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

About 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 giving some form of colchicine, the anti-inflammatory drug originally isolated from the plant Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus or meadow saffron). Colchicine does not actually effect uric acid levels; rather 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 the production of uric acid in the body is commonly prescribed to people who have high uric acid levels and so are prone to gout, kidney stones or kidney damage. However, allopurinol can also be difficult to take and can cause stomach-upset or skin rashes. In some cases, it can decrease white blood cell numbers or cause liver damage. It's good to know there are alternatives.


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 ability to help remove acid wastes from the body. Even consuming celery as a food will go some way to help remove excess acids from the system but, for people who have chronically elevated blood uric-acid levels, a regular dose of celery-seed extract will be highly likely to help,

The main action of celery seed is through an oil called ‘apiol’. This is largely what gives celery its distinctive smell. You can read more about Celery seed here. A moderate daily dose of a Celery seed extract is the optimal way to get the best results but, especially if a person is unable to take a drug like colchicine, it may be possible to achieve a rapid turnaround in acute gout by using a very large dose of Celery seed over just a few days.

Celery seed recipe for acute gout

Place 15 grams (approx half an ounce) of 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 taken easily and quickly.

In acute gout, this tea should be made fresh and drunk twice a day for two days to assess if it is the right treatment for you. If so, it will have been able to reduce the symptoms gout by at least 70-80%.


Apium graveolens (Celery seed)

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Nettles

Nettles is equally a second herb with a long traditional use for helping gout, amongst other problems, and studies have shown that it significantly increases the excretion of uric acid from the body.

Nettles works completely differently to Celery and a person who does not respond rapidly to Celery seed may respond to Nettle leaf, and vice versa. Some people will prefer to cover their bases and use both herbs in an acute flare-up. If you do that, and the condition rapidly responds, then you have the happy problem of not knowing what helped the most, something that could be worked by using one or the other in a less acute situation.

A strong tea of Nettles for acute gout can be made in a similar way to the above recipe. Take 15 grams of Nettle leaf, place it into a litre of freshly boiled water and allow to steep for 10 minutes before straining off the tea. This is enough for a whole day's treatment and it is best to divide the dose into at least two, or three cups. It can be drunk warm or cool with no difference to the effect. More about Nettles here.


Urtica dioica (Nettle leaf)

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Cleansing the system

If you get gout, then it can be stated with certainty that you are a person who needs to have a deep clean up of your whole system. Read more on this subject in an article called 'what is detoxification' found here and read about what foods to eat and avoid on a page called 'the cleansing diet' found here.


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

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Dietary Prevention

Alcohol

This reason that alcohol consumption is so often a trigger to acute attacks of gout is that 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.

For some people, simply eliminating alcohol is all that is needed to reduce uric acid levels to the point that gout attacks simply stop.

Low Purine Diet

A low purine diet has been the mainstay of dietary therapy for gout for many years. For some people, foods with high purine levels must be completely avoided or they will get a recurrence of the gout. High-purine foods include organ meats, shellfish, brewer's yeast, herring, mackerel and anchovies.

Fluid Intake

One of the 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, as introduced below, 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

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general.

Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences. There's a brief introduction 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