Alternative Remedies For Joint Pain, Gout & Arthritis
Uric acid is produced from the natural breakdown of your body's cells and from the foods you eat. Most of the uric acid is filtered out by the kidneys and passes out of the body in urine.
However, if too much uric acid is being produced, or if the kidneys are not able to filter it from the blood, then the level of uric acid increases, causing solid crystals in the joints. This painful condition is known as gout; also known as ‘gouty arthritis’. Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis.
Traditionally it has been thought that gout was caused by rich living. Most of us have an image of an elderly gentleman sitting in his club, drinking port and complaining of his gout! As Henry VIII gained weight he suffered from gout, and it is because of him that it became known as ‘the disease of kings’.
Painful flare-ups may be concentrated in the big toe (a symptom known as podagra), as well as swelling and pain in the ankles, knees, feet, wrists or elbows. Flare-ups last days in the beginning, but can become progressively longer. Common symptoms include:
- Intense joint pain that is most severe in the first 12 to 24 hours - Joint pain that lasts a few days to a few weeks and spreads to more joints over time - Redness, tenderness and swelling of the joints.
Most sufferers of the condition have reported experiencing “pre-attack symptoms” that may occur a couple of hours prior to the actual attack. These symptoms may include stiffness and an itchy feeling around the affected joint. There may also be tingling, mild burning sensation and a sore feeling around the joint. Not more than an hour or two after these warnings, the agony of the actual attack sets in completely.
The big toe is generally the most commonly affected joint, but an attack can occur just about at any joint such as the ankles, knees, or even the hands. If left untreated, high levels of uric acid can cause kidney stones or ultimately kidney failure.
It is a very common disease, most often seen in men between the ages of 40-50, and sometimes in post-menopausal women. Factors which may make a person susceptible to gout include:
- Having a family history of gout - Being overweight - Having kidney problems - Lead exposure - Drinking too much alcohol - Taking certain medications like diuretics or niacin
A change of diet has been shown to help gout, so avoid:
- Sugar - including ‘soft’ drinks and ‘diet’ drinks (see my earlier blogs re these poisons!) - Grains (wheat, barley, rye, oat, spelt etc) - Processed meats (ham, bacon, salami etc.) - Fatty red meat - Alcohol - Shellfish - Lentils - Pea - Asparagus - Spinach - Mushrooms - Organ meats - Fried foods - Herring - Anchovies - Hydrogenated oils: soybean, vegetable, corn, rapeseed - Sodium - cut back on salt and salty foods.
- High fibre vegetables and fruit - Nuts and seeds - Potassium-rich foods such as avocados, coconut water, salmon (wild, not farmed) squash, bananas and apricots. - Bone broth - Water. Drinks lots to dilute the urine and make the kidneys’ job easier!
HOW GOUT IS TREATED
Gout is commonly treated with corticosteroids, such as prednisone, which can be injected directly into the affected joints for relief within a few hours. However, despite their effectiveness, corticosteroids must be used sparingly, because they can weaken bones or cause poor wound healing. Doctors say there is no cure for gout and medication must be taken for life, however there are natural remedies you might like to try:
1. Smoothie. Ingredients: 1 grapefruit 1 cup of pineapple chunks 1 cucumber
Blend and drink.
2. Black cherries/juice. Research has shown that eating about 20 black cherries a day helps to relieve gout pain. The more tart the cherries the better, and Montmorency cherries were found to be the most effective. Drinking only the cherry juice also helped. Black cherry concentrate is also available for when cherries are out of season.
3. Celery seed extract. Researchers have found that celery seed extract significantly reduces uric acid levels in the blood.
4. Nettles. Take as a supplement or drink as nettle tea. (It’s more pleasant than it sounds!) Or use young fresh nettles in a salad (never use ones that grow by a busy road or which have been sprayed with weed killer).
5. Fish oils. The Omega-3 oils in fish oils have been shown to reduce arthritic pain over time, and as gout is a form of arthritis, it makes sense that what helps arthritis will help gout. Make sure the Omega-3 comes from wild-caught fish; farmed fish have little nutritional value and can often be diseased.
6. Proteolytic enzymes. Proteolytic enzyme supplements, like anti-inflammatory bromelain, found in pineapple, help reduce uric acid and inflammation (see the smoothie recipe above). As a bonus, it is also a digestive enzyme, so helps your body process your food.
7. Magnesium. Most people are deficient in this important mineral, which is needed for so many processes of the body. Magnesium has been found to help particularly with acute flare-ups. (See my earlier blog on magnesium.)
8. Apple Cider Vinegar (see earlier posts on this marvellous, natural cure-all!) Take two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water twice daily. Drinking the vinegar results in the break-up uric acid crystals and it essentially stops the process of reformation in the joints.
Make sure that the cider vinegar you buy contains “The Mother”, the original culture of beneficial bacteria that turns regular apple cider into vinegar. This is a complex structure of beneficial acids that has multiple health benefits. If the ACV contains The Mother, it should be murky and cloudy (at least at the bottom) and should say so on the label.
9. Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Powder). Bicarbonate of soda (or Baking Powder - same thing, different name) helps decrease uric acid levels which cause gout attacks. This remedy goes back to the 19th century, when English doctor to Queen Victoria, Alfred Garrod (author of ‘The Nature and Treatment of Gout and Rheumatic Gout’ (pub 1859)) discovered that by alkalising the blood, uric acid was diluted.
The recommended dose is a quarter to a half a teaspoon of powder in a 250ml glass of water. Make sure it has thoroughly dissolved before drinking. Take 4 times a day, the last glass just before bedtime, as the body seems to produce more uric acid at night. This is why many sufferers experience gout attacks between midnight and dawn.
Most of us have bodies that, internally, are too acid. This creates dis-ease and ill-ness . Ideally we need to create a more alkaline environment in our bodies. Diet has a huge influence on our pH levels, which measure the acidity of our bodies. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral (in the middle) and anything below 7 is considered acidic and anything above is considered alkaline. You can test the pH levels of your urine with special pH sticks (remember the Litmus paper in school science lessons?).
Acid/Alkaline diet books are also easily available, and changing your diet to one that favours alkaline-forming foods can transform your health - and your gout and arthritis!