Cherries are in the news, and it's not the first time.
Back in 1950, cherries vs. gout made headlines in the "Texas Report on Biology and Medicine."
The story began when Ludwig Blau ate a bowl of cherries and the next day, his extreme gout pain was nearly gone. He was able to get out of his wheelchair, told his doctor the story, and the doctor told his suffering gout patients. Their uric acid levels also dropped to normal without any dietary restrictions. All forms of cherries worked for pain relief: fresh, sweet, tart, canned and cherry juice.
Cherries, as well as other berries, help to alkalize the body. High levels of uric acid are more likely when blood is overly acidic. A
study at Michigan State University reported that tart cherry extract was 10 times more effective than aspirin in relieving inflammation.
The flavonoids that give berries their dark color function much the same way as nsaids, but without side effects. Research at the University of Texas found that cherry concentrate contains extremely high amounts of melatonin, which controls sleep patterns and also function s as an antioxidant.
In a discussion on gout, alternative physician Andrew Weil writes, "Enjoying a cup of antioxidant-rich red or purple fruits a day, especially cherries, may help reduce inflammation and flare-ups, as may including foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts, fortified eggs and ground flax, plus fish oil capsules."
Frequently mentioned home remedies include green tea, peppermint, herbs turmeric and ginger, celery and vitamins E and C. The B vitamin, folic acid, has been scientifically studied and found to inhibit the enzyme that metabolizes purines into uric acid, similar to prescription gout medications.
Surprisingly, not all people with high uric acid get gout. This painful form of arthritis seems to run in some families. The throbbing pain often begins in the middle of the night and can affect any joint: fingers, wrist, neck as well as the infamous big toe.
If not treated, rocklike chunks called tophi may form in the joints, eat away bone and damage kidneys and other organs.
A Swiss journal report found that gout victims often had abnormal blood sugar levels and eventually diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated triglycerides.
Physician John Ludkin of London University saw that patients with gout were consuming about twice as much sugar as control subjects. He considers gout to be evidence of damage done by dietary excess.
Other factors known to trigger gout attacks include severe diets or fasting, stress, injury or fatigue.
Aspirin makes gout worse by inhibiting uric acid excretion. Diuretics prescribed to control high blood pressure are a common cause of high uric acid levels. Large amounts of niacin, often used to control cholesterol, may increase gout in sensitive people. Doctors recommend avoiding coffee, alcohol (especially beer) and simple carbohydrates. It's important to drink lots of water to flush our uric acid.
Many years ago, famed nutritionist Adelle Davis wrote that oral antibiotics cause uric acid levels to rise, because they destroy the beneficial intestinal bacteria that inhibit uric acid production. She did not believe in low purine diets that are still prescribed today. Instead, she recommended certain vitamins to support the adrenal glands, which are stress sensitive. She noticed that gout attacks were often preceded by emotional upsets, and felt that suppressed anger is the major cause of gout.
Since men are 10 times more likely to get gout than women, she advised men to work through their anger by hitting a punching bag.
Many famous (perhaps angry) men have suffered the pain of gout: Benjamin Franklin, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Darwin and Alexander the Great.
Two Roman emperors committed suicide because of gout pain. Lead poisoning might have been involved in the days when wine was stored in lead-crystal decanters. Whiskey stored in lead containers caused gout in many old-time moonshiners.
Uric acid isn't all bad.
Research shows that uric acid fights free radicals and helps promote healthy red blood cells. It seems to protect the body against decay and cancer.
Bruce Ames and colleagues at the University of California-Berkeley, propose that uric acid helps humans live longer than other mammals that don't get gout. Human beings, great apes and Dalmation dogs all lack the enzyme that destroys uric acid.
Could it be that uric acid only attacks human beings in self-defense, when the body is abused?
The information in this article is for educational purposes. Consult your physician if you have a medical condition.
Margot Bennett is a licensed nutritionist at Mother Nature's Pantry, located in the Garden Square Shoppes, 4513 PGA Blvd. in Palm Beach Gardens. Call her at (561) 626-4461.