What is gout? Symptoms and management
Do you experience frequent gout attacks that make your big toe red, swollen and painful? Feel like your toe is on fire? A gout attack can be scary and tends to come on rapidly and unexpectedly. A flare-up can wake you up at night and the pain can be so sharp and intense that it may feel like you have broken your toe. Gout is a highly prevalent form of inflammatory arthritis with tell-tale symptoms, but it is still prone to a misdiagnoses as some other condition such as rheumatoid arthritis. Gout attacks can cause permanent damage and immobility if not diagnosed and addressed on time.
Can you avoid a flare-up? Can you reduce the frequency or intensity of a gout attack? In this blog we are going to explore the risk factors and symptoms of gout and look at certain herbs that can help reduce the risk and manage painful gout symptoms due to their diuretic, anti-inflammatory properties.
What is gout?
Gout is a form of arthritis that causes intense pain and inflammation in one or more joints. It is caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the body (hyperuricemia). Your body makes uric acid when it breaks down purines, substances produced naturally within the body. Certain foods and drinks such as fish, seafood, organ meats, alcohol and sugary beverages, especially the ones loaded with high fructose corn syrup, are some external sources of purines. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering out this waste product, which is flushed out from the body through urine. But sometimes the body produces too much uric acid, leading to hyperuricemia.
When there is a high level of uric acid in the body, it can crystallize and accumulate in the joints. The sharp needle-like crystals trigger symptoms such as burning pain, redness, swelling, warmth (hot to touch) and tenderness. These crystals can also buildup in the kidneys. However, it is important to note that not everyone with high uric acid levels will develop gout.
Symptoms of gout
Gout usually affects the joint in your big toe but can distress any other joint such as knees, wrist, ankles and elbows. Gout symptoms can come and go and these painful flare-ups usually attack at night. When a person is experiencing a gout attack or a flare-up, they often feel sharp tingling pain, redness, stiffness, swelling and heightened sensitivity to touch in the affected joint. They may feel as if the joint is on fire. High levels of uric acids can also lead to the formation of kidney stones.
Gout risk factors
While it can affect anyone, men are more likely to develop gout than women in their middle age however some women might develop this painful form of arthritis after menopause. Gout can be caused by a number of factors including family history, sedentary lifestyle, a prune-rich diet, poor dietary choices (such as consuming too much packaged and processed food), alcohol consumption and use of certain drugs that interfere with the excretion of uric acid. Some health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, kidney disorder, psoriasis and high blood pressure also increase the risk of developing gout.
How to manage gout?
People with gout often manage their condition with the help of lifestyle modifications such as exercise, diet and stress reducing techniques such as mindful meditation.
Here are a few quick lifestyle tips to help manage your symptoms of gout:
- Exercise and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Eat right and avoid processed food and sugar.
- Avoid alcohol
- Stay hydrated … drink plenty of water.
- Get sufficient sleep.
- Reduce your intake of a prune-rich diet.
- Manage stress through relaxation techniques.
People often manage their painful symptoms during a flare-up with the help of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids. There are some prescription drugs that reduce the levels of uric acid however, these over-the-counter and prescription drugs are well-known for their short-term and long-term side effects and as a result many people turn to natural treatments to manage their gout symptoms. If you have been experiencing chronic, debilitating pain that is not going away, it is best to see a qualified healthcare practitioner for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you are diagnosed with gout, it may be a sign that you may have another underlying health condition that requires a through check-up and analysis of symptoms.
Can herbs help in gout?
There are herbs that can help prevent painful episodes by reducing the levels of uric acid in the body. These herbs are rich in bioactive compounds that reduce pain and inflammation, providing relief in the symptoms. We will focus on two of these herbs: Giloy and Gokshura.
Giloy benefits for gout
Giloy (Tinospora cordifolia) is a climber herb extensively used in Ayurveda as a natural immune booster. Also known as guduchi and amrita, it strengthens the immune system and helps the body fight against bacterial and viral infections. Giloy is well-known for its ability to manage chronic fever and help the body to recover faster from all types of fevers. It is helpful in managing allergies and reduces uncomfortable symptoms in hay fever (allergic rhinitis). 
Can giloy be used to manage gout? Giloy is considered as one of the best herbs for gout as it reduces uric acid levels in the body. With its powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, giloy helps to reduce pain and inflammation in the joints. This makes it an extremely beneficial herb in gout and arthritis. Giloy is a natural diuretic (increasing the amount of water and salt that is expelled from the body in urine) and also removes toxins from the body. Research suggests that giloy may help in reducing high blood sugar levels which is a risk factor for elevated uric levels.
In Ayurveda, gokshura (Tribulus terrestris) is widely used to support the health of your urinary tract, prostate gland and kidneys.  Also known as gokhru, cat's head, and devil's weed, gokshura is loaded with many antioxidant compounds that help reduce pain and inflammation. One of the most significant benefits of gokshura is that it promotes the health of your overall genito-urinary system.
Gokshura helps in gout as it helps the body get rid of excess uric acid due to its diuretic properties. As a diuretic herb, gokshura improves the production and flow of urine, and flushes out the extra uric acid. Gokshura also helps prevent urinary infections as it removes the pathogenic bacteria and other toxins from urine. Gokshura is a wonderful herb for maintaining healthy kidneys. It prevents the formation of kidney stones and due to its lithotriptic properties it can dissolve or break stones formed in the kidneys.
Is giloy useful in gout?
Giloy is very useful for gout as it reduces the level of uric acid in the body. It is an immune boosting herb with powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties, making it extremely beneficial in inflammatory conditions such as gout and other forms of arthritis.
Can I take gokshura in gout?
Gokshura provides relief in painful gout symptoms as it helps the body to flush out uric acid from the body. It is also known to reduce pain and inflammation, support kidneys’ health and prevent the formation of kidney stones.
- Geeta S et al. A Clinical Analysis of Evaluating the Usefulness and Efficacy of the Ayurvedic Drug Tinospora cordifolia in Humans. Advanced Science Letters, Volume 23. 2017
- Alexander V. SIROTKIN and Adriana KOLESAROVA. Puncture Vine (Tribulus Terrestris L.) in Control of Health and Reproduction. Physiol Res v.70(Suppl 4); 2021
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