Gout

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Drugs for gout

Nearly one in five people have elevated levels of uric acid in their blood but only about 1 in 500 go on to develop full blown gout and of those about 95% will be men over the age of 30. Attacks of gout are commonly triggered by alcohol or protein rich foods as well as fatigue and stress.

Gout most often affects the joint at the base of the big toe, causing a condition called podagra, but it also commonly affects the instep, ankle, knee, wrist and elbow. Crystals form in these areas because they are cooler than the central part of the body and uric acid crystallises at cooler temperatures. Uric acid is normally present in the blood because it is a by-product of cells breaking down and because everyday foods contain elements that form into uric acid. Uric acid levels become abnormally high when the kidneys can’t eliminate enough of the acid in the urine.

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Drugs for gout

The current standard medical treatment for acute gout is administration of one of the various forms of colchicine, the anti-inflammatory drug originally isolated from the plant Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus or meadow saffron). Colchicine actually has no direct effect on uric acid levels; instead it stops the inflammatory process by inhibiting the spread of neutrophils into the area of inflammation.

Over seventy-five percent of patients with gout show major improvement within the first twelve hours of receiving colchicine. However, as many as eighty percent are unable to tolerate an optimal dose because of gastrointestinal and other side effects. Other anti-inflammatory drugs commonly used include indomethacin, phenylbutazone, naproxen and ibuprofen. Sometimes, corticosteroids such as prednisone are prescribed for the same purpose.

Allopurinol, a drug that blocks production of uric acid in the body is often used for people who have a high uric acid level and kidney stones or kidney damage. However, allopurinol can upset the stomach, cause a skin rash, decrease the number of white blood cells, and cause liver damage.


Colchicum autumnale (Meadow saffron)

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Herbs for gout

Two of the best herbs for the treatment and prevention of gout are extracts of Celery seed and Nettles:

Celery seed
Extracts of Celery seed are renowned for their effects on removing acid wastes from the body and you can read about this herb in more detail here. For people who have chronically elevated blood uric-acid levels, a small regular dose of celery-seed extract should keep uric acid levels down to safe levels. Even consuming celery as a food will go some way to help remove excess acids from the system. The main action of celery seed is through an oil called ‘apiol’. This is largely what gives celery its distinctive smell. Large doses of celery seed can be used when urgently needed.

Celery seed recipe for gout

Place 15 grams (approx half an ounce) of organic, unsprayed Celery seed in a saucepan with 1 large cup of water.

Briefly bring the Celery seeds to the boil, cover the saucepan and then allow the mixture to cool for about 5-7 minutes, then strain off the liquid from the seeds and drink. You may find it helpful to dilute it with some cool water if it is too hot or too thick to be easily drunk nice and quickly (this is not a tea you drink for pleasure!)

You can repeat this treatment as often as required and you can do it twice or a maximum of 3 times a day if things are particularly bad but note that it still may take up to 48 hours to see a major turnaround with the gout.


Apium graveolens (Celery seed)

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Nettles
Studies have shown that Nettles also increase the excretion of, and so correspondingly lower the level, of uric acid in the blood. Traditionally used as a blood purifier, Nettles, especially when taken as a tea, can be an excellent preventative against gout. Again dosage can be adjusted to meet the needs of prevention or an immediate requirement to lower uric acid levels. More info about Nettles here.

The nature of the cleansing and alkalising process that both these herbs tend to provoke means that you have to drink plenty of water whilst you are using either or both of them and it also highly recommended you keep to a cleansing diet at the same time, more about that next.


Urtica dioica (Nettle leaf)

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Cleansing the system

I have yet to meet the person with gout who didn't need a system wide cleansing process. Detoxification, and an appreciation of how vitally necessary it can be to our health, is an extremely important area in every culture of the world and every old tradition of medicine except for one, modern pharmaceutical!

If you need to go through a process of internal cleansing then you should first of all read some straightforward discussion on the whole subject in an article called 'what is detoxification' here. The second area that needs some study is about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid for this process to work so that key area is written up in practical detail here.

In my own practice, as well as the cleansing diet just mentioned, I tend to do a strong overall cleansing program that includes other potent herbs as well. Once we have got through that phase (which often takes a month or more) then the person who has been suffering from chronic gout is usually feeling a great deal better overall and I then typically recommend that they go on to a once-a-day dose of a tonic that probably still includes some Celery seed and Nettles as preventative agents but will also likely include some other ingredients in a formula that is tailor-made to the individual and so might, for example, include the heart tonic Hawthorn (more on it here) or one of the great energy tonics like Panax Ginseng (more here) or Withania root (more here).

Herbs work at their very best when you take them like slow and steady like this. When a person has had more than one attack of gout they are usually pretty motivated to keep the treatment going for as long as needed and for many, even though there is a little more cost involved and it is more of a task to take one or two tsps of a formula of tinctures a day than it is to swallow a pill, they feel a lot better for it than they ever did using the pharmaceuticals...


Foods that help prevent uric acid build-up (should also include cherries & coffee!)

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Dietary Prevention

Alcohol
Alcohol increases uric acid production by accelerating the breakdowns of purine. It also reduces uric acid excretion by increasing lactate production, which impairs kidney function. The net effect of this is a significant increase in uric acid levels. This explains why alcohol consumption is often a trigger in acute attacks of gout. The elimination of alcohol is sometimes all that is needed to reduce uric acid levels and prevent the recurrence of gout in those who are susceptible.

Low Purine Diet
A low purine diet has been the mainstay of dietary therapy for gout for many years. Foods with high purine levels should probably be entirely omitted. These include organ meats, shellfish, brewers yeast, herring, mackerel and anchovies.

Fluid Intake
Perhaps the single most important preventative step to take with gout is to keep the body well hydrated with plenty of water. A liberal fluid intake helps to keep the urine well diluted and promotes the excretion of uric acid. Furthermore, dilution of the urine reduces the risk of kidney stones.

Most people need to drink at least 6 cups of water a day but this is variable according to our constitutions and a good rule of thumb is how often a person needs to go the toilet. More than once an hour is too much, less than once in two hours is too little. Urine should be light in colour and virtually free from odour if you have been drinking enough.

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Constitutional Health Note

It may be of great benefit to learn about your constitution to help know about what kinds of food, herbs, exercises etc. will best help you in general as well as with any issues with gout. Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences and to demonstrate how it works I can say that, if you who are reading this suffer gout yourself, then there is rather high likelihood that you are what we call a Tiger, a hot and damp constitution! Tigers are not the only ones who get gout but, at least in my own clinical experience, they are, by far, the ones who get it the most! There is a brief introduction to this subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd