Reviewed by Dr. Michael Kessler, DC
What Is Gout?
Gout flare-ups hurt—there’s no question about that. Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis characterized by sudden, intensely painful swelling in the joints. While there is no cure for gout, there are ways to manage the condition via dietary measures and gout home remedies.
Although the pain can be similar, there are some unique differences between gout and osteoarthritis, the breakdown of joint cartilage, and often bone, over time.
Gout pain results from a build-up of uric acid in the blood. When levels get too high, it accumulates as crystals in the joints and causes inflammation. It can happen anywhere in the body, but the big toe seems to be the most common area.
Fortunately, natural treatments for gout abound. Gout treatments might include cherry juice and celery seed, while eating or avoiding certain food may control flare-ups.
Gout Home Remedies
When it comes to treating gout attacks at home, many suggest looking no further than your refrigerator or kitchen pantry.
1. Adopt a Gout Diet
The best approach to managing gout attacks is to try to prevent them in the first place. Some of the uric acid in our body comes from our diet through purines. The natural compounds found in many foods are converted to uric acid during digestion.
The idea is to incorporate foods and drinks that effectively manage blood levels of uric acid.
Research has indicated a regimen resembling the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet can be effective for gout control because it promotes anti-inflammatory foods, as does the Mediterranean diet.
The following foods help limit inflammation and are associated with a lower risk of gout attacks:
- Lean protein
- Omega-3 fatty acids
On the other hand, certain foods can promote gout attacks. Shellfish like shrimp, lobster, and crab, along with sardines and anchovies, should be avoided. If you want the health benefits of fish, options like salmon, cod, tilapia, and flounder are safer.
Also, alcohol; sugary drinks; and processed, greasy, and sugary foods can promote inflammation that can increase the risk of, or contribute to, gout pain.
Staying hydrated with lots of water can also help lower the risk of uric acid deposits.
2. Try Cherry Juice or Cherries
There is some anecdotal as well as scientific evidence to back up the use of cherries and cherry juice for gout pain. Whether juiced, raw, sour, sweet, red, or black, surveys have shown that people report improved pain symptoms when cherries are included in the diet.
There is also research showing that increased cherry intake during the two days before a gout attack is associated with 35% lower risk of recurrent episodes. Another study published in the Journal of Arthritis found that consumption of cherry juice concentrate for a period of four months or longer reduces acute gout flare-ups.
Anthocyanins—antioxidant compounds found in cherries—may be what’s responsible for the benefits.
3. Add Celery or Celery Seeds to Your Diet
Although there is very little scientific evidence to show benefits, anecdotal evidence and experimental use has indicated celery (Apium graveolens) may reduce inflammation. The plant, including its seeds, is thought to inhibit the activity of xanthine oxidase, an enzyme that produces uric acid.
In a 2018 study, celery extract was found to reduce uric acid levels in mice by decreasing the enzyme’s activity in the liver.
You could incorporate more servings of celery into your diet, and if you take celery seed supplements, remember to follow instructions on the label.
4. Boost Your Magnesium Intake
Magnesium is a mineral with a number of bodily functions, one of which might be the potential to reduce the likelihood of chronic inflammatory stress. Although purely theoretical, a magnesium deficiency may promote inflammation and thereby encourage gout attacks.
One study from 2015 showed an association between higher magnesium intake and lower blood levels of uric acid, which means it might lower the risk of a painful flare-up. If supplementing, watch dosages and be prepared for potential side effects like stomach cramps.
Instead, eating magnesium-rich foods may help prevent flare-ups altogether.
A few options are:
- Spinach (unless you produce calcium oxalate crystals that can also accumulate in the joints and can be a culprit in kidney stones)
- Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and other nuts, and legumes
5. Use Ginger Root
Studies have shown that whether applied topically or taken orally, the anti-inflammatory benefits of ginger can have benefits for gout. Although most studies with promising results have been conducted using animal models, these anti-inflammatory effects may translate to humans.
Making a ginger rub to apply on the affected area or drinking ginger tea may help relieve gout pain.
A ginger compress is made by boiling one tablespoon of fresh grated ginger in water, then soaking a washcloth in it. Allow to cool, then apply to the painful area for 15 to 30 minutes. Do a skin test to see if any irritation occurs.
6. Drink Stinging Nettle Tea
Stinging nettle is a popular herbal remedy that may help reduce inflammation. There is no evidence to confirm its benefits for treating gout attacks, but there is likely no harm in trying it. The herb is high in minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
You can make nettle tea by steeping one to two teaspoons of dried nettle in a cup of water, having up to three servings per day.
However, those taking prescription medicines for diabetes and heart conditions should be advised that it can interfere with their effectiveness.
Preventing Gout Flare-Ups Is the Best Course of Action
There is no cure for gout and pain medication is typically the best way to get quick relief when pain hits. But you can reduce the likelihood of a flare-up by making some lifestyle changes.
Focusing on limiting shellfish, alcohol, and refined foods and including more fruits, veggies, omega-3s and other anti-inflammatory foods in your diet can lower the chance of a flare-up. Adding certain foods like cherries may produce even greater benefits, or be used as pain treatment over the course of a few days.
If your pain is intense and long-lasting, it’s best to see a doctor to talk about the most appropriate and fastest form of relief, especially if home remedies do not appear to assist.
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