I always used to only associate gout with Henry VIII and his rich living, but it’s really a very common problem and not necessarily linked to eating too much rich food and alcohol, although these are factors in development.

Gout is an acutely painful inflammation around a joint, most often the big toe, but it can occur in any joint. It is caused by excess uric acid in the body which forms crystals in the joints and these are engulfed by white blood cells, causing acute inflammation. Symptoms include heat, redness, swelling and excruciating pain. Uric acid can build up in the body for many reasons including genetic tendency,  insufficient excretion through the kidneys, injury, intensive exercise, ingesting foods containing large amounts of purines (meat and fish, particularly liver and kidney) from which uric acid is formed, or drinking alcohol. Diet should include lots of fresh fruits and veg and plenty of fluids.

Recent articles of interest include:

  • Ann Walker (Walker, 2009) discusses using herbs including celery seed (Apium graveolens) and burdock (Arctium lappa) to support gout sufferers. White willow bark (Salix alba) is also useful; it contains antiinflammatory and pain-relieving salicylate compounds, similar to aspirin.
  • A 20 year study of nearly 47,000 men found that vitamin C may offer protection against developing gout and the authors suggest vitamin C supplements may be beneficial (Choi et al., 2009).
  • A large study of  American men suggests that dietary sugar-sweetened soft drink (usually fructose-rich) are associated with gout (Choi and Curham, 2008). 2 servings a day were associated with an 85% increase in risk of gout.
  • The same study as above found obesity, hypertension, alcohol and diuretic use also associated with increased risk of gout (Choi et al., 2005; 2004 ).


Choi HK, Atkinson K, Karlson EW, Curhan G (2005) ‘Obesity, Weight Change, Hypertension, Diuretic Use, and Risk of Gout in Men: The Health Professionals Follow-up Study’ Arch Intern Med. 165:742-748.

Choi HK, Atkinson K, Karlson EW,  Willett W, Curhan G (2004) ‘Alcohol intake and risk of incident gout in men: a prospective study’ The Lancet, 363(9417):1277-1281

Choi HK, Curham G (2008) ‘Soft drinks, fructose consumption, and the risk of gout in men: prospective cohort study’ BMJ 336(7639):309-312

Choi HK, Gao X, Curhan G (2009) ‘Vitamin C Intake and the Risk of Gout in Men: A Prospective Study’, Arch Intern Med. 169(5):502-507.

Walker A (2009) Herbs 34(4):28