I want to move onto a real problem that affects millions of people, me included. That's an extremely painful condition known as gout.
What is gout? What causes it and how can it be treated?
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).
What Causes Gout?
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.
Uric Acid in the Bloodstream
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.
Bad Diet Linked to Instances of Gout
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.
The Demon Alcohol
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 will be adding more content in this site that looks at arthritis in more depth as well as some of the things you can do to reduce the condition, some natural gout remedy ideas or how to prevent it flaring up if you have not quite got there yet.