Historically regarded as an affliction of the affluent; considered to be brought about by a diet of excess; and loaded with connotations of gluttony; gout is reported to have affected some famous characters over the course of history. Termed the ‘Disease of Kings’ it’s easy to see where the ‘living the high life’ associations are borne from. Indeed, several kings are believed to have lived with the symptoms of gout, perhaps most notably King Henry VIII. This larger than life monarch ruled over England from 1509 to 1547 and is known, amongst other things, for being particularly overweight. The diet in this day for the wealthy revolved around huge banquets and superfluous amounts of red meat, while red wine was reported to flow freely; the causes attributed to the King suffering from gout and where the associations of excess come from. Not only has gout been pigeon-holed into the stereotype of bad eating habits; it’s also shrouded in the myth that this disease died with King Henry VIII. Diet is indeed an important factor when considering gout, though certainly not the only contributing factor. The latter, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.
Contrary to popular belief, gout is not a thing of the past. Gout is a very real issue for a large proportion of the population today which has a range of often quite painful and disabling symptoms. Between one and two in every 100 people suffer with gout in the UK. Studies show that it’s mainly men over 30 who are affected. Research also indicates that women post menopause are more likely to contract gout due to a chemical change in the hormones previously protecting against it. Overall, however, this rather nasty infliction is more prevalent in men.1
What is Gout?
Gout is actually a type of inflammatory arthritis brought on by the accumulation of tiny crystals inside and around the joints. More often than not gout occurs in joints such as the knees, fingers, toes, and ankles. Sufferers from gout can experience acute pain in the joints; joints swelling; joints becoming hot and sensitive to touch; and the skin taking on a shiny, red appearance where the gout is present.2
Gout takes its form in bursts or attacks which can last anywhere between three to ten days. The symptoms described can happen suddenly and worsen quickly but they usually disappear once the ‘attack’ has taken its toll. Unfortunately the likelihood of recurring attacks of gout is very high; it’s just not certain when gout will strike again; how acute the attack will be; or how long it will last.3
Causes of Gout
Uric acid is the waste product created when the body breaks down purines. Purines is a protein found in a variety of foods and all of the cells in the human body. Most uric acid dissolves in blood and travels to the kidneys, where about two-thirds of it passes out in urine. The remaining one-third is eliminated through the GI tract after being broken down by ‘friendly’ bacteria in the colon. Gout occurs when too much uric acid accumulates in the blood; caused by either a production of too much of this substance or because the kidneys fail to filter sufficient uric acid out of the body. When this happens the uric acid builds up and forms small crystals causing the affected joints to become inflamed which can cause severe pain.4
Susceptible to Gout?
Gout is more likely to attack the joints if any of the below apply:
- A close relative has gout
- Kidney disorders
- Enzyme deficiencies
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Excessive alcohol consumption, particularly beer.
A diet rich in foods that contribute to the accumulation of uric acid in the body, like seafood, red meat, turkey, goose, game, yeast extracts, offal, sugary drinks.5
So it’s very likely the lifestyle of King Henry VIII played a big part in him getting gout but it’s clear to see diet and obesity are not the only factors which can contribute to gout.
Dietary Changes for Gout
These four top tips that can have a significant impact on the amount of uric acid entering the body:
Reduce overall alcohol intake. Alcohol can contribute to gout because it increases the level of uric acid in the blood in several ways. Fermented alcohol, such as beer, is a particularly bad move if afflicted with gout, because when beer is fermented high levels of purines are produced. Alcohol is a bad move generally though because it activates the production of uric acid in the liver. Further to this, when alcohol enters the body it’s converted to lactic acid which inhibits the kidneys from removing uric acid from the body properly.6
Reduce overall protein intake. Consuming foods and drinks that are high in purines is likely to increase the chances of getting gout and certainly worsen the symptoms of those already suffering with it.7
Cutting back on or removing heavily processed foods and drinks from our diets can significantly help reduce the symptoms of gout and is generally the way to go in terms of a healthy diet.
Fructose, sometimes termed corn syrup or glucose-fructose syrup and other sweetened soft drinks should be avoided.
Studies have revealed that gout is on the rise in the UK and this could be largely due to modern dietary habits with an increase in heavily processed foods being consumed with higher levels of saturated fats and trans fatty acids.8
Low Purine & helpful foods
Increasing the consumption of certain foods can help to combat the onset of gout and also help alleviate the severity of the symptoms associated with it. Low purine foods include bread, cereals, dairy, eggs, pasta, noodles and most fruit and vegetables. Asparagus, cauliflower and spinach have moderate levels of purines so should be consumed in moderation if living with gout.
Consuming a range of complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, oatmeal, pasta and bread; starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, potatoes, pumpkin and corn; most green vegetables; and fruits, particularly citrus fruits is thought to help protect against the risk of gout. A diet suitable for those with high blood pressure is also advised by some health experts for those who have gout. This type of diet should contain high amounts of fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products along with low amounts of sugary drinks, fats and saturated fats.9
Coffee and tea has also been cited as helpful for gout when consumed in moderation. Caffeine can function as a diuretic, which aids the whole process of waste removal.
Turmeric and Black Pepper are revered for their ability to reduce inflammation so it would be wise to include these as part of a well managed approach to control gout and the various symptoms.
Cherries, in particular sour cherries or sour cherry juice, have been cited as being beneficial to reduce the risk of gout. Research has shown that consuming cherries could lessen the amount of uric acid in the blood while also easing the inflammation caused by gout.10
Water of Life
Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day will also help ease the symptoms of gout as this generally helps to keep the body functioning properly. Water helps to flush the body of wastes. Kidneys do an amazing job at removing unwanted waste from the body via a process of protein metabolism; namely uric acid, urea, and lactic acid, but they require a great deal of water for this process to occur properly. Water also helps with the symptoms of gout by providing lubrication and cushioning to the joints, helping to lessen inflammation while benefiting cartilage health.11
Overall weight management can considerably help lessen the chances of getting gout and losing weight can also help to lessen the pain experienced in the joints if suffering from gout. This is because weight loss can help reduce the levels of uric acid in the blood and also less weight means less stress on the joints. Extreme weight loss, as a result of fad dieting, for example, can actually increase uric acid levels in the body and is never a good idea as a way of reducing body weight. A healthy and varied balanced diet coupled with exercise is the best approach.12 This conscious perspective on diet coupled with significantly increasing water intake can help with achieving weight loss. Water suppresses the appetite naturally, while also helping the body metabolize fat.13
These dietary and lifestyle changes could provide a beneficial and healthy way to lower uric acid levels, helping to avoid the risk and relieve the symptoms of gout.
Dietary and Health Supplements
Supporting our diets with a Vitamin C dietary supplement is a brilliant way to lessen uric acid levels in the blood. Taking between 500 to 1500mg a day can help reduce blood uric acid levels because Vitamin C assists the kidneys to remove uric acid from the body.14
Research has shown that taking B complex vitamins can benefit the symptoms of gout. Eating foods rich in vitamin B such as broccoli, bananas and tomato juice in addition to taking the B vitamin complex can assist with the overall effects. Essentially B Vitamins are crucial nutrients needed by the body for growth, development, and a range of other important functions, one of which is assisting the body to change uric acid into safe compounds. The Vitamin B complex formulation provided by Oxford Vitality contains Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, D-Biotin, Folic Acid and Inositol.15
Folic Acid is an essential B vitamin which helps to break down macronutrients that are crucial in helping the organs in the body work properly. Having healthy kidneys and liver means they can carry out the important job of filtering uric acid out of the blood where it can leave the body as waste via urine thus helping to lower levels of uric acid in the body. The body is unable to produce or store large amounts of Folate easily, hence, why it’s readily available and recommended as a supplement. There are natural sources of Folic acid, these include, dark green leafy vegetables (such as kale), soya beans, kidney beans, broccoli, cabbage, avocado, cereals and barley.16
A diet rich in flavonoids is recommended for gout sufferers because of their rich antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids are abundant in a whole range of fruits and vegetables. Great sources include berries, leeks, ginger, grapefruit, carrots, apples, onions, broccoli, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, lemons, parsley, buckwheat and legumes. Coffee, tea, chocolate, a range of spices, herbs and red wine are also bursting with health-giving flavonoids. Dietary supplements abundant with flavonoids include Quercetin powder, Acai tablets and Green tea tablets.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is a type of lactic acid bacteria which rapidly ferments carbohydrates (sugar containing foods) to produce lactic acids. This microorganism is classified under gram-positive bacteria.17 This highly effective probiotic could assist in the battle against gout as it’s believed to help lower uric acid levels by assisting with colon health. To properly absorb nutrients, synthesise vitamins, and eliminate waste effectively the intestines need certain levels of probiotics or ‘friendly’ bacteria. The word probiotic translates to 'for life'. ‘Friendly’ bacteria in the colon helps to break down any uric acid present there that didn’t leave the body via the kidneys. A probiotics supplement such as Lactobacillus acidophilus can help the life of the gut and actively improve digestion by helping to maintain a proper working digestive system, which helps to assist with the removal of uric acid as a waste product from the body.18
Oxford Vitality provide Acidophilus tablets which are a small and very manageable 6mm in diameter, and just 150mg in weight which makes them very easy to swallow. You are advised not to take this with a hot drink as this will destroy the live bacteria.19
Various dietary and health supplements can help to combat inflammation and could therefore be helpful in lessening the symptoms of gout, such as Omega 3, 6, 9 soft gels. Omega fatty acids, such as fish oil, can help to reduce inflammation. These essential fatty acids are generally good for us and considered crucial for maintaining a healthy heart, mainly because they contribute to normal blood cholesterol levels; have the ability to stop blood clotting; and contribute towards a healthy and regular heart rhythm. Salmon or halibut are good sources as well as avocado, sunflower oil, flax, linseed oil and walnuts.
This clever formulation of Black Pepper and Turmeric is used for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, appetite stimulation and healthy aid of digestion s it’s clear to see how it could benefit the symptoms of gout. Turmeric is best used for its antioxidant properties, aiding the health and performance of the liver, joint, bones, and upper respiratory tract. Most importantly, its benefits extend to stimulating a healthy appetite to gain the correct nutrition from food. Black Pepper is thought to contribute to normal function and efficiency of the of digestive and intestinal systems. By aiding normal digestive functions black pepper helps to increase digestion and absorption of nutrients, while helping in body weight control. It’s also thought to have beneficial effects for the liver by aiding the digestion of toxins, liver cleaning and encouraging the circulation of blood through the microvasculature and capillaries of the liver.20
Papain and Bromelain Tablets
Papain is the primary proteolytic enzyme of the Papaya Fruit. The Papaya plant claims to aid the anti-inflammatory processes within the body. It’s commonly used to aid oedema and fluid retention following trauma, or surgery. Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme that is found in the juice of Pineapples. Bromelain has been linked with health claims that state a reduction in inflammation throughout the whole body, particularly for sprains, minor operations and Arthritis.21
Serrapeptase is a proteolytic enzyme, “proteo” meaning protein, “lytic” meaning to breakdown. Serrapeptase helps to break down proteins, thus can act as an anti-inflammatory supplement, which could help ease the inflammation caused by gout. It does so by breaking down excessive mucous, and inflammatory stimulating proteins. It’s believed by targeting inflammation it can reduce pain in some disorders.22
Dietary management coupled with exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can help significantly reduce the risks of getting gout and lessen the painful symptoms associated with it. Enhancing this approach with the right combination of dietary supplements can increase the benefits gained from dietary management and exercise while also helping to ensure the body is getting a range of essential nutrients and vitamins needed for good, all round health.
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