Home Remedies for Gout


© 2007 Publications International, Ltd. The feet and knees are fair game for gout attacks.
© 2007 Publications International, Ltd. The feet and knees are fair game for gout attacks.
Publications International, Ltd.

The word gout may make you think of kings and medieval history. But gout isn't a disease of the past. It's very much with us today. That's because gout is an inflammatory joint disease and a form of arthritis, not some mysterious illness of the rich and powerful.

Gout, which occurs in about five percent of people with arthritis, results from the buildup of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is the result of the breakdown of waste substances, called purines, in the body. Usually it is dissolved in the blood, processed by the kidneys, and passed out of the body in the urine. But in some people there is an excess amount of uric acid, too much for the kidneys to eliminate quickly. When there is too much uric acid in the blood, it crystallizes and collects in the joint spaces, causing gout. Occasionally, these deposits become so large that they push against the skin in lumpy patches, called tophi, that can actually be seen.

A gout attack usually lasts five to ten days, and the most common area under siege is the big toe. In fact, 75 percent of people with gout will be affected in the big toe at some time. Gout in the big toe can become so painful that even a bedsheet draped over it will cause intolerable pain. Besides the big toe, gout may also develop in the ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows.

Who Gets Gout?

Though anyone can get gout, it's primarily a man's disease. Women have the good fortune of being more efficient in the way they excrete uric acid. And children rarely get it.

Other risk factors include:

  • Middle age. Men in their 40s and 50s are at greatest risk.
  • Family history of gout. Up to 18 percent of all people with gout have family members with gout.
  • Overweight. Excessive eating steps up the production of uric acid.
  • Eating too many foods with purines, such as organ meats (liver, kidney, brains, sweetbreads), sardines, anchovies, meat extracts, dried peas, lentils, and legumes.
  • An enzyme defect that prevents the breakdown of uric acid.
  • Heavy alcohol use.
  • Exposure to environmental lead.
  • Using certain medications, including diuretics, salicylates, and levodopa.
  • Taking niacin, a vitamin that's also called nicotinic acid.

Gout symptoms come on quickly the first time, often overnight. You can go to bed feeling fine and wake up later in excruciating pain. You may also experience joint swelling and shiny red or purple skin around the joint. If you're already predisposed to gout, you can trigger an episode by:

  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Overeating, especially purine foods
  • Having surgery
  • Experiencing a sudden severe illness or trauma
  • Going on a crash diet
  • Injuring a joint
  • Having chemotherapy
  • Being under stress. The link isn't the stress itself, but the comfort eating or drinking that may accompany it.

If you have gout, professional medical treatment is required. There are several prescription medications that are very effective at eliminating excess uric acid. Untreated, gout may progress to serious joint damage and disability. Also, excess uric acid can cause kidney stones. For gout, though, there are several kitchen remedies that can be effective along with medication to alleviate the pain and symptoms. If you are looking for ways to prevent attacks of gout, check out the home remedy suggestions in the next section.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Gout

© 2007 Publications International, Ltd.
© 2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Keeping yourself well-hydrated can help reduce gout attacks.

If you have a tendency toward attacks of gout, there are a few things that you can do to help ward off these attacks. Faithfully taking any medications prescribed by your doctor is the first step. The following home remedies can also help, whether used in conjunction with prescribed medication or, if no medication has been prescribed, on their own.

Maintain desirable weight. Since obesity is a contributing factor, keeping to a healthy weight will help prevent attacks. Whether you need to lose a few pounds or dramatically reduce your body weight, take it slow. Crash diets don't work in the long term. Doctors often advise gout patients to adopt a reduced-calorie diet that is moderately high in protein, but low in fat. Talk to your doctor or to a registered dietitian if you need help setting up such a diet plan.

Drink eight 6-ounce glasses of fluid a day. Not only will you reduce gout attacks by washing urate out of your system, but you will also help prevent kidney stones from forming.

Avoid alcohol. It causes the body to retain urate, a definite no-no if you have gout. For years, doctors have warned patients that consuming excessive amounts of booze could cause and worsen gout, though they lacked scientific evidence to support that advice. That all changed in 2004, when a study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital showed drinking beer and liquor does indeed increase the risk of developing gout. (But score another one for the cabernet crowd: The same study found that drinking wine doesn't seem to promote gout.)

Check out your diet. The same researchers who showed that alcohol is a gout trigger also validated another long-held belief: People who eat diets rich in meat and seafood are more likely to develop the condition. (Since fish is good for the heart, ask your doctor how much is safe to include in your diet.)

Like alcohol, certain types of meat (specifically organ meats such as liver, brain, kidney, and sweetbreads) and fish (particularly anchovies, herring, and mackerel) contain large amounts of purines, chemicals that break down and form uric acid. Doctors used to warn patients away from all foods high in purines, including some vegetables such as spinach and peas. But this study found that people who eat lots of vegetables seemed to lower their gout risk, so vegetables are no longer discouraged. The same was shown to be true for people who drink a glass or two of low-fat milk each day. Doctors say that while adjusting your diet won't work miracles, it may keep gout attacks to a minimum.

Avoid nonprescription water pills and other diuretics. They slow down the excretion of uric acid, which builds up in the blood and increases the risk of gout. If you have been prescribed a diuretic for another condition, such as high blood pressure, be sure the doctor knows that you have a tendency toward attacks of gout.

Dealing with a Gout Flare-Up

Although gout produces brutal pain, it is rarely life-threatening. However, the condition requires proper diagnosis and treatment by a doctor, who can rule out other causes of joint pain and prescribe effective medications. Furthermore, evidence suggests that developing gout may be a sign that you're at risk for more serious illnesses, including heart disease. Once you've seen your physician, however, there are a few things you can do on your own.

Don't put any weight on the joint. This usually means staying off your feet as much as possible until the episode subsides. Any pressure you put on the joint will increase the pain and possibly damage the area further.

Keep the joint elevated. Let gravity help reduce inflammation by slowing the rush of blood to the painful joint.

Immobilize the joint. The less you move the joint, the better it will feel. Simply lying still will help, though you may want to build a splint for the injured joint. Ask your doctor how, or consult a first-aid guide.

Take a nonprescription anti-inflammatory. Inflammation causes swelling, which worsens pain. Both ibuprofen and aspirin are anti-inflammatories, but when taken at low levels, aspirin may actually make the pain worse. So reach for the ibuprofen. For a list of precautions to take when using over-the-counter analgesics, click here.

Avoid icing or heating the area. Unlike other types of pain, gout doesn't respond well to heat or ice therapy. For instance, the warmth of a heating pad may feel good, but it will also speed up circulation, which will in turn increase inflammation by sending more white blood cells to the joint. On the other hand, crystals form more rapidly in low temperatures, so hold the ice. (By the way, doctors believe that gout tends to strike joints in the hands and feet for this very reason, since body temperatures are lowest in the extremities.)

Wear comfortable shoes. Styles that offer a lot of room for the toes are the best choice. A shoe with a narrow, pointed toe box forces the big toe inward, which can worsen gout pain.

Alternative Therapies

Herbal medicine. Herbs can fight inflammation and cleanse toxins from the joints. Devil's claw root, gingerroot, meadowsweet leaves and flowertops, and white willow bark all act as anti-inflammatory agents that can relieve pain. (In fact, aspirin contains a chemical that is the synthesized version of a substance found in meadowsweet and willow.) Other helpful herbs include boswellia (frankincense), capsicum (cayenne), feverfew, and licorice.

© 2007 Publications International, Ltd. © 2007 Publications International, Ltd.
© 2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Meditation and progressive relaxation can help ease pain.

An herbalist may prescribe this remedy to relieve joint pain. In a teapot or a saucepan, combine 1/2 teaspoon powdered devil's claw root with 1 cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Drink 1 cup daily.

Mind and body medicine. Several factors besides the inflammation response of tissues greatly influence the course of arthritis-type pain, including a person's attitude toward the condition, level of emotional distress, and ability to cope. Various mind and body techniques, such as progressive relaxation and meditation, can lead to an easing of pain.

Here's a simple relaxation technique that can ease pain and may reduce inflammation.

Wearing loose clothing, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Begin breathing deeply and slowly. With each breath, invite a different part of your body to relax. Imagine each inhaled breath as light going to the joints of your body and each exhaled breath as the pain flowing out of your joints.

Continue the slow, deep breathing for as long as you are comfortable. When you are ready, slowly return to your normal rate and rhythm of breathing and open your eyes slowly.

Your kitchen holds many home remedies that can help prevent or shorten a gout attack. Go to the next page to find out more.

To learn more about arthritis pain and how to cope with it, visit these links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Natural Home Remedies for Gout

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Cherries in any form remove toxins from the body, making them a good gout cure.

Common foods that are probably already in your kitchen can help keep gout away. Use these home remedies to keep your gout flare-ups under control.

Home Remedies from the Refrigerator

Apple preserves. This may neutralize the acid that causes gout. Take as many apples as you wish, then peel, core, and slice. Simmer in a little water for three hours or more, until they turn thick, brown, and sweet. Refrigerate. Use as you would any preserve.

Cherries. Cherries may remove toxins from the body, clean the kidneys, and yes, even help give you a rosy complexion. Because of their cleansing power, they're at the top of the gout-relief list. If you can bake a cherry pie, you may be making a gout treatment. Cherry compote, cherry juice, cherry jam, cherry tea, cherry anything works.

Home Remedies from the Spice Rack

Chicory. If you've been to New Orleans, you know the flavor. It's in the coffee, and it's definitely an acquired taste. Chicory is an old herb, its first use recorded around the first century A.D., and over the past 2,000 years it's seen many medicinal uses. Gout is one of them. Here's a recipe said to relieve symptoms. Mix 1 ounce chicory root to 1 pint boiling water, and take as much of it as you want. This can work as a poultice, too, when it is applied to the skin in the area affected by gout.

Mustard powder. Make a mustard plaster and apply to the achy joint. Mix 1 part mustard powder (or crushed mustard seeds) to 1 part whole wheat flour and add enough water to form a thick paste. Slather petroleum jelly, vegetable shortening, or lard on the affected area. Spread a thick coat of mustard paste on a piece of gauze or cloth, then apply over the greased-up area. Tape down and leave in place for several hours or overnight.

Thyme. Drink as a tea. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons to a cup of boiling water. Sweeten, and drink.

More Do's & Don'ts

More Do's & Don'ts

  • Take fish oil supplements to ease the inflammation that comes with gout.
  • Don't take nonprescription diuretics. They can keep you from properly excreting uric acid.
  • Remind your doctor that you're on diuretics or medication for blood pressure or heart disease if you are prescribed gout medication. They may have bad interactions.
  • Do keep your toes warm enough. Gout seems to rear up more often when it's chilly.
  • Avoid turkey meat, organ meats, herring, anchovies, meat gravies, beer, and red wine. These are high in purines, which are metabolized to uric acid.

To learn more about arthritis pain and how to cope with it, visit these links:

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.