Gout is a complex type of arthritis that develops in people with high levels of uric acid. When uric acid accumulates in the joints, it causes inflammation, which leads to discomfort and pain.
A gout attack can occur suddenly. It can wake you up in the middle of the night with intense pain at the base of your big toe. It can also affect different parts of the body like wrists, knees, ankles and small joints in the hands.
You must take medical care if the pain is unbearable and you have a fever as this may be a sign of infection. You can also try some natural home remedies to ease the pain and lessen the severity of other gout symptoms.
Let us learn more about the causes, symptoms, and home remedies to treat these symptoms.
What causes gout?
Gout is caused by the excess of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is formed in the body when it breaks down purines, which is a chemical compound found naturally in the body.
Meat, seafood, and poultry also contain purines. Alcoholic drinks like beer and beverages sweetened with fructose also contain purines.
Usually, uric acid dissolves into the blood and is excreted in the urine through the kidneys. When our body produces too much uric acid, our kidneys are unable to expel it.
This uric acid then turns into sharp crystals in the joints and the surrounding tissue and cause intense pain, swelling and inflammation.
Some other causes of elevated levels of uric acid in the blood (hyperuricemia) include obesity, genetics, medications like diuretics and chronic decreased kidney function.
Symptoms of Gout
The symptoms of gout occur suddenly and usually in the middle of the night. Some of the symptoms of gout are –
1. Sudden onset of joint pain
Gout commonly affects the joint of the big toe, but it can affect other joints as well. Ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers can also get affected. This intense pain can last up to 12 hours.
2. Inflammation of joints
The affected joint can become swollen, tender, red and warm.
Though the intense pain subsides after a few hours, the lingering discomfort can last for days after the gout attack. The subsequent attacks last longer and can affect more joints.
4. Stiffness of joints
As gout progresses, you will find your joints getting stiff, and you will not be able to move them in normally.
5. Formation of tophi
A tophus is a hard nodule of uric acid that forms under the skin usually at the elbow, near the ear cartilage or on the surface for other joints.
6. Kidney stones
Gout can also develop into more serious conditions like kidney stones. When urate crystals form in the urinary tract, they can become kidney stones.
Home remedies for gout
Lifestyle and diet changes diet can help ease the symptoms of gout. These are some simple and effective home remedies for gout.
Cherries are an excellent remedy for gout relief. They contain anthocyanins, which help reduce inflammation and gout flare-ups.
According to a 2012 study that included 633 individuals with gout, cherry intake over two-days was associated with a 35 percent lesser risk of gout attacks as compared to no intake (1).
Some more studies were done to assess the effectiveness of cherry juice concentrate for gout flares. The studies concluded that consumption of cherry juice concentrate for four months or longer helps reduce acute gout flares via anti-inflammatory actions (2).
So eat 15 to 20 cherries a day or have a glass of tart cherry juice to ease the symptoms of gout.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, and you can use it in many ways to treat gout.
According to a 2017 study, the anti-inflammatory properties of red ginger are due to its active components like gingerol, gingerdione, and zingerone, which inhibit leukotrienes and prostaglandins, which are inflammatory mediators (3).
The research suggests that people with gout should use a red ginger compress every morning to help relieve the pain.
Another study found that ginger flavonoids reduce uric acid levels in hyperuricemic rats and prevent oxidative stress (4).
To make a ginger compress, boil water with one tablespoon of grated ginger. Soak a washcloth in this mixture and apply it on the affected area for half an hour.
You can also boil water with around two teaspoons of grated fresh ginger. You can have up to three cups of this ginger water per day.
3. Celery seed extract
Celery seed extract helps decrease the uric acid build-up in the body. Celery is packed with antioxidants like phenolic acids (caffeic acids, ferulic acids) and flavonols like quercetin which help reduce inflammation.
According to an article published in ‘In Vitro Molecular Toxicology’ celery seed oil contains sedanolide, a natural compound with anti-inflammatory properties.
Celery seeds also contain a chemical called 3-n-butylphthalide which may help dissolve uric acid crystals.
You can buy celery seed extract, have celery juice or eat the vegetable through the day to help reduce the symptoms of gout.
4. Nettle tea
The stinging nettle( Urtica dioica) is a herbaceous plant that has its origins in Europe, Asia, North Africa and Western America.
The stems and leaves of this herbaceous plant have hair which can sting when touched. Nettle has been used in traditional medicine to treat gout, arthritic pain and muscle pain for hundreds of years.
Its therapeutic qualities come from its natural anti-inflammatory action. Though no direct study proves its effectiveness, one study on rabbits showed that nettle helps protect the kidneys (5).
Add two teaspoons of nettle in one cup of boiling water to make nettle tea. You should drink three cups of this tea per day.
If you suffer from a magnesium deficiency, you are at a higher risk of developing gout. Many studies have shown that low magnesium levels can increase the risk of gout. This alkaline mineral can decrease uric acid formation in the body.
According to a 2015 study, magnesium intake is inversely associated with hyperuricemia (6). Therefore if you are suffering from gout, you must increase your consumption of magnesium-rich foods like avocados, nuts, legumes, leafy greens and dark chocolate.
6. Proteolytic enzymes
Proteolytic enzymes like bromelain are useful in treating gout. Bromelain, which can be found in the core of the pineapple, is a digestive enzyme that causes the uric acid crystals to decompose.
This helps provide relief from the pain associated with gout. If taken regularly, bromelain can also prevent repeated gout attacks.
According to one review of gout treatment published in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, foods high in bromelain (pineapple) are recommended as a part of gout treatment (7).
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) contains nutrients like potassium, calcium, and iron. However, it is the high acetic acid content in apple cider vinegar that is the most effective in treating and preventing gout.
Drinking ACV helps break up uric acid crystals and prevents them from reforming in the joints.
Some natural health experts also recommend taking ACV, lemon juice and turmeric together. Though no study shows ACV prevents gout, some studies show that it protects the kidneys (8).
8. Topical hot or cold application
You can soak the affected area in cold water to reduce the pain caused by gout. Avoid using ice. Soaking in hot water is recommended if the inflammation is not as intense.
Foods to eat
A healthy diet is a key to a healthy body. So, you must include these foods in your diet to reduce the risk of developing gout.
Fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts are rich in fiber and help reduce uric acid.
Bananas, avocados, apricots, salmon, squash and coconut water are rich in potassium, and they help balance intracellular fluid.
3. Berries and cherries
Have more berries and cherries as they help neutralize uric acid.
4. Wild caught fish
Wild caught fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce inflammation.
Drink a lot of water as it keeps kidneys in good health and helps flush out uric acid from the system.
Foods to avoid
1. Food rich in purines
Foods like fatty red meat, shellfish, mushrooms, organ meats, peas, lentils, and spinach are rich in purines that form uric acid. So avoid these foods.
2. Hydrogenated oils
Soybean, vegetable, canola, and corn oils are hydrogenated oils. These oils and fried foods can aggravate gout.
Avoid foods like processed food as they contain too much sodium and can cause tissue swelling.
Avoid alcohol as it increases uric acid and toxicity of the liver.
Reduce your sugar intake as gout is common in people who consume excessive sugar. You should also avoid sweetened beverages like sodas.
Gout is caused by the excess of uric acid in the blood. The symptoms of gout include sudden inflammation of joints, intense pain, and stiffness of joints and formation of tophi.
Many simple and effective home remedies help reduce the symptoms of gout, like having cherries, celery seed extract, ginger, apple cider vinegar and topical application of ginger and hot and cold water.
However, you must seek medical help if the pain and inflammation are difficult to bear.