Gout was always thought of as a disease of affluence. A sign you had over indulged by eating and drinking too much. In fact, it is a form of arthritis caused by an excess of uric acid, which is itself a by-product of a substance called purine; found in certain foods, including meat, asparagus, anchovies, chicken and mushrooms.
It is caused by an accumulation of uric acid in the blood, urine, and tissues. This excess solidifies in the joints to form sharp, needle-shaped crystals which then jab at the surrounding tissue when the body moves. Inflammation and severe pain may be the first signs of a problem, especially in the big toe where gout is most common. It can also occur in the joints in the middle of the foot, in the ankle or the knee, the thumb, wrist, finger or elbow joints and even, in chronic cases, in the cartilage tissue of the ear.
A fault in the way uric acid is broken down causes both it and urates (uric acid salts) to accumulate in the bloodstream and the joints. This slowly destroys the joints and causes deposits of salt in the skin and the cartilage, especially in the big toe. The number of cases of gout has doubled in the West over the last 30 years and for some people, even a small amount of the wrong food can trigger an attack.
Prescription drugs are used to either increase the excretion of uric acid or slow down the rate at which urates form, but you can also use supplements and foods to help prevent further flare-ups. Cherry juice, for example, lowers uric acid levels; and celery juice, which promotes the flow of urine through the kidneys, can also relieve symptoms - so buying a good juicer will help.
Avoiding the wrong foods, particularly those high in purine can help. These include legumes, liver, mackerel, sardines, shrimp, sweetbreads, asparagus, bran, cauliflower, eel, saltwater fish, meat, spinach, and whole grains. Eat less protein and drink more fluids to help flush excess uric acid from your body. Carrying too much weight will also exacerbate the problem so keep yours in check.
Gout is linked to a high consumption of rich and fatty foods, heavy meats and alcohol. The trouble with heavy meats, for example, is that they are rich in substances called purines, which promote the production of uric acid in the body. Gout sufferers have also been found to be lacking in the digestive enzyme, uricase, which then oxidises the relatively insoluble uric acid into a highly soluble form to prevent it from crystallising.
A good natural remedy is quercetin - a bioflavonoid and anti-inflammatory agent that inhibits the enzyme xanthine oxidase which triggers the production of uric acid. Quercetin is found in red and yellow onions but you would need to eat two onions a day to get a high enough dose - the equivalent of 250mg, three times a day - to prevent or treat gout, so it makes sense to take a supplement.