What is Gout?

Posted on July 18, 2008
Category: health | 13 Comments

Following on from my last post about Chinese Herbs as Alternative Cures, I want to move onto a real problem that affects millions of people, me included. That’s an extremely painful condition known as gout.

While arthritis is a disease I’ve all but rid myself of, gout is an intermittent problem that can be extremely painful and debilitating and one that sneaks up and grabs me every once in a while. This has always baffled me, because in my fight against arthritis, I changed my diet quite considerably in order to avoid the foods that cause elevated levels of uric acid to be present in the blood, which then lead on to the arthritic conditions cause by it. This worked in removing the cause of the stiff and painful joints, but hasn’t seemed to be effective in preventing the occasional attack of gout.

So lets look at what gout is.

Gout is similar to arthritis in cause, in that elevated levels of uric acid in the blood find their way into the joints and form a hard egg-shell like covering that attacks the synovial membrane, which is the slippery membrane that exists in between the ball and socket formation of joints. This membrane is alkaline in make-up and so attracts the acidic nature of uric acid when it reaches excessive levels in the blood. The difference between gout and arthritis, in simplistic terms, is that while arthritis is gradual, degenerative and gets worse over time, gout attacks form quickly, are of intense severity, and then they disappear as mysteriously as they form (or so they appear to)

Gout is also caused by excessive levels of uric acid in the blood gravitating to the alkaline joints but the subtle difference between the cause of arthritis and gout is that with gout the uric acid gets inside the joints and crystallizes. That causes extreme pain when the joint is moved as severe as a broken bone. To add to the woe, the body’s immune system attacks what it sees as the foreign body in the joint by flooding the area with histamines, which causes extreme swelling to occur. While the body is fighting off what it sees as an attack, it surrounds the uric acid crystals in the joint with cells in order to contain the problem. When this happens, the pain is reduced and the swelling abates.

As the uric acid levels return to normal in the blood a strange thing happens. Unlike with arthritis, the lowered levels of uric acid actually clean the crystals from out of the joints. This causes a secondary attack of gout as the body’s immune system goes into attack mode again and floods the area with histamines, although this attack is often more short lived than the first.

Knowing the cause of a problem is often the most important step in curing it. Unfortunately, with both gout and arthritis, knowing that elevated levels of uric acid in the blood are the cause is not enough. That in itself is actually a symptom of something else and while doctors can control this acid level with drugs, treating the symptom will not cure the illness, only mask it.

We also know that elevated levels of uric acid in the blood are largely due to bad diet.

But recent studies have thrown this previous knowledge into question somewhat by discovering that diet only has around a 15% effect on the levels or uric acid in a person’s body. That goes some way to explain why one person who has lived on a diet of hamburgers, pizzas and beer never suffers from gout and another person will get it on a regular basis. There are other causes, there is no doubt.

One of these is reduced kidney function, where in a person with normal healthy kidneys will be able to filter out all the excess and leave normal levels in the blood, a person with reduced kidney function is not able to remove the excess and so the levels build up in the blood and lead to attacks of gout and/or arthritis. One cause of reduced kidney function is dehydration, so it is important to always make sure enough water is dunk throughout the day. Another cause – and this will upset some people – is aspirin.

Aspirin in some people reduces kidney function and suppresses their ability to filter out excessive uric acid. This is a double bind, because many people take aspirin as an anti-inflammatory for arthritis and gout, unwittingly adding to the very condition that they are trying to fight.

Yet another cause of reduced filtering or uric acid by the kidneys is alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol itself does not cause elevated levels or uric acid in the blood,so it does not directly cause gout or arthritis. What it does do, however, is compete with uric acid in the kidneys during the filtering stage, so that the alcohol will be filtered out of the bloodstream in place of the excessive uric acid. This is one reason why a person suffering an attack of gout, or an acute attack of arthritis should not drink any alcohol during the attack.

It gets worse. Another substance that competes for your kidney’s filtration time is caffeine. So while coffee might actually help the condition, the caffeine it contains actually worsens the situation, in a similar fashion to alcohol.

Another cause of excess blood levels of uric acid is our old adversary, stress. When a person is stressed, many normal bodily functions go into survival mode in order for the person to deal with the cause of the stress. In the days of our ancestors, that would have meant fight or flight. The body would create the perfect conditions for the person to either stand and fight or run away at speed. In modern life, stresses are caused by many things and the fight or flight response is suppressed, leaving the body in fight or flight mode for much longer than is healthy. This is a trigger for many of the illnesses that afflict us nowadays and one of these is gout, caused by the elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, in turn caused by the fight or flight response not being acted upon.

So now we know what causes gout and we know how to avoid it as far as is humanly possible, but we can’t control what life throws at us and from time to time we are going to get stressed and those of us who are more susceptible will suffer further attacks of gout. So what about treating it once you have it?

Well, here is a pretty darn good resource for gout treatments that is well worth you looking over as there are a lot of really helpful tips for using natural methods for fighting back against gout attacks.

I also have a squidoo lens of the same name as this site that looks at arthritis in more depth as well as some of the things you can do to reduce the condition or prevent it if you have not quite got there yet.

Terry Didcott
Alternative Cures

Comments

13 Responses to “What is Gout?”

  1. bloggingzoom.com on July 18th, 2008 3:14 pm

    What is Gout?…

    Gout is one of the most painful and debilitating conditions that I have ever suffered from and believe me, when it attacks both feet at once you’re crippled, no question. So what causes this horrible condition? Mores the point what can people do to pr…

  2. Alternative Cures » Supplemental on August 22nd, 2008 8:23 pm

    […] my last post at What is Gout, where I looked at the painful condition of gout and what is available that can be done to remedy […]

  3. Jacob on September 13th, 2009 1:37 pm

    I would like to say that your description is true, one thing that I do not agree with is the fact that gout is not degenerative. In many cases, without treatment gout can cause anneurism and kidney failure. In my case (even with strict diet and strict pill plans) I have had a surgery to remove 2 years worth of uric acid build up in my wrist totally destroying one tendon and leaving the other one 50 percent active. I now have massive build up in my right index finger and my left elbow. Doctors suggested to not take those out unless they get to the point where I am totally unactive in those areas. I am also, 23. My gout attacks are getting worse and my rheumatologists have said that I do have a rare form of gout that can be degenerative. Problem I have with most websites is that say that gout is one hundred percent treatable and will go away or that the gout attacks may hurt, but will go away faster than when they appear. In most cases, they go away within a week to a few months. This is a serious disease with many people having surgeries and in severe cases being bed ridden and unabled to live productive lives.

  4. tel on September 13th, 2009 4:15 pm

    Jacob, your account of your own condition is terrible. I really sympathise with you, knowing just how bad the pain can be and how long attacks can last. My worst was the whole of last summer – just over 3 months. Ok, my point about the disease not being degenerative was aimed at the more general forms of gout which tends not to produce such awful symptoms. You are right in that worse forms that of course would be degenerative if not stopped.

    I have personally found several triggers in my diet that I have eliminated, one by one and the worst offender seems to have been dairy – I love cheese and that has been my downfall. So I now rarely eat it, or butter. I only add a little skimmed milk to tea or breakfast cereal and if I ever feel an attack coming on, I drink a glass of water with a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate in it, three times a day. I have found that usually stops it in its tracks.

    Problem is that everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. But do try sodium bicarbonate as it lowers the body’s overall acidity levels, which helps the kidneys flush more uric acid while the lower levels of uric acid in the blood actually flush out the crystalline deposits in the joints. If it doesn’t work for you, then I wish you good luck with your search for the thing that will work for you.

    Terry

  5. Mark on November 5th, 2009 11:26 pm

    After a rich summer of camping and overindulgence I had my first bout with gout. It lasted a month or so then came back. It feels like it’s been all summer. Gout suffers MUST own a pair of Crocs because you won’t be wearing any of your shoes. I’m back on my winter diet and my toe is getting better everyday. But, I feel the damage has been done. I still have difficulty walking let alone doing my cardio. I’m guilty of not drinking enough water but I’ve backed off the beer and increased the fruits & veggies. I have the greatest of sympathy for fellow gout sufferers. I’m 49 years old, not obese and relatively active. I do not believe in the word diet but rather lifestyle. If I can do it so can you! Good luck and god bless.

  6. mac on January 22nd, 2010 7:55 pm

    i have severe pain in my hip joints. it comes as mysteriously as it goes.
    its been around for years. it really gets worse during the winter times.
    i’m sure its gout but my pain is localized only in the hip joints and NOT in any other joints.
    has any one heard of this condition?
    can you recommend some medications?
    thanx

  7. BERNADETTE on March 26th, 2010 11:46 pm

    my mum suffered athritis on her knee and hands. everytime she ate any beans (red kidney, mungo, string beans) or chicken her athritis get wourse but i read in many articles the right diet with athritis patient is to eat more beans. can anyone explain this to me please. .

  8. tel on March 29th, 2010 5:51 pm

    Not everyone reacts to certain foods like everyone else, so some people can eat beans or chicken and suffer no effect and others can’t. Beans, especially red kidney beans are relatively high in purines. Purines are known to cause the body to produce more uric acid and if your body is not balanced and has too high levels of this acid in the blood stream, you’ll get arthritis symptoms or gout. The best way to combat this is to eat a diet consisting of foods that are low to moderate in purines, although you’ll have to experiment a bit to find which ones are worse than other for you.

    Its can be a lot of work and most people would rather go see a doctor and take a pill than do the research and alter their diet to improve their health by trial and error. It took me many months to find out what I definitely could not eat and even then, it was a few years later that I realized that my main enemy was dairy products, I love cheese and always spread a lot of butter on my bread or toast, drank full fat milk and had a lot of cream on stuff. Now I know better and avoid these most of the time, just having a small treat every now and then.

    But its your body we’re talking about here and maybe its cheese, maybe its mushrooms, or maybe its red kidney beans (or some or all of these). Do you want to just take pills and never get better or do you want to take responsibility for your health and do something about it? This is a harsh question you have to ask yourself and your answer will determine your future quality of life.

  9. Darrel on June 15th, 2010 2:36 am

    Gouty arthritis surely must be considered a really unpleasant problem, my own grandfather has been struggling with the condition for many years now. It is absolutely stress filled for me, witnessing a loved family member and friend experience pain attacks all too often. Sticking to an appropriate diet program with the goal of prevention and making use of proper treatment methods is in my opinion a necessity. Personally, I suggest everyone who presently notices the first warning signs of hyperuricemia to by any means take this really serious. Better seek advice from a health care professional as soon as you can and change your food intake to prevent the outbreak of the illness. It is anything but fun, really! Search working options for therapy and stay clear of high purine meals, alcoholic beverages and so forth to take prophylactic measure.

  10. anthony on August 5th, 2010 3:09 am

    I can sympathize with all the gout sufferers. I was told for years beer or alcohol would cause the gout, but it is true that you must find out what your trigger food is. I can eat seafood, drink alcohol and not have a reaction, but I recently found out at the age of 48 that beef is my trigger food. I had a steak one night and the next day my toe flaired up. The following week I had a beef based soup and sure enough, my toe flared up again. The third week, I tempted fate again and ate a hamburger at a BBQ, and it flared again. The main point is what the previous writer wrote, in that you must figure out what your trigger food is and try to cut it down or eliminate it. Eating a pill is not the answer because the pills tend to weaken your kidney functions. Try to drink lots of water during the day and get in a salad also. You will see diminishing attacks of gout like I have. Good luck in finding your trigger food.

  11. David Lumbok on August 12th, 2011 9:28 am

    I was a bit confused of the terms given by my doctor as one named it as gout and another one called it athritis. However, my most concerned was my occasional bout with this illness. Whenever, I take curry chicken with red big chillies and beef,it attacks my fingers from one to the other fingers. The pills that were given by the doctor did help to reduce the pain but sometimes followed by gastric. I was almost have given hope because it (gout) comes now and then. Do you think that I can now turn to traditional treatment, especially the herbal ingredient such as ginseng, bird nest, ginger?

  12. tel on August 12th, 2011 5:54 pm

    David, the best natural remedies for gout are in finding what food trigger your attacks and then avoiding them! Sometimes it means sacrificing the things we like most. I had to give up a lot of things I like. I discovered cheese and other high fat dairy produce are triggers for me and I love cheese! But it had to go along with butter. I switched to skimmed milk and substitute in cottage cheese which is actually very good at helping to reduce the overall body acidity, as is cider vinegar and fresh squeezed lemon juice diluted in plain water. Don’t drink soda or carbonated water and keep alcohol to he minimum.

    This is part of the key to beating gout – reducing that all-important level of uric acid. Not too low, because you need it, but get the balance right and you won’t get many attacks. It won’t eliminate it completely, but will cut it down to almost none.

  13. Henry on June 15th, 2012 2:12 pm

    I feel what you feel. Many Docs say it not a disease that causes a person to be handicap. Well explain crawling and not being able to sleep or walk to the bathroom. Mine affect my ankles knees and left elbow and right index finger.
    Gout is a degenerative malfunction in our body that cannot get rid of uric crystals as others can. Not only synovial tissue but bone and muscle is effected. Stressing and injuring can cause flare ups.
    Swimming pool, stationary bikes or any exercise, the key is not to over do. But how much is that?
    As fat as gout and arthrithus are the same. The difference is the rise colored brown coloration around my foot and ankles. While gout causes that. Diabetes is briwn to blackish coloration. Gout is swollen and pitting edema to very earm to touch.