic) and the antibiotic tetracycline. If taken together, vitamin C may decrease the absorption of propranolol, a medication for high blood pressure and heart conditions. Speak with your doctor first before combining any of these medications with vitamin C supplements.

See Vitamin C: What You Need to Know.

2) Cherries

Cherries are a popular home remedy for gout. The amount usually recommended is anywhere between half a cup and one pound of cherries a day. They are either eaten or blended and then diluted with water to make a juice. Cherry extracts are also available at some health food store.

Although cherries are a fairly well-known remedy for gout, there is almost no evidence that it can help. One very small study examined the consumption of cherries on uric acid levels and inflammation. Ten women consumed two servings (280 grams) of Bing cherries after an overnight fast.

Three hours after eating the cherries, there was a significant decrease in uric acid levels. There was also a decrease, although not statistically significant, in inflammation.

See Tart Cherries: What You Need to Know and Black Cherry Juice for more info on cherries for gout.

Diet

Although most uric acid in the body is made from the metabolism of naturally occuring purine, eating foods rich in purines may also contribute to elevated uric acid levels in the body.

The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which used data from 14,809 people in the United States, found increased uric acid levels among people who had high intakes of meat and seafood. On the other hand, total protein intake was not associated with increased uric acid levels.

Dairy intake was associated with lower uric acid levels. Specifically, people who drank milk one or more times per day, or who had yogurt at least once every other day, had lower uric acid levels than people who didn't consume yogurt or milk.

Another study involving 47,150 men with gout also found that intake of meat and seafood were associated with an increased risk of gout. Total protein intake and consumption of purine-rich vegetables, such as asparagus, were not associated with an increased risk. Dairy was associated with a decreased risk.

Sources

Choi HK. Dietary risk factors for rheumatic diseases. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 17.2 (2005): 141-146.

Choi HK, Atkinson K, Karlson EW, Willett W, Curhan G. Purine-rich foods, dairy and protein intake, and the risk of gout in men. N Engl J Med. 350.11 (2004): 1093-1103.

Choi HK, Liu S, Curhan G. Intake of purine-rich foods, protein, and dairy products and relationship to serum levels of uric acid: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arthritis Rheum. 52.1 (2005): 283-289.

Huang HY, Appel LJ, Choi MJ, Gelber AC, Charleston J, Norkus EP, Miller ER 3rd. The effects of vitamin C supplementation on serum concentrations of uric acid: results of a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum. 52.6 (2005): 1843-1847.

Jacob RA, Spinozzi GM, Simon VA, Kelley DS, Prior RL, Hess-Pierce B, Kader AA. Consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women. J Nutr. 133.6 (2003): 1826-1829.

Saag KG, Choi H. Epidemiology, risk factors, and lifestyle modifications for gout. Arthritis Res Ther. 8 Suppl 1 (2006): S2.

Schlesinger N. Dietary factors and hyperuricaemia. Curr Pharm Des. 11.32 (2005): 4133-4138.

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