Gout is an inflammatory arthritis that occurs from the precipitation of uric acid into the joint space. It affects more than 3% of the population and is more common in men than in women. This is because uric acid levels in the blood are generally higher in men than in women. Other things that increase the risk of gout include weight gain, diabetes, high fructose corn syrup, alcohol and certain medications.
Gout is excruciatingly painful, and as anyone who has had a gout attack knows, it can leave a person severely debilitated for many hours to days after an attack occurs. The joint that is affected (usually the big toe) will become very red, swollen and painful to use within minutes to hours. If it affects the lower limb at all, it can impair walking or any movement during that time.
Conventional Treatment for Gout
Pharmaceutical treatments usually involve trying to reduce pain and inflammation during an attack. Medications like ibuprofen and colchicine are often used to reduce the pain and swelling in an attack. More long-term medications such as allopurinol can help reduce the likelihood of a gout attack by decreasing uric acid in the blood. These types of medications do not help attacks when they occur though.
Alternative Therapies for Gout
While medications can sometimes be helpful for preventing or treating gout attacks, diet and lifestyle changes are incredibly helpful. Diet by far is the best way to prevent a flare and to help reduce uric acid levels. Reducing foods that are high in purines (proteins that produce uric acid), such as red meat and fish can help to reduce uric acid in the blood. Fructose and alcohol intake have also been associated with increased uric acid. Foods that contain high levels of fructose are often processed foods. Therefore, eliminating or greatly reducing alcoholic beverages and processed foods can make a huge difference. Increasing the intake of dairy subsequently also helps reduce uric acid.
To help reduce pain and swelling in the moment, try icing. Applying ice to the area and elevating it during and attack will short it’s duration. Short term fasting for 24 hours with water can also help reduce inflammation quickly.
Long term management strategies should also be implemented. Working on weight loss and treatment/prevention of diabetes or high blood pressure reduces gout attacks over time. The best treatments though include individualized plans for each person to identify specific triggers. If you want to learn more about how you can identify your own specific inflammatory triggers for gout, contact our office today to schedule a free introductory consult with one of our physicians.