We covered Healthy Joints and Osteoarthritis in our previous post and today we focus on a type of arthritis that often provokes humour and mockery – by those who do not suffer it of course.
Gout is a kind of arthritis that often strikes at night and you can awake to a stabbing pain usually in the big toe. It strikes men much more often than women and historically was a disease of the rich who triggered these attacks with a high meat diet washed down with plenty of alcohol.
Plenty of scope there for the cartoonists and satirists and not much sympathy or help!
The pain and swelling can occur in any joint in the body and arise from deposits of crystals into the joints. These crystals may be of uric acid in normal gout but may be calcium phosphate in other cases. Usually dumped in joint space they may also crystallise as little lumps in soft tissue – under the skin for example or in the ear.
The immune system, of course regards these crystals as a foreign intrusion in the body and starts attacking them. This of course is what the immune system is for but the upshot is that we get inflamed swollen and very painful joints.
The crystals form when the level of uric acid in the blood rises too much. And that occurs either due to a high animal protein diet – organ meat in particular but red meat and shellfish are liable to increase uric acid in the blood to levels above 7 mg/dl “milligrams per decilitre”) which is the danger zone for gout symptoms.
So if gout is a disease we get when our blood level of uric acid goes up too high how can we get the level down?
Lucky for us there are some options here.
- Meat consumption and
- Fructose consumption
- Alcohol consumption
We hare mentioned the meat option already. To lower your blood level of uric acid and to get fewer crystals dumped in your joints a diet without organ meat, red meat and shellfish is obvious. A vegetarian diet based on whole foods is the best dietary response to a gout outbreak.
The fructose factor might have you worried about eating fruit but my take on this is that we should avoid processed and packaged foods which are typically loaded with fructose to act as a sweeteners, and keep eating or increase our consumption of fruit – and not fruit juice.
Alcohol may seem out of place here but it too as it breaks down adds to uric acid levels so “alcohol free” versions of your favourite drinks would be a good idea.
Before we had the processed food industry we did not have the gout outbreaks we have now so fruit is fine but processed foods are not. Fruit juice IS a proccessed food, even if you juiced it yourself.
Back to uric acid. This is not just a waste product from protein metabolism but is a natural protective molecule in the blood.
Protective? That might shock you if you are suffering painful joints an you wonder why you have this stuff in your body at all.
The reason is that uric acid is an antioxidant.
So it naturally protects tissues of the body from inflammation just like vitamin C does. It is having too much uric acid in the body that seems to be the problem not that we have some uric acid at all.
So why do we have high levels?
The body is a self regulating organism and if the amount of something is high it is for a reason. Vitamin C acts in the body to regulate uric acid. When our intake of vitamin C is too low, uric acid will rise.
A 20 year study in Canada of over 46,000 men showed that…
- If we take 500 mg of vitamin C a day our uric acid levels drop
- when we take 1,000 mg of vitamin C a day the uric acid levels drop some more
- so if we take 1500 mg of vitamin C we’re not surprised that the uric acid drops even more.
How far should you go with your vitamin C intake?
As far as you agree with your Naturopathic Doctor or Health Provider.
I would probably go step by step as high as I needed to!
Some other options may help too.
There is advice all over the Web to drink more water to “flush toxins a way”. Mostly this is sheer nonsense and can even be dangerous because you can dilute essential minerals in your blood to dangerously low levels.
In the case of gout, drinking a few glasses of water a day to dilute the uric acid and help the kidneys makes sense. How many glasses of water? I’d go for about 4 to 6 glasses and make sure I followed the other advice too.
I’d also add some Omega 3 oils from flax too. A teaspoon of powdered flax – not flax seeds but flax powder would add a powerful anti-inflammatory to your diet.
After that it’s time to work with a health professional to see what else in your health needs attention. Gout does not happen in healthy people. They are likely to be overweight and have metabolic syndrome or diabetes and high blood pressure.
The consumption of coffee, vitamin C and dairy products, as well as physical fitness, appear to decrease the risk. WikiPedia
A plant based healthy vegetarian diet will help all these problems but getting some exercise into your routine would help too. The good news when working with lifestyle factors is that we have so much control over them and can benefit as much as we want.