Gout: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
by Nadia Gazzi
“Everything starts with what you eat!”
Although heredity plays a part in your predisposition to gout, it’s your diet and lifestyle choices that are the primary factors in the age at which your symptoms present and their severity. Unfortunately, some of the foods we usually label as ‘healthy’ are major culprits when it comes to gout.
Gout is more common in men than women and tends to present in middle age or later. There is a certain hereditary predisposition, but factors like alcohol consumption, obesity, kidney disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and lack of exercise, can exacerbate the symptoms and may provoke its onset.
Purines are found in most foods and aid with digestive and cardiovascular function. A diet that is high in purine (found in meat, offal, white flesh fish, shiitake mushrooms, legumes and alcohol) may encourage the onset of gout, especially if you do not drink enough water or get enough exercise. You can reduce your risk of gout and kidney stones if you drink eight glasses of water each day.
The classic symptoms of gout are swelling, heat and pain in the joints, especially the big toe, where built up uric acid settles. It is a form of arthritis and can also be found in the knees, ankles or rarely, the arms. When acute, it is incredibly painful and although the symptoms may decrease, gout is like a dormant volcano – it may sleep, but the fires do not go out and will emerge if provoked.
One of my recent clients had his first attack of gout in his early thirties and made drastic changes to his diet and exercise regime as a result. The symptoms seemed to vanish for several years until he took a new job which required a lot of travel and official entertaining. Due to the “go, go, go” nature of his work, he found it difficult to adhere to his new dietary requirements. The combination of foods high in purine and lack of movement caused his gout to flare up again in his knees (at the mature age of 35!). Unfortunately, it’s a vicious circle: the inflammation and pain of gout makes it hard to move, and the lack of movement makes it harder for the body to flush out the system.
This is where acupuncture can be extremely beneficial to jumpstart and promote continued healing! Acupuncture gets the energy moving through your body and frees the joints to move. As energy and blood flow improve, the uric crystals that have accumulated like rust are flushed out, the inflammation and pain are reduced and your system is able to filter and excrete the toxins more effectively. Changes in diet, increasing your fluid intake, exercise, and Chinese herbs are also helpful, but acupuncture is the main accelerant of healing.
When treating gout and other arthritic conditions it is important to strengthen the digestive system, liver, and kidneys so that the spleen is able to transform and process everything efficiently. Your goal is to focus on foods that cool your system down… dairy is great for gout because it is low in purine and cools your system down. You can also apply milk or yoghurt externally to reduce inflammation and alleviate sunburn.