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April 20, 2018  |  Login
 
Gout
 
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Gout is an intensely painful disorder caused by the buildup of uric acid. Although it affects both sexes, men are much more likely-by a factor of ten-to suffer from gout. The condition was once known as the "rich man's disease," and, in fact, it often strikes people who eat heavy, fatty foods and who overindulge in alcohol. Although this kind of diet was once solely the province of the wealthy, one no longer has to be rich to eat poorly. Today, the disease affects people across the entire spectrum of economic classes.

Uric acid is a metabolic by-product of protein breakdown. Purines raise uric acid levels in the body. Most purines are created by the body, but a few are taken in through food and drink. Since purines can't be absorbed, they are normally broken down by a digestive enzyme that allows them to be dissolved and passed out of the body in urine. If there is more uric acid than the enzymes can break down, the acid accumulates in the tissues and the bloodstream. Eventually, it crystallizes into needle-shaped deposits. These sharp crystals of uric acid poke their way into the tissue that surrounds a joint and ultimately penetrate the joint itself.

The resulting pain is extreme and is usually followed by redness and swelling of the joint, which may be highly sensitive to the touch. The pain may go on for days or even weeks, and unless the cause of gout is addressed, the attack is likely to recur. A person with gout is also more likely to suffer from uric acid kidney stones. Gout most often occurs in the joint at the base of the big toe, but it may also appear in other locations like the ankle, the thumb, the wrist, the elbow, and even the earlobe.

Newer research is demonstrating that people with insulin resistance are more susceptible to gout. It is estimated that 76 percent of people with gout have insulin resistance. With this condition, the cells become resistant to the hormone insulin, and blood glucose levels remain high. This in turn leads to increased insulin levels and a resulting uric acid increase. If you follow a syndrome X-type diet (one rich in plant foods, moderate protein consumption-especially fish-and low in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates), uric acid decreases and the resultant gout flare-ups can be prevented. This, along with a calorie-restricted diet and exercise, should be the primary plan for people with gout.

Conventional medicines that lower the levels of uric acid are available, but you should consider them a last resort. For hundreds of years, the best way to treat gout has been with diet and detoxification therapies. Sometimes doctors automatically prescribe medication for gout because they don't believe their patients will commit to changing their diets. If your doctor suggests medication for you, explain to him or her that you're willing to try a new eating plan. You may find that you can forgo harsh medicines entirely.

 
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