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Gout is a form of arthritis in which a build-up of uric acid in the body results in deposits of sharp crystals forming in the joints. It typically affects the big toe, although gout also can affect other joints. People with gout also are more likely to suffer from kidney stones. A number of gout remedies, fortunately, may help you avoid these painful conditions.
Uric acid is caused by purines—substances that occur naturally in the body and also are present in some of the foods we commonly eat. Usually uric acid dissolves in the blood, but if the kidneys don’t excrete it adequately, or if we consume too many foods that contain purine, levels of uric acid increase, resulting in a condition called hyperuricemia.
Certain medications also raise the risk for gout, including the diuretics used to treat high blood pressure, the low-dose aspirin many people take to help prevent cardiovascular events like heart attack, and some cancer drugs.
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Gout Remedies: Where to Start
If you have gout, one of the easiest remedies to try involves your diet (see our post “Foods to Avoid with Gout“).
For starters, cut down on foods that contain purines. These include organ meats (liver, kidney), sweetbreads (cuts derived from the thymus gland and pancreas of young animals), game (venison), veal, turkey, and certain types of seafood (anchovies, sardines, mackerel, trout, cod, herring, haddock, scallops, mussels).
Keep in mind that some vegetables also contain purines; asparagus, cauliflower, peas, kidney beans, spinach, and mushrooms are among them. Also limit your alcohol intake.
Study Showings: Gout Remedies and Diet
A recent study suggests that the so-called DASH diet—it stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—may also take its place among gout remedies. The DASH diet is high in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, nuts, and legumes, and low in fats and saturated fats, sugar, and sodium.
In the study, the DASH diet led to a modest 0.35 milligrams per deciliter decrease in uric acid concentrations overall. But in participants with the highest uric acid levels (more than 7 milligrams per deciliter), the decrease was as high as 1.3 milligrams per deciliter—a comparable level to that achieved with drugs specifically prescribed to treat gout.
“That’s a large reduction in uric acid,” confirms study author Stephen P. Juraschek, MD, PhD, research and clinical fellow in general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Gout-treating medications, such as allopurinol, often reduce patients’ blood uric acid concentrations about 2 milligrams per deciliter. When you get as high as the reduction we believe occurred with the original DASH diet in this study, the effect starts being comparable with gout medications.”
Senior study author Edgar R. Miller, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says that the study results are good news to patients with high blood levels of uric acid, those at risk for gout, and those looking for effective gout remedies.
“A dietary approach to prevent gout should be considered first line therapy,” he says. “This study suggests that standard dietary advice for uric acid reduction, which is to reduce alcohol and protein intake, should now include advice to adopt the DASH diet.”
The study was published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology on August 15, 2016.
Originally published in September 2016 and updated.