Can Acupuncture Treat My Gout?

People who suffer from Gout will tell you that the pain is like nothing they have ever experienced. It often wakes you up in the middle of the night, slowly getting more and more painful, until even the weight of the bed covers feel like torture. While many people think of Gout as a sore big toe, it can be excruciating, limit your mobility, and affect the quality of your life.

Long ago, Gout was considered to be the disease of kings, because it is associated with a diet of rich and fatty foods. Far more men than women suffer from Gout, and one of the most common sites to be affected is the base of your big toe. That said, women also get Gout, and any joint in your body can be affected.

The cause of Gout is a buildup of uric acid crystals, which your body is struggling to eliminate. Uric acid is a metabolite of purine, a chemical found in high concentrations in rich foods like organ meats, oily fish, shellfish, yeast and beer. Interestingly, purines found in plant-based foods don’t tend to build up and cause Gout as commonly as animal based foods.

Can acupuncture treat my Gout?Some people are more prone to developing Gout than others. Risk factors for this painful condition include having a family history of Gout, being overweight, being over the age of 45, and having other health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or renal disease. In Western biomedicine, the first line of treatment for Gout is dealing with the pain through the use of NSAID’s such as ibuprofen. However, if you suffer from frequent attacks of Gout, there are other medications available to help stabilize the levels of uric acid in your body.

In Chinese medicine, Gout is diagnosed as a Bi Syndrome, which means that there is an obstruction of some kind causing your pain and swelling. In most cases, Gout is an obstruction caused by a combination of dampness, heat, and wind. While this may sound like bad weather, heat, dampness, and wind actually describe Gout well. Most cases of Gout present with a warm, swollen, and painful joint. The warmth accounts for the diagnosis of heat. When there is swelling, it’s caused by a build-up of fluid in the area—called dampness in Chinese medicine. Gout is also characterized flares and remissions, and may move from one joint to another, which is a characteristic of wind.

While most cases of Gout are warm and damp, in some instances patients experience a pattern of wind, cold, and damp. In these cases, their symptoms are aggravated by the cold and damp weather.

The source of Gout in Chinese medicine comes from your digestion, or what we would call an imbalance in your Stomach and Spleen. Poor digestion can be a cause of Gout, but in most cases the cause is overeating the wrong foods. Rich, fatty, sweets, fast foods, and alcohol are all offenders when it comes to Gout.

As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, my plan for treating gout, especially during a flare would be to use acupuncture to move the blockage, enhance circulation in the area, and relieve the pain. However, between episodes of Gout, my strategy is to work on resolving the underlying cause by combining acupuncture with Chinese herbs, and dietary changes to address the source of your Gout and prevent any further flare ups.

If you struggle with Gout, there are a few things that you can do for yourself to help prevent future episodes, including:

-Stay hydrated, as it helps flush the uric acid out of your system.

-Avoid alcohol. Not only does it make you dehydrated, but it also aggravates your Gout.

-Educate yourself on which foods contain high levels of purines, and do your best to avoid eating those foods in large quantities.

-Avoid rich and fatty foods.

-Stay clear of high fructose corn syrup.

-Some people report that drinking tart cherry juice daily helps to keep Gout symptoms under control. It’s worth a try to see if it works for you.

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