Eat Cherries, Beat Gout

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Section: Home Remedies Last time I had an attack of gouty arthritis, I ate a cup of cherries every day to relieve the pain. To prevent future attacks, I eat 1/2 cup daily, and so far, so good!
Kenneth Johns, Snow Hill, VA

If all you think of when you hear the word "gout" is a bloated King Henry VIII indulging in a lavish meal, wine glass in hand, swollen feet propped up, then you're behind the times. Today, 2 million Americans, 75% of whom are men, suffer from this inflammatory joint disease.

PHOTO (COLOR): Sweet relief: These beauties may help ease joint pain.

Gout is caused by high blood levels of uric acid that crystallizes around the joints-most commonly the big toe-and leads to swelling, redness, and pain. No one knows exactly why some people are more vulnerable to gout than others, but gender, genetics, poor kidney function, and obesity are contributing factors. Interestingly enough, women may be protected from gout by the female hormone estrogen. While men start building uric acid levels in puberty, uric acid apparently doesn't start accumulating in women until after menopause.

Anecdotally, cherries are the number one dietary remedy for gout. Though no studies have been conducted to confirm how they work, experts suspect that cherries contain an enzyme that helps break down and promote the excretion of uric acid.

"It's also possible that certain flavonoids in cherries have an anti-inflammatory effect on acute flare-ups," says Lauri Aesoph, ND, a naturopathic physician in Sioux Falls, SD, and author of How to Eat Away Arthritis (Prentice-Hall, 1996).

To put this home remedy to the test, Dr. Aesoph recommends eating from 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of cherries a day for one to two months. According to Christopher Wise, MD, associate professor of internal medicine at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, other dietary interventions are important for gout sufferers. "Since we know that purine-rich foods, such as organ meats, cause your body to build up uric acid, people with gout should avoid them as much as possible." Also, stay away from alcohol, which can trigger an attack; lose weight if you're overweight; and drink at least 8 cups of water a day to dilute uric acid in your urine.

When to See the Doctor

A first-time gout attack usually resolves itself-regardless of what you do-within a week or so. If you experience joint pain for more than a week or have recurring attacks, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and early treatment.

Quick Tip

Look for fresh, raw cherries first. Frozen or canned unsweetened cherries or 100% pure cherry juice may work too.

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By Laura Goldstein

Share Your Home Remedies! What are your answers to everyday health problems? Share your family's wisdom with our readers. Send your letters to Prevention's Home Remedies, 33 E. Minor St., Emmaus, PA 18098. Fax: 610-967-7654 or e-mail prevention@rodalepress.com (type "Home Remedies" on the subject line). FREE Pullout Guide

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