Treating Gout

goutGout is a potentially debilitating and painful form of arthritis. It occurs when too much uric acid accumulates in the blood and the uric acid forms into hard crystals in the joints.

 

It’s estimated that in developed countries, gout affects up to one in every two hundred people at some point in their lives.

 

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects, buchu may help treat the symptoms of gout.

 

Gout symptoms

The main sign of gout is sudden, intense pain, swelling and stiffness in one or more joints. Although it can affect any joint, it’s most commonly experienced in the metatarsal-phalangeal joint of the big toe. It also commonly affects the heels, ankles, knees, wrists and fingers.

 

The pain may arrive suddenly (often at night) and persist for a period lasting anywhere from a day or two to several weeks. Once the pain subsides, it may be some time before a new attack occurs – months or even years in some cases.

 

If gout is untreated, attacks typically recur and the time between the attacks may get shorter.

 

Over time, high uric acid levels can result in deposits of uric acid crystals, forming nodes called tophi under the skin. These may form in joints, cartilage or bone. They may limit joint function and damage bone, and sometimes break through the skin. On-going high uric acid levels may also lead to kidney stones.

 

Risk factors for gout

Gout is more common in men than in women, and most often occurs after age 30. It has a significant genetic component, so you’re more likely to get it if other people in your family have it too.

 

Being overweight, drinking a lot of alcohol and regular use of certain medications – including aspirin, diuretics and immuno-suppressants like cyclosporine – increase the risk that you’ll suffer from gout. Certain medical conditions are also associated with gout. Examples are diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

 

Diet and gout

If you suffer from gout, it’s important to drink a lot of water and other liquids, which help “flush” your system. It’s also a good idea to ensure your diet is high in vitamin C, which scientists have found can dramatically decrease the risk of gout.

 

A diet high in purines, which break down into uric acid in the body, may increase your risk for gout or increase the severity of the condition. However, it’s no longer believed that plant-based foods high in purines, such as lentils, beans and spinach, contribute to or worsen the condition.

 

There does appear to be some link between gout and a diet high in purine-rich red meat, certain seafoods like anchovies and sardines and alcoholic beverages like beer. If you suffer from gout, it’s worth experimenting with these types of foods – see if reducing your consumption of them leads to fewer or less severe attacks.

 

Treating gout

Pharmaceutical treatment of gout

An attack of gout tends to be very painful. To address the pain and reduce swelling, sufferers may take either over-the-counter or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen. Colchicine is also commonly prescribed to reduce swelling and, at lower doses over the long term, to help prevent attacks.

 

Those who can’t tolerate NSAIDs or colchicine may be prescribed glucocorticoids or pegloticase, which is administered intravenously and was approved for use in treating gout, at least in the United States, in 2010.

 

Two groups of drugs may be used long-term to reduce uric acid levels in the blood and so to help prevent future gout attacks. These are xanthine oxidase inhibitors, such as allopurinol and febuxostat, and uricosurics, such as probenecid and sulfinpyrazone. Often these are taken along with NSAIDs or colchicine for the first few months of treatment.

 

Home treatment of gout

buchu gelTo reduce the immediate pain and swelling associated with gout, you can try applying an ice pack to the affected area. Also rest the joint and, if possible, elevate it until the pain and swelling subsides.

 

Like NSAIDs and colchicine, effective home treatments for gout focus on reducing and preventing inflammation. Known for its proven anti-inflammatory effects, buchu is a natural choice for treating gout and its symptoms. You can apply it topically as a gel and consume it in tea and flavoured buchu drinks, which have the added advantage of boosting your liquid intake (a priority for gout sufferers).

 

Unlike prescription drugs for treating gout, many of which have nasty potential side-effects, you can take buchu safely over the long term. It’s always recommended that you speak to your doctor first, but you may also safely take buchu with a range of other medications, to supplement your existing treatment approach.