Gout is the inflammation of the joints caused by too much uric acid in the system
What to look for
- sudden, intense pain in a joint usually the big toe
- swelling, inflammation, and a feeling that the joint is very hot.
- usually strikes unexpectedly and may recur
Without warning and, for some reason, in the middle of the night, it strikes, an intense pain in a joint, most often the big toe, but sometimes other joints, including knees, elbows, thumbs or fingers. Attacks of gout can be unexpected and excruciatingly painful. The attacks may return without notice in weeks, months or other intervals.
Gout is the body’s reaction to irritating crystalline deposits in the space between the bones in a joint. In spite of the extreme pain at onset, gout responds well to prompt treatment; mild cases may be controlled by diet alone.
Chronic attacks of gout, however, may require long-term medication to prevent damage to bone and cartilage, as well as deterioration of the kidneys because of excess uric acid production.
Chronic gout sufferers may feel tiny, crystals of uric acid slats settle in the joints, skin and kidneys. In the kidneys, they can lead to painful and potentially dangerous kidney stones.
Gout is brought on by an excessively high level of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is essential to the digestive process, and the excess is filtered through the kidneys and eliminated in urine. If the body produces too much uric acid or fails to excrete it, crystals of sodium urate become concentrated in the joints and tendons, causing inflammation, pressure, and severe pain.
Factors that can cause this problem include…
- a surgical procedure,
- periods of stress,
- or reactions to alcohol and certain drugs, including antibiotics.
- Gout may also occur in the presence of some tumours or cancers.
- Gout may also accompany psoriasis or anaemia.
Susceptibility to gout can be inherited, and repeat attacks are common if the body’s uric acid level is not kept under control.
To relieve the strong pain associated with this disease is the first requirement. Any pressure on the affected joint worsens the pain so it is advised to keep the joint bare.
You must keep the uric acid levels under control to prevent continuous attacks. Ask your doctor for a suitable treatment. You will need to go back for your doctor to monitor the levels of uric acid regularly.
If you do not have this condition treated, you will do damage to your kidneys.
Non-conventional approaches to treating gout begin with reducing the immediate pain and inflammation, then continue with therapies to control excessive uric acid production.
Aromatherapy – Juniper oil is helpful if applied using a compress to the affected area. Do not use this oil if you are pregnant, or if you have liver or kidney disorders. Rosemarycan be used in a compress or in massage oil. Do not use this essential oil if you are pregnant, epileptic or have high blood pressure. (see the Aromatherapy section for more information).
Herbal Therapy – Drink an infusion of 2 tsp celery seed or Gravelroot in a cup of water, three times a day, to stimulate elimination of uric acid. Speak with your Pharmacist or Naturopath about taking charcoal tablets for this condition.
Your doctor will probably recommend that you cut out certain protein-rich foods. You should drink plenty of liquids but avoid alcohol. You will need to remain within your recommended weight range.
Vegetarians rarely get this disorder which goes to show that diets which include meat and animal fats are more likely to cause gout.
Diets for preventing attacks of gout in people showing a genetic vulnerability to the disease usually eliminate red meat and meat extracts; yeast; organ meats; shellfish and certain kinds of preserved fish, including sardines, herring, and anchovies.
Foods that appear to suppress the immediate symptoms of gout include complex carbohydrates, particularly from cereals, fruits, and leafy green vegetables. Simple carbohydrates, such as those in refined sugar, are likely to increase uric acid production and should be avoided.
Several authorities report favourable results in treating the pain of chronic gout by having patients eat fresh or canned cherries or drink cherry juice.
Drinking plenty of clear, non-alcoholic fluids (fresh fruit juices) – particularly good is celery juice, herbal teas, or water helps to dilute the urine and promote excretion of uric acid through continued flushing of the kidneys.
When to seek further professional advice
- severe pain in a joint recurs or lasts more than a few days