Gout

3.9%

of adults in the United States are living with gout, that’s 8.3 million people in the US.

3x

Men are three times more likely than women to develop gout.

40

Gout tends to affect men after age 40 and women after menopause.

What is gout?

Gout is a chronic condition that is characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joints.

It occurs when you have a high level of uric acid in your blood, which your body produces when you consume certain foods or drinks, such as alcohol, steak, and seafood. [1] [2] Uric acid is supposed to dissolve in your blood and pass through the kidneys without any problems. But when your body produces too much uric acid, the acid can build up and form crystals in the joints or surrounding tissues. These crystals are what cause the pain, inflammation, and discomfort you may experience when you have gout.

Who is affected?

Anyone can be diagnosed with gout. But men are more likely than women to have gout, although this difference is less relevant in the years after menopause. Gout and lower quality of gout care is more common among black Americans. [3]

Numerous factors can make you more at risk of gout, including genetics, dietary conditions, medications, and other medical conditions.

What happens in your body?

Common symptoms of gout include: [1]

  • Intense joint pain that starts suddenly and usually affects your big toe, but can also impact the ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows. Often accompanied by redness, warmth and swelling, this pain is usually its worst within the first several hours, and flares can last for days or weeks.
  • Stiffness which can result in limited mobility
  • Lumps around the joints

How do I know if I have gout?

It is important to get an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible to make sure that the condition does not worsen. The best way to do this is by visiting your doctor and, if possible, getting a referral to visit a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating gout. 

Some ways that your doctor can assess whether you have the condition is through joint fluid tests, blood tests, X-ray imaging, ultrasound, and CT scan.

How is it treated?

There is no known cure for gout, but integrative interventions have shown to reduce pain and discomfort and improve quality of life by slowing the condition’s progression and easing the severity of symptoms. [1] 

Integrative interventions offer a holistic approach to treatment. Instead of just conventional medicine, integrative treatments combine conventional medicine with nutritional tools, mind-body medicine, and manual medicine for a holistic approach to treating gout.

For those new to integrative medicine, learn more here

Conventional Medicine

Many people with gout find that certain medications work for them and others do not. So, in order to find an effective conventional treatment, people with gout often work with their doctors to determine which medication works best with their body and needs. 

With the right medication, it is possible to manage symptoms like pain and inflammation and prevent the rapid worsening of the condition. Before starting to take any medication, be sure to ask your doctor about possible side effects. And if you notice any of the side effects once you start your treatment, let your doctor know as soon as possible.

Examples of conventional treatments:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (common name: ibuprofen), or NSAIDs, are commonly used treatments for inflammation and pain resulting from gout. Indomethacin is the NSAID of choice among many people with the condition. [1]

  • Colchicine is an anti-inflammatory drug (common names: mitigare, colcrys) which can treat and prevent gout attacks. [1]

  • Glucocorticoids (also known as corticosteroids) are steroid drugs that can be taken by mouth or injection, and are meant to start working immediately to reduce inflammation caused by gout. [1]

Mind-Body Medicine

Research shows that gentle, low-intensity mind-body treatments can help Gout patients with mobility, mood, decreased pain, and more. There are a wide variety of mind-body treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, ranging from deep breathing to aqua-therapy.

When living with chronic pain, engaging in regular movement and exercise may feel difficult and unnecessary. But doing so can actually improve your symptoms. 

Before starting a physical exercise regimen, consult with your doctor about what might be the best activities for you and your body.

Examples of mind-body medicine:

  • Tai chi is a Chinese practice of slow, low-intensity movements that researchers have found can improve mobility, functionality, and psychological health in patients with chronic conditions.

  • Yoga comes in many different styles, often engaging both the body and the mind through controlled breathing and stretching.

  • Gentle exercise programs guided by instructors who understand your condition can help you both lose weight and manage your symptoms. Research has shown the link between obesity and gout.

  • Relaxation therapies like deep breathing techniques, meditation, and biofeedback have been shown to help patients ease anxiety and better manage chronic pain. Researchers at the University of Calgary suggest that mind-body treatments like these can help with physical conditions.

Manual Medicine

Manual treatments are administered by certified clinicians, using physical pressure and stimulation on the body to reduce gout symptoms. Treatments can vary in intensity and incorporate other elements such as heat and aromatherapy to enhance relief. 

Examples of manual medicine:

  • A widely-adopted Chinese treatment administered by certified acupuncturists who insert very thin needles at strategic points on the body to support overall wellness. Research has demonstrated that acupuncture is an effective and safe therapy for patients with gouty arthritis.

  • Physical therapy can help with physical strengthening, mobility, and overall functionality. Licensed therapists provide one-on-one treatment and teach patients self-management techniques so that they can improve their condition on their own too.  

Nutritional Tools

Nutrition plays a crucial role in your overall health, and is a tool you can use to combat joint damage, reduce inflammation, and manage other gout symptoms. 

Just like with conventional, mind-body, and manual medicines, there is not one ideal treatment for every gout patient. When selecting nutritional tools to treat your condition, it is best to consult with your doctor or work with a dietitian, naturopath, or nutritionist to find out the best diet for you. 

A gout diet may help reduce uric acid levels in the blood. A gout diet is not a cure all but may help reduce the frequency of gout attacks and reduce the progression of the condition. 

The gout diet follows a typical healthy diet that focuses on weight reduction, eating more complex carbs, reducing processed foods, cutting back on fats, and eating lean proteins. The most important part is to keep hydrated as that assists in detoxification.

Examples of nutritional tools:

  • Limit red meats

    • Researchers at Harvard’s Medical school have found that Higher levels of meat and seafood consumption are associated with an increased risk of gout.

  • Reduce high purine fish intake

    • Anchovies, shellfish, sardines and tuna.

    • Researchers at Harvard’s Medical school have found that Higher levels of meat and seafood consumption are associated with an increased risk of gout.

  • Reduce alcohol intake

    • Researchers at Harvard’s Medical school found that alcohol intake is strongly associated with increased gout attacks. Beer intake has a larger implication than liquor, while wine showed no increase in risk of attacks.

  • Drink Coffee

    • Researchers have found that long term coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of gout attacks.

  • Eat cherries

    • Research conducted at Boston University’s School of Medicine concluded  that cherry intake is associated with a lower risk of gout attacks.

  • Dairy could be beneficial

    • Given you do not have intolerances to dairy. Researchers at Harvard found that a higher level of consumption of dairy products is associated with a decreased risk of gout attacks.

  • Fiber

    • Fiber is found in foods like beans, whole grain breads, and fresh vegetables. It makes you feel fuller for longer and boosts digestive health. It also may help reduce inflammation.

    • Research suggests that high fiber diets may alleviate inflammation caused by gout.

  • Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)

    • Gamma linolenic acid is mostly found in plant seed oils like borage seed, evening primrose, and blackcurrant seed oil. Some research suggests it may help with fibromyalgia symptoms and reduce inflammation. 

  • Turmeric

    • Research shows that turmeric can reduce uric acid levels and may be effective in gout management .

  • Vitamin D

    • Vitamin D supplements are good for bone health, and they can also help keep the immune system functioning properly. Research suggests that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with elevated levels of uric acid.

  • Vitamin C

    • Supplements containing vitamin C may reduce the levels of uric acid in your blood. However, no studies have demonstrated that vitamin C affects the frequency or severity of gout attacks.        

  • Probiotics

    • Chronic conditions and medications can have a negative impact on gut health. Research on the effects of probiotic supplements have shown that they may help improve gut health and even lead to lower levels of inflammation.

  • Green tea extract

    • Research suggests green tea might help reduce uric acid levels in the body.

  • [1] Gout. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gout/symptoms-causes/syc-20372897. Published March 1, 2019. Accessed July 24, 2020. 
  • [2] Gout. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/gout.html. Published January 28, 2019. Accessed July 24, 2020. 
  • [3] Singh JA. Racial and gender disparities among patients with gout. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2013;15(2):307. doi:10.1007/s11926-012-0307-x 
  • [4] Gout. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2020, from https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/gout 
The information on this page is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice from your physician or health provider for your specific needs.