When your gout pain flares up, the pain can be excruciating. Although taking your prescribed medications can help, you may feel as though they do no more than take the edge off the pain.
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A home remedy can not only help you control the agony between doses of your medication, but can also increase the amount of time between flare-ups and even reduce the amount of damage that the gout inflicts on your joints.
1. Drink Fluids
Gout attacks are caused by a build-up of crystallized uric acid in your joints. The easiest way to flush out uric acid, as the name implies, is through the kidneys, in your urine. To speed that process along, the Arthritis Foundation recommends drinking plenty of fluids to alleviate gout symptoms – preferably eight to sixteen cups a day, with at least half of those being water.
2. Apply Ice
Ice is a reliable way to relieve pain and swelling in most cases, and gout attacks are no exception. Don’t apply the ice directly to your skin; instead, wrap it in a towel or use an ice pack. Apply it for about 20 minutes at a time, since keeping it there for longer periods can damage your skin. If the pain comes back, you can reapply the ice after your skin has returned to a normal temperature, but don’t put on another ice pack while your skin is still cool.
3. Rest And Raise Your Joints
When possible, keep the affected joint elevated at a level above your heart to relieve the pain. Try to rest the joint by keeping the weight off it and not performing activities that will overexert it. If you’re having a gout flare-up in your toe, knee, or ankle, walking with a cane can help you to keep your weight off the affected leg when you need to move around.
4. Gout Sheets And Socks
The most common place to experience a gout attack is your big toe. If you have a gout flare-up in your toe, even the weight of a sheet or a sock can feel like a fifty-pound kettlebell. Try cutting out the big toes on some of your socks so you can keep the rest of your foot warm without experiencing pain. At night, tuck your sheets and blankets into the sides of your mattress rather than the bottom, and pull them up so the last foot or so of the bed is exposed. This will allow you to lie with your feet uncovered and the rest of your body snuggled in comfortably so you can sleep more easily.
There is some evidence that stress can exacerbate a gout attack. As hard as it is to relax when you’re in excruciating pain, it’s important to try. Watch a favorite movie or show, light some aromatherapy candles, listen to soothing music, or talk to a friend; if it calms you down, do it. Just make sure your relaxation doesn’t involve eating certain taboo foods – more on that in a minute.
6. Avoid High-purine Foods And Beverages
Unfortunately, “relaxing” in the middle of a gout attack shouldn’t involve a beer or a glass of wine. Alcohol is high in purines, the chemical that helps your body to create the very uric acid that causes your gout attacks. Even if it relaxes you, trying to alleviate a gout attack with alcohol is like trying to put out a fire with kerosene. Beer is the worst offender because of the purine-rich yeast, but wine and spirits are bad as well.
Another culprit in gout attacks is high-fructose corn syrup, a common sweetener. If you’re about to eat a processed sweet food, check the ingredient label to make sure that there’s no high-fructose corn syrup in it. Sodas, sweetened fruit juices, energy drinks, and other sugary beverages can contain high-fructose corn syrup as well. The good news is that while maintaining a healthy weight helps you to prevent gout attacks, regular sugar isn’t high in purines. If indulging in the occasional sugar-sweetened brownie helps you relax and forget your gout pain, go for it.
Certain meats can also make your gout attack more intense. Shellfish, organ meats, and oily fish such as anchovies are less common than beer and juice in most diets, but they’re just as bad for your joints.
The one exception to the “avoid high-purine foods” rule, according to the Mayo Clinic, is high-purine vegetables. Asparagus, spinach, peas, cauliflower, and mushrooms are high in purines, but studies haven’t shown any link between them and gout attacks.
7. Eat Low-fat Dairy Products
At one point, there was a myth that gout sufferers should avoid dairy. However, studies have shown that eating low-fat dairy products can actually reduce your chances of a gout flare-up because dairy helps your body to flush out uric acid more efficiently. Once again, a healthy weight is also important for reducing your gout risk, so don’t eat huge amounts of cheese and expect to feel fine. Instead, try reduced-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, or yogurt to help your body flush out the uric acid and feel better faster.
8. Take Vitamin C
A 2009 study showed that men who took vitamin C supplements had a lower risk of gout than men who did not – the higher the dosage of vitamin C, the lower the gout risk. Vitamin C helps your kidneys to absorb and flush out uric acid more quickly, which reduces your gout risk. No study has shown that vitamin C lowers the intensity of gout attacks in people who actually experience them, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Always talk to your doctor before adding a vitamin supplement to your diet.
9. Eat Cherries
Unlike vitamin C, cherries have been proven to help people who actually suffer from gout. In a 2012 study, people with gout who ate cherries or took cherry extract had fewer gout attack
s and lower uric acid levels than people who did not. This may be because of anthocyanins, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent present in cherries. Again,
check with your doctor before adding too many cherries to your diet, as some types are more beneficial than others.
10. Drink Coffee
A 2007 study showed that people who drank four cups of coffee per day had lower levels of uric acid than people who drank no coffee, and people who drank six or more cups had the lowest levels of all. Drinking tea didn’t have any effect on uric acid levels. If you don’t want to drink that much caffeine, go ahead and drink decaffeinated coffee instead. Regular caffeinated coffee was more effective in lowering uric acid than decaf, but decaf drinkers still saw a modest decrease in their uric acid levels. Like vitamin C, coffee hasn’t been shown to help people who already suffer from gout, but it’s never a bad idea to get your uric acid levels down during a gout attack.