Many patients often ask me about “natural” or “alternative” treatment for medical conditions. Many of the reported “natural” remedies are unsubstantiated in medical research and some potentially could cause harm as they might interact with medications or lead to other issues. Certain foods could pose some harm. For example, grapefruit and grapefruit juice interacts with numerous medications metabolized by the liver. However, one example of where I often recommend food as a medicine involves the use of cherries and gout. Gout is an arthritis condition caused by the increase of uric acid in the blood. When uric acid gets into joint spaces it forms needle-like crystals leading to an intense inflammatory response. Patients will experience flares of red, hot, swollen, and extremely painful joints. It can also cause less severe symptoms in between flares that can be confused with common osteoarthritis. Gout can be treated by losing weight, avoiding foods high in certain proteins, and decreasing alcohol consumption. Some prescription medications can also precipitate gout. There are several medications that are used to both treat gout flares and to prevent gout by lowering levels of uric acid. People have also been using cherries and cherry extract to prevent gout for many years. Until recently this has not been well studied, but in December researchers from Boston University published their study on the relationship between cherry consumption and gout flares in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. Their research indicated that people with gout who had regular cherry intake experienced 35% fewer gout flares and when coupled with the traditional preventive medication allopurinol, 75% fewer. Cherries may work in several ways to lower uric acid levels and also have some anti-inflammatory properties. Cherries may not be enough to treat gout by itself, but I will continue to recommend a healthy low-purine diet, modest alcohol intake, and regular cherry consumption as first line preventive treatment. For more information about gout check out the web articles below.
Resources for Gout:
Low Purine Diet at familydoctor.org
Gout at mayoclinic.com