Natural Approaches to Gout Treatment

No drugs are involved; these natural gout treatments might be an effective way to help relieve your pain.

A partial view of a man holding the back of his foot in pain.

With no cure available, the search for effective gout treatment is of the essence. In general, doctors or physicians would prescribe patients with medication or recommend them to follow a healthy lifestyle to manage symptoms and reduce the rate of occurrence. In addition to these conventional methods, there is a holistic approach through naturopathy and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

This article will help you learn more about gout and the various treatments available today.

How to Tell If You Have Gout

Got a swollen foot? It could be a sign of gout.
Got a swollen, painful foot? It could be a sign of gout.

Gout is a type of arthritis that causes sudden, severe joint pain. It mostly attacks the big toe, though the pain can occur in the foot, ankle, knee, wrist, elbow, and finger joints. You will know it’s gout when the skin on the affected areas turns hot, swollen and red.

Gout can happen to anyone. The primary cause is excessive uric acid in the body, a chemical compound in some foods we eat. When you consume too much food high in purine, it forms uric acid crystals around the joints, fluids and tissues. This causes the joints to swell up and become inflamed, causing pain.

There are several risk factors for gout: 

  1. Being male
  2. Being in menopause
  3. Suffering from diseases like congestive heart failure, hypertension, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and poor kidney function
  4. Being obese
  5. Consuming certain medications
  6. Drinking alcohol especially beer
  7. Consuming foods or beverages high in fructose/sugar
  8. Having a diet high in purines (red meat, organ meat, anchovies, sardines, mussels, scallops, trout and tuna). Purines would be broken down into uric acid by the body.
  9. A family history of gout 

How to Prevent Gout

A half-opened can of tuna on a wooden background, with utensils next to it.
Avoiding too much tuna might save you from needing gout treatment.

When gout flares up, the pain can last days or weeks before it improves. There is no permanent cure for this condition. Hence, gout can come back, and the cycle of pain will repeat. 

It may take days, months or years, but gout might reappear. Preventing it from happening altogether is the most effective way to save yourself from the pain. 

Avoid gout by: 

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight
  2. Limiting your intake of purine-rich and sugary foods
  3. Restricting your alcohol intake
  4. Staying hydrated
  5. Exercising regularly without putting pressure on the joints
  6. Not smoking 

Common Gout Treatment 

To this date, there is no cure for gout. As soon as you feel the pain, you should seek gout treatment immediately to prevent joint damage. Gout can also develop into a more serious problem known as chronic gout, which may affect the kidneys and cause kidney failure.

Various choices of treatments are available to manage the pain: 

  1. Ibuprofen or, in more severe cases, steroids
  2. Rest and raise the limb
  3. Apply an ice pack to the affected joint and keep it away from sheets or blankets when sleeping at night 

Natural Gout Treatment 

Besides the three traditional treatments listed above, alternative ways exist to relieve the symptoms. 

Naturopathy 

Many patients have been looking toward naturopathy to treat their gout. Like Western medicine, it agrees that lifestyle and dietary changes can help treat the condition. Avoid purine-rich foods such as animal organs (liver, kidney, sweetbreads), certain seafood (anchovies), legumes such as beans, especially soya beans, and vegetables like mushrooms, spinach, asparagus and cauliflower.

“Patients should exercise frequently,” advises TCM physician Chew Siew Tiang, since obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol make one more susceptible to gout.

Naturopath Ketki Vinayachandra suggests to maintain sufficient fluid intake, as this keeps urine diluted, promotes urate excretion, and reduces the risk of kidney stones.

Naturopathy also recommends specific herbs such as Devil’s Claw. A 2021 review of the herb has shown that there may be strong clinical evidence that Devil’s Claw is effective.

It is recommended you consult a naturopath before taking the herb to determine the right dosage for your condition. 

TCM 

Taking psyllium seeds is said to be able to help with the effects of gout.
Taking psyllium seeds is said to be able to help with the effects of gout.

Gout is the result of internal and external factors such as Wind, Dampness, Heat and Cold. These four are considered pathogens (邪气) and when mixed, they affect qi flow and blood in the body’s meridians. When flow is disrupted, it results in pain and gout.

In TCM, gout treatment includes herbal remedies and changes in diet and lifestyle. The goal is to first balance out the elements of the body. When the body is in harmony, gout can be easily managed.

Before you try any TCM gout treatment, it is important to visit a licensed physician so they can recommend suitable treatment. TCM would recommend acupuncture or herbs such as: 

  1. Psyllium seed (che qian zi, 车前子): A 2018 study by researchers in China discovered that pysllium seed is effective because it contains xanthine oxidase (XOD) inhibitors. 
  2. Lycopodium (shi song, 石松): Following a 2022 study on the herb’s effects on birds, lycopodium has been considered a treatment option for joint arthritis. 
  3. Achyranthes root (niu xi, 牛膝): A 2012 study published in Strait Pharmaceutical Journal has stated that achyranthes root can promote the excretion of uric acid, which might make it a good treatment for gout. 

TCM also believes that fenugreek (fen bi xie, 粉萆薢) might help reduce the effects of gout. Additionally, to dispel Heat and Dampness, TCM advises to follow a diet consisting of winter melon (dong gua, 冬瓜), cucumber (huang gua, 黄瓜), barley (da mai, 大麦) and green beans (lu dou, 绿豆).

Try to stay warm and dry hands and feet after washing to prevent Wind and Dampness.

Finally, you can try taking supplements that disperse the impacts of outside pathogens. 

You don’t have to deal with the pain alone. Be mindful of your diet and cultivate an positive attitude, as stress can trigger a gout attack. Remember, conventional or alternative gout treatment must be taken after a careful diagnosis. Contact your doctor or physician to get the right treatment for you. 

This is an adaptation of an article, “Routed by Gout”, which first appeared on the Eu Yan Sang website.

References

  1. National Health Service. 2017. Gout.  [Accessed on 26 July 2022] 
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. Gout.  [Accessed on 26 July 2022] 
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2021. From Bush Medicine to Modern Phytopharmaceutical: A Bibliographic Review of Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum spp.) [Accessed on 26 July 2022] 
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2018. Antigout Effects of Plantago Asiatica: Xanthine Oxidase Inhibitory Activities Assessed by Electrochemical Biosensing Method.  [Accessed on 26 July 2022] 
  5. International Journal of High Dilution Research. 2022. Lycopodium as a treatment for Urate Deposition (gout) in birds: case report.  [Accessed on 26 July 2022] 
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2020. Chinese herbal medicine for gout: a review of the clinical evidence and pharmacological mechanisms. [Accessed on 26 July 2022] 

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