Known as the “disease of the king” or “the rich man’s disease”, gout was believed for centuries to have been caused by over-indulgence in food and alcohol, which only a king or a very wealthy person could afford. And while this way of looking at things might be a bit outdated, it is true that the appearance of gout is greatly influenced by lifestyle and diet. But the common medical opinion of our day is that gout is basically a painful type of arthritis, caused by an excess of uric acid in the blood stream. And before settling on some treatments and remedies, there are a few basic questions that need to be answered about the disease.
What causes gout?
As mentioned, gout is caused by an unusually high level of uric acid in the blood. It causes crystals to develop on the cartilage linked to tendons, joints and other tissues as well. They can all get inflamed and swell up considerably and visible with the naked eye. This also causes extreme bouts of pain which usually come unexpected. More common in men than women, gout usually affects the toes, but it does occur with other joints as well.
What are the symptoms associated with gout?
The reactions your body has to gout and its sudden attacks are vicious and cause a lot of suffering. Some of the symptoms and signs include swelling of the joints and extreme pain first and foremost, warmth and redness in the gout ridden area, inflamed skin and tenderness.
The worst of all is the pain. People suffering from gout have reported that, when it strikes, they are actually unable to stand anymore and need to use a cane to support themselves or to walk. Sometimes they can’t even bear the pressure of bedcovers or being touched.
Normally, the symptoms disappear within a week or 10 days. But they will increase in frequency as time goes by, they will last longer and they will affect more joints. Eventually, when the disease has run its course over the years, some sediment known as tophi will deposit in the ligaments, causing them to remain permanently deformed.
Can you get gout in your knee?
Yes, you can. As shown above, gout can affect any ligaments and joints in the body. You will notice it right away and recognize it as gout without a mistake, because your knee will swell up, usually during the night, it will be too tender to touch and reddish in color. If you still have doubts, you can always check with your doctor and tell him about your symptoms. He will be able to confirm if it’s really gout or not. You could also look at some pictures online and see if they match your current condition.
Treatments and home remedies for gout
One important thing you need to know is the fact that gout is not curable. However, it can be successfully managed, with some restrictions and a good understanding of its internal workings. Here are a few ways of keeping your gout under control and making sure that when it does strike, it’s not as painful and doesn’t last as long as it should.
- Reduce alcohol intake – especially beer and distilled liquors. Metabolizing alcohol increases the production of uric acid which, in turn, leads to gout attacks. Also, alcohol dehydrates severely, which will cause less mobility in your joints.
- Introduce more Vitamin C to your daily diet – vitamin C has been known to reduce uric acid levels. However, it is advisable you discuss this change in your diet with your doctor. Vitamin C excess is not to be overlooked.
- Drink more coffee – there are some studies which show that moderate coffee consumption reduces the risks associated with gout. Again, consult your doctor on this, especially if you suffer from other diseases as well, because caffeine might affect you.
- Avoid certain sea-food – some types of sea-food have a higher purine level than others. Purine basically increases the uric acid in the blood stream, so you want to avoid it. Sea-foods with a high purine concentration are: anchovies, sardines, mussels, scallops, haddock, mackerel, tuna, trout and herring.
- Avoid organ and glandular meats – while on the subject of food, try avoiding eating such meats as liver, kidneys and sweatbreads. They too have high purine levels.
- Drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated and your joints lubricated
- Eat as many vegetables and fruits as you can, in order to increase your water intake even more and in a natural way.
Home remedies for gout
Since there is no cure for gout, there is also very little medicine that can help you. You can always take pain killers, when attacks strike and the pain is simply too much to take. You can also try some drug-based or pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories for your joints. Apart from that there are a series of home-made remedies you can try, in order to keep your gout under control.
1. Apple cider vinegar. The way it works is that it makes the acetic acid inside the body turn more alkaline and develop a pH balanced environment in which gout can hardly flourish. Also, drinking apple cider vinegar dissolves and breaks up the tophi or the uric acid crystals formed inside the ligaments, which are the primary responsible for gout. Even more than that, it prevents them from forming again and causing the bouts of gout to reappear. If you drink it while you’re in the middle of a gout attack, it will help you as well, by reducing the affected joint’s inflammation and swelling. This means more flexibility, the ability of walking without a cane and a faster healing process. In order to benefit from its full effect, you should take 2 or 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar a day.
2. Cherries. An especially delicious way of fighting against gout is represented by cherries, which, just like the cider vinegar, are known to reduce uric acid levels in the blood. Studies have actually been conducted on this topic, which link cherries to gout. In one of them, 600 people suffering from gout were fed 10 or 12 cherries every day, with the result that the risk of them suffering from an unexpected gout attack had reduced by 35 per cent. Encouraged by these results, the scientists leading that particular study then increased the cherry quantity to 20 or 25 pieces of fruit every day. The results paid off, as the gout attack risks reduced even more, this time by 50 per cent. However, you should pay attention to the fact that cherries naturally contain sugar, which is not recommended when you suffer from gout. Therefore, the optimum solution here is a compromise. Rather than eating the fresh fruit as it is, try squeezing them or drinking cheery juice concentrate. It will be tarter, but it will have all the benefits cherries bring to gout patients, without the added sugar.
3. Baking soda. Another home remedy extremely available for keeping gout under control is one that is, probably, already waiting for you in your kitchen cupboard. Baking soda is known to relieve the pain almost instantly, when mixed with water and drunk as it is. The recipe should be ½ teaspoon baking soda mixed with 8 oz. of cold water and drunk in a single sitting. If needed, repeat this up to 3 times a day, bringing your baking soda intake up to 3 teaspoons a day. But be careful not to exceed, because it can harm your stomach’s inner lining. Also, it causes high blood pressure when consumed in unnaturally high amounts, so you might get hypertension if taking too much of it.
4. Pineapples. Although not as successful as cherries, pineapples are another great, easy and tasty home remedy for gout. It’s not actually the pineapples per se which help with the attacks, but an enzyme found in them, called bromelain. You can also take it in supplement form, if you wish, although going the natural way and eating a piece of fruit such as pineapple, might be a better choice than taking pills. Apart from helping with gout attacks, bromelain has also been known to fight cancer.
5. Exercise. This is the most natural way of reducing uric acid levels. Simply because exercising normalizes insulin. It also keeps the joints, muscles and bones flexible and in good condition. Exercise promotes faster healing, reduces pain and maintains a healthy body weight. It has actually been proven that exercise can reverse the effects normally associated with gout. Not to mention the fact that it will help you look better, sleep better, increase your bone density and your muscle mass.
Another option as far as trying to battle gout is surgery. But usually, doctors don’t recommend knee cap operations unless they are actually the last thing on the list one can try. The tophi can be surgically removed, bones and joints can be reshaped and knees can be replaced.
These are the most commonly used ways of dealing with the ugly ailment that is gout. So remember, even if it is incurable, that doesn’t mean you have to give up. It can be managed and kept under control if you just try some of these home remedies.