Gout is on the rise in Australia
According to statistical analysis in Australia and worldwide, the prevalence of gout is on the rise. Australia has very high rates of gout and hyperuricaemia (high levels of uric acid in the blood), second only to New Zealand, when compared by ratios of population numbers and incidence.
What is gout?
When uric acid accumulates it can crystallise in your joints, forming a multitude of tiny, jagged, needle-shaped crystals. This triggers an intense inflammatory response that causes a painful type of arthritis called gout.
This type of attack commonly strikes the base of the big toe, but other joints can be affected, including the instep, ankle, knee, wrist, elbow and fingers. Once you’ve experienced an episode of gout, it’s likely you’ll experience more in the future, plus your risk of other health problems increases too.
Common gout attack symptoms include sudden, intense pain in a joint, swelling, inflammation and a feeling that the joint is very hot, reddish discolouration, marked tenderness (this tenderness can be so intense that even a blanket touching the skin can be unbearable) and chills or fever in some cases.
A gout attack usually strikes unexpectedly, but usually subsides in a few days with treatment. However, some people experience pain for several weeks. Gout attacks often re-occur and without the correct management, attacks may become more frequent.
Risk factors for gout
Certain medications, health conditions and diseases can lead to an excessive production of uric acid in the body and cause you to experience gout. These conditions include metabolic syndrome, obesity, untreated high blood pressure (hypertension) and chronic conditions such as high blood sugar levels, high levels of fat and cholesterol in the blood (hyperlipidaemia).
It is now understood that genetic predisposition is the most common reason for gout to occur, but it seems that there are often several factors involved in causing a gout attack.
Who is more likely to suffer from gout?
In Australia, a person most commonly affected by gout is an overweight middle-aged man who drinks large amounts of alcohol, is a regular meat-eater and who may have high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Women can get gout but it usually starts to occur post menopause, when the production of the hormone oestrogen begins to rapidly decline. Oestrogen may help the kidneys excrete uric acid, so after menopause, a woman’s uric acid level begins to increase. Generally it is most common in middle-aged men, and is especially common in people with Maori and Pacific Islander descent as they inherently tend to have higher uric acid levels and are genetically predisposed to gout. However, anyone can experience gout. So which category may you fall into?
There are a number of lifestyle conditions and elements that can contribute the likelihood of you experiencing an acute gout attack. These include dehydration, injury to a joint, excessive intake of purine-containing foods, high stress, sudden starvation and heavy alcohol intake. All these factors seem to contribute to abnormal uric acid levels.
Herbs that can help you fight gout faster
Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus)
It is no secret that many people swear by the inclusion of cherries and cherry juice in their diet to help reduce the symptoms of gout and prevent future gout flare-ups. In fact there are a number of clinical studies that have confirmed the use of cherries and further indicated why they are useful for gout sufferers. One clinical study found that when people with recurrent gout consume cherries or cherry extracts, their risk of experiencing an acute gout attack may decline by as much as a third. (1)
These effects are believed to occur because cherries were found to lower uric acid levels in the blood. They also contain flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins which deliver significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
Celery seed (Apium graveolens)
Celery seed is traditionally regarded as the most important herbal medicine for gout in Western Herbal Medicine. As a diuretic herb celery seed helps your body to get rid of excess fluid by increasing your urine output. This action also enables your kidneys to excrete metabolic waste such as uric acid more effectively. Celery seeds also help reduce inflammation associated with gout as they contain anti-inflammatory flavonoids.
White willow (Salix alba)
White willow bark is a tree native to Europe and Asia. The name ‘white willow’ comes from the colour of the leaves, which are covered with fine white hairs. In Western Herbal Medicine, white willow bark has traditionally been prized for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions, and is taken to provide temporary relief of gouty arthritis, other forms of mild arthritis and musculoskeletal pain. The naturally occurring active ingredient salicin in white willow bark lowers the body’s levels of prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds that can cause aches, pain, and inflammation.
Acute gout and thereafter
Taking steps to maintain your uric acid levels at a healthy level is of critical importance in addressing acute gout and helping to prevent its recurrence.
Nature’s Sunshine have produced Gout Fighter Plus, which contains a unique combination of Sour cherry, Celery seed, plus White willow bark and these herbs are known to fight the symptoms of gout naturally and effectively. This special formulation may help to temporarily relieve joint pain associated with gout, reduce joint inflammation and swelling, and assist in the improvement of joint mobility. Gout Fighter Plus may also help to maintain healthy uric acid levels. It is a good idea to support your treatment of gout with local ice therapy to help relieve acute pain.
For long term prevention of gout, take steps to lower your uric acid levels by cutting back on alcohol, especially beer and spirits. Avoid soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, drink plenty of water to maintain hydration and help flush excess uric acid from the body.
Decrease your intake of meat, especially offal and also seafood - particularly anchovies, mackerel, sardines, mussels and scallops as these foods are rich in compounds called purines that can elevate uric acid. Lose weight if you need to but take a slow and steady approach. Rapid weight loss may raise uric acid levels and trigger gout attacks.
. Jacob RA, et al. Consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women. J Nutr 2003;133:1826-9
Tag Links: General,