Gout is a painful inflammation of the joints due to uric acid. Since uric acid is a waste product from the breakdown of protein, gout has often been associated with rich living. However, there are some effective juicing remedies that can help.
Can Juicing Help Cure Gout?
Juicing is the remedy that almost always works for gout, but that almost no one who has gout knows to try. Just a few small glasses of a refreshing fruit juice can make a huge difference in the frequency and severity of gout attacks.
What Is Gout?
In the British situation comedy Keeping Up Appearances, socially ambitious Hyacinth Bucket constantly seeks to identify herself and her husband Richard with the upper class. One episode begins with Hyacinth opening the door to welcome the vicar, whom she has called with an emergency. It was of the greatest urgency, Hyacinth opined, that the vicar come to bless her husband Richard and then tell all the congregation that he was incapacitated by an attack of gout.
Even in ancient Greek medical writings, gout was described as the “disease of kings.” For centuries, gout was only observed in the wealthy, usually wealthy and powerful men, who consumed a diet rich in alcohol and meat. Gout was condemned as a “condition of the dissolute” by the poet John Milton, who later suffered from the disease himself. The term “gout” was coined by the Dutch scientist Lowenhook in 1600, but the physiological mechanism of the disease was not explained until 1962.
Gout results from the accumulation of uric acid crystals in joints and bone. Uric acid is the waste product created after the body digests compounds from a class of chemicals known as purines from food. Two of the best known purines are adenine and guanine. These are the A and G of the A-C-G-T of DNA. They are especially abundant in meat. Caffeine in coffee and theobromine in chocolate, the chemicals that give coffee and chocolate their “buzz,” likewise are purines.
Purines are highly concentrated in liver and kidney, since the liver of food animals has to break down purines and the kidneys have to excrete them. Anchovies, sardines, mackerel, scallops, meat extracts (such as Bovil and Oxo), and game meats are very high in purines. There are also moderate amounts of purines in asparagus, cauliflower, green peas, mushrooms, peas, beans, lentils, wheat bran, wheat germ, and a herb sometimes used to make candies that is know as hawthorn berry.
Slight changes in the pH of the bloodstream cause large changes in the solubility of uric acid. Although the kidneys maintain the acid-base balance of the blood within a relatively tight range, consumption of large amounts of high-purine foods can make the blood slightly acidic. This causes uric acid to precipitate out of the blood plasma as urate crystals.
Urate crystals are often described as needle-like. They accumulate in soft tissues, especially in the linings of joints, known as the synovium. The mere presence of urate crystals in the joints, however, is not enough to trigger a gout attack. That is because the crystals are ordinarily covered with a mixture of cholesterol and protein known as a lipoprotein. As long as the uric acid is held in suspension in the synovial fluid of the joint by the sac of cholesterol and protein around it, it does not jab the lining of the joint. But when purine consumption goes up and cholesterol levels go down, the result is infiltration of the lining of the joint by the crystals. The immune system responds to what it perceives to be an attack on the joint, causing intense and painful swelling of the joint.
Symptoms of Gout
If you have gout, you know it. A typical gout attack causes:
Intense pain in 1 or 2 joints, usually starting in the big (or “great”) toe. Gout may also start in the ankles, knees, or wrists. Over time, it spreads to more joints.
Swelling of the tissue surrounding one side of the joint that resembles an ice cream sundae with a cherry on top. These is usually a ring of inflammation with a crest or pimple-like elevation in the center.
Joints that red, hot, and extremely tender. Even a bed sheet lying on a joint may be unbearably painful.
Pain lasting 6 to 12 hours before subsiding.
Fever and chills lasting an hour or two longer than joint pain.
People who get gout also tend to have kidney stones. They are 1000 times more likely to have kidney stones than the general population. People who have gout also tend to develop macular degeneration, loss of vision from the center of the field of vision outward.
A gout attack is often precipitated by drinking too much alcohol, especially too much beer, because the yeast used to make beer is high in purine content. Gout is also triggered by eating too much meat. In the United States, a common trigger for gout is eating too many hot dogs, which are made with cuts of meat that are especially high in purine content, such as spleen, sweetbreads (thymus), kidney, and liver.
Gout can also be triggered by dehydration and is more common in middle-aged and older people who have issues with weight and high cholesterol.
Who gets gout? In the world’s population as a whole, about 1 person in 300 will develop gout at some point in life. The condition is about 3 times as common in men (1 in every 150 men) as women (1 in every 500 women). If you have a family member who has gout, however, your chances of developing gout yourself rise to about 1 in 5. And if you are of certain ethnic groups, such as the Maori in New Zealand, you have an elevated risk of developing gout. About 1 in 10 Maori men and 1 in 25 Maori women will develop gout.
What Can Be Done for Gout?
It is important to work with your doctor in getting over gout. There is a condition called septic arthritis, an infection of the joints, that can cause similar symptoms. Failure to treat septic arthritis can result in the loss of a limb. It is important to rule out that cause of your symptoms.
Once your doctor has determined that you indeed have gout, the first thing you are likely to be told to do is to give up drinking beer and to reduce your consumption of meat, soy, beans, and lentils. You will be told to give up high-fructose sweetened soft drinks. You won’t be asked to give up dairy products, since greater consumption of dairy products is linked to lower frequency of gout attacks, and you will be encouraged to drink coffee, which is also is associated with lower frequency of gout attacks. You will be counseled to avoid dehydration by drinking at least eight glasses of water per day.
Doing all of these things will probably lower your bloodstream uric acid levels by about 10%, and reduce your risk of gout attacks slightly. But the most helpful thing you probably won’t be told to do is to drink cherry juice.
Cherry Juice for Gout
The first report of successful treatment of gout with cherries appeared in 1950 in a medical journal published in Texas. Thousands of people successfully treated their gout with cherries for decades, but is was only in 2002 that researchers at the University of California at Davis tested cherries in a controlled way.
The UC Davis researchers recruited healthy women aged 18 to 40 and measured their uric acid levels before and after eating 245 grams (a little over half a pound) of pitted sweet cherries, about 45 cherries in a single serving, eaten in about 10 minutes. The results of the pitted cherry intervention were remarkable. All the standard recommendations for good diet for gout only lower uric acid levels about 10%. Eating 45 cherries, however, lowered uric acid levels up to 45%. It also lowered the production of inflammatory substances such as C-reactive protein (CRP), nitric oxide (NO), and tumor necrosis factor- alpha (TNF-alpha). The effects of the cherries last about six hours. If this is timed so that high-purine foods are not consumed until it is time to eat cherries or drink cherry juice again, the effects of on gout may be profound. If someone drinks cherry juice with breakfast and then has a big steak with a few beers in the evening, however, the effects of the cherry juice may be minimized.
The UC Davis scientists conducted their experiment with frozen cherries, so they could be sure that each participant in the study was getting the same amount of nutritional compounds. Fresh cherries, however, contain up to 9 times as much of the purple pigments and vitamin C that lower uric acid levels and reduce inflammation.
How You Can Use Cherry Juice to Fight Gout
The ideal way to use cherry juice to fight gout is to make a day’s worth of juice from about half a kilo (or approximately a pound) of fresh cherries every day with your macerating juicer. Both tart and sweet cherries contain the compounds that fight gout.
You could also eat your cherries of course, but it’s not a good idea to eat cherry pie—cane sugar as well as fructose aggravates gout. The fresher and darker the cherries, the better. A pound (450 grams) of cherries will probably yield about 1-1/2 cups (360 ml) of juice. But if you have really fresh cherries, picked less than 3 days before juicing, and the juice is consumed immediately, you may get just as much benefit from as little as 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the much more pigment-packed and vitamin C-rich fresher juice.
Bottled juice is not ideal. It may still help, but you will have to consume at least the full 1-1/2 cups (360 ml) per day. When juicing for your gout, it is best to drink a small amount of juice at each meal rather than a full day’s worth of juice at one meal.
The research team at the University of California at Davis also tested strawberry, grape, and kiwifruit juices as treatments for gout. Strawberry and kiwifruit juices lower uric acid levels slightly, about 2% over 6 hours. Grape juice is more effective, about a 7% reduction in uric acid levels with serving, the reduction lasting about 6 hours. For demonstrable results, however, the only readily available fruit or vegetable juice that makes a difference in gout is cherry juice.
Why isn’t the fructose in cherry juice a problem? There is a significant difference between high-fructose corn syrup and the fructose that occurs naturally in fruit. High-fructose corn syrup is only “high” in fructose. It is not 100% fructose. As much as 50% or even more of the content of high-fructose corn syrup is actually glucose, which activates the secretion of insulin, which stores fat. As long as you are not indulging in sweets and you do not have diabetes, however, the recommended 1-1/2 cups of cherry juice per day should have only beneficial effects on your health.