Natural Remedies for Gout

woman with knee pain

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Gout is a type of arthritis that results from uric acid buildup that impacts more than 9 million people in the U.S. As it accumulates in joints, uric acid causes pain, tenderness, redness, swelling, and inflammation. Typically, gout occurs in the large joint in the big toe but it also can affect any joint including the ankles, feet, knees, wrists, and hands.

If you struggle with gout flare-ups or if you have been recently diagnosed, you may wonder what you can do to manage your condition. Here we share some common natural remedies you can try to help alleviate some of your symptoms. Of course, you should talk to a healthcare provider first before trying anything new.

What Causes Gout

As a type of arthritis brought on by the build-up of uric acid, gout is a painful condition that impacts the joints, particularly the big toe. A gout attack can happen any time, often waking you up in the middle of the night.

Generally lasting 5 to 10 days, the joint pain from a gout attack may come and go. It also can clear up on its own.

Although there is no cure for gout, it can be treated with medications like corticosteroids and managed through diet and other natural remedies. Most of these remedies are based on lowering uric acid levels.

“Elevation of uric acid creates the ideal environment for gout crystals to form so it’s helpful to know that uric acid is formed in the body when we consume foods high in purines...like organ meats, beer, shellfish, and game meats like venison,” says David Perlmutter, MD, a board-certified neurologist and New York Times bestselling author.

Uric acid is a byproduct of purine breakdown from the foods you eat and found in your body. Purines, which are naturally found in many foods, are called exogenous purines. Typically, exogenous purines are processed during digestion and result in uric acid.

About 90% of uric acid is absorbed back into the body and the rest is excreted in urine and feces. If the amount of uric acid in the body doesn’t align with the body’s ability to process it, a buildup occurs.

When too much uric acid is in the body, crystals form and can build up in joints and tissues. According to Dr. Perlmutter, frequently used medications also can contribute to gout flare-ups.

“Beyond specific foods that enhance uric acid production, various medications also increase uric acid levels including aspirin, beta-blockers, diuretics (water pills), and even common non-prescription, acid-blocking drugs called proton-pump inhibitors, now used by some 15 million Americans,” reports Dr. Perlmutter.

Another contributing factor for the formation of uric acid is sugar or fructose. He attributes the increase in sugar consumption to the rise in gout among Americans.

"With our consumption of fructose increasing 1,000% from 1970 to 1990, it’s no wonder we are seeing such a dramatic rise in gout cases," he says.

Dr. Perlmutter suggests monitoring your uric acids levels at home using an over-the-counter home test.

“Checking your uric acid to be sure it is at or below 5.5 mg/dl is now something that’s readily accessible to everyone," he says. "Having a uric acid level of 7mg/dl or above would mark a time when it would be reasonable to have a conversation with your doctor.”

Natural Remedies for Gout

Even though there are few natural remedies for gout and research on their effectiveness is scarce, most healthcare professionals recommend a number of nutrition and lifestyle changes. There also are medications that can be used to treat symptoms.

For instance, many experts suggest limiting high-purine foods, reducing alcohol intake, managing weight, and making lifestyle and nutritional changes. Here's a closer look at what you can do to help alleviate your symptoms.

Make Diet Changes

Dr. Perlmutter, the author of The LUV Diet, indicates that when uric acid is elevated, it can often be managed with dietary changes. With this is in mind, foods high in purines like fish, shellfish, bacon, turkey, veal, organ meats, and alcoholic beverages should be limited.

For instance, meat, fish, and chicken are often limited to 6 ounces a day. And, beer and hard liquor are restricted since they are associated with increased uric acid while wine is permitted, as it may lower uric acid.

Likewise, foods that are naturally high in fructose like agave, apple juice, caramel, honey, licorice, and molasses should also be limited. In fact, research suggests that a high sugar (fructose) diet has a direct relationship with high uric acid levels.

Meanwhile, specific foods like tart cherries, onions, broccoli, and other vegetables as well as coffee are encouraged. Even fruit is included in moderation while fruit juices should be avoided because of their high fructose content.

It is important to note that you do not need to completely eliminate high-purine foods or foods high in fructose. Limiting your intake will work just fine.

Take Vitamin C

One study observed vitamin C intake and incidence of gout over 20 years. They compared men who took a vitamin C supplement and those who did not. Scientists found that higher levels of vitamin C intake were associated with a lower risk of gout. That means supplementing with vitamin C could help prevent gout.

“Vitamin C has long been recognized as an effective intervention for gout," says Dr. Perlmutter. "While we like vitamin C for its antioxidant activity, it enhances how our bodies eliminate uric acid. This explains why vitamin C has been used so extensively in gout patients over the past few decades,”

Increasing daily vitamin C is as simple as incorporating a 500-milligram vitamin C supplement into your routine.

Drink Tart Cherry Juice

Cherries are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Both sweet and tart cherries have been studied for their many health benefits.

Tart cherries, specifically, carry more beneficial compounds for the management and prevention of gout due to their phenolic antioxidant compounds. Research has shown that supplementing with tart cherry juice may help reduce the risk of gout attacks.

However, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of this remedy. If you would like to try adding tart-cherry juice to your nutrition plan, aim for two 8-ounce glasses of tart cherry juice daily.

Incorporate Coffee

Coffee sometimes unnecessarily gets such a bad rap. Other than its caffeine content, coffee has many health benefits including the ability to reduce uric acid levels in the blood.

A review of research found that both caffeine-free and regular coffee intake of 1 cup per day was associated with a significant decrease in uric acid levels. And because the recommended safe amount of caffeinated coffee per day is four 8-ounce cups per day, sipping a cup of coffee each day may help prevent and manage gout.

Consider Quercetin

Quercetin is a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant found abundantly in apples, onions, broccoli, and blueberries. It is linked to several health benefits including reducing inflammation and protecting against free radical damage. Quercetin also shows promise for gout patients.

David Perlmutter, MD

One study recently showed an 8% drop in uric acid blood levels in just 2 weeks in a group of men taking 500 milligrams of quercetin daily.

— David Perlmutter, MD

“Quercetin, for example, has been shown to have a significant impact on elevated uric acid levels,” says Dr. Perlmutter. “One study recently showed an 8% drop in uric acid blood levels in just 2 weeks in a group of men taking 500 milligrams of quercetin daily.”

Quercetin is available in pills and capsules and is generally considered safe. But you should still talk to a healthcare provider before taking quercetin, especially if you are taking antibiotics, blood thinners, chemotherapy drugs, corticosteroids, cyclosporine, digoxin, and fluoroquinolones.

When to Contact a Healthcare Provider

Sometimes gout can re-emerge even after it has been managed for some time. This experience is known as a gout flare. As a result, you need to contact a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

  • Intense pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Heat
  • Chills
  • High fever

A Word from Verywell

While diet changes and natural home therapies may help you manage the incidence of gout flare-ups, a discussion with a healthcare provider is always necessary before trying anything new.

It is also worth noting that there may come a point where diet changes, supplements, and other home remedies may no longer work. If that is the case, talk with a healthcare provider about the next steps. You do not have to suffer through the pain and inflammation of gout.

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