Alex O'Brien


Research suggests new findings to relieve gout

Research suggests new findings to relieve gout

Les Murdoch of Rotorua knows first-hand the effectiveness of natural remedies for treating gout.

“I have suffered with pain for years, at least 10 years and I could get no relief at all. I went to the Doctors, to no avail and even tried acupuncture.

Turning to a concentrated cherry extract proved to be the answer to his problems. "I have renewed quality of life, am more mobile and the pain has subsided,” Murdoch says.

Throughout history, gout was known as the “disease of kings”, common among those who could afford lavish feasts and bottomless bottles of wine.

Today, however, it doesn’t discriminate. Murdoch is not alone – in fact, gout affects 110,000 people in New Zealand, making us the “gout capital of the world”, according to Associate Professor Dr Nicola Dalbeth of the University of Auckland, with NZ studies suggesting this number will double every decade.

Men are three times more likely than women to suffer from gout and up to 15 per cent of Maori and Pasifika men have gout, compared with fewer than five per cent of Pakeha men.


Gout is the second most common form of arthritis in New Zealand and is caused when sodium urate crystals form inside and around the joints. Particularly nasty symptoms include sudden, severe pain in the joint accompanied by swelling and redness, with the big toe the most commonly affected joint. If left untreated, gout attacks can become more frequent, more severe, can lead to chronic pain and permanent joint damage and disability.

One of the key strategies to relieve symptoms is to reduce the uric acid in the blood and efficiently remove it from the body. To do so, people are turning to natural remedies to find relief.

Recent studies suggest there are now recognised natural alternatives to traditional medicines that can help treat the symptoms and prevent further attacks to the thousands suffering the pain of gout.

1. Diet

What you eat, or don’t eat, can have a significant impact on the severity of your gout. A diet of purine rich foods such as red meat, seafood, alcohol (especially beer) and high-fructose, sugary drinks can trigger a gout attack. Purine is a natural chemical that is found in some foods and gets broken down into uric acid by the body.

Instead, opt for foods that reduce uric acid levels and help expel it from the body. Tart cherries in particular contain anthocyanins which do just this. The effect of cherries has been explored in separate studies. An American College of Rheumatology study in 2012 tracked 600 gout sufferers for over a year. It concluded cherry intake over a two-day period was associated with a 35 per cent lower risk of gout attacks compared with no cherry intake – and relief persisted across gender, obesity status, purine intake, alcohol use, diuretic use and use of anti-gout medications.

“These findings suggest that cherry intake is associated with a lower risk of gout attacks,” the report said.

In late 2014, a study conducted by Britain’s Northumbria University showed drinking a concentrate made from tart cherries helped clear excess uric acid – the culprit that causes gout – from the body.

Jude Salisbury, managing director of Abeeco New Zealand, which produces Kiwi-made High Potency Gout Care Formula, says it is high in natural tart cherry powder and has had a significant effect on sufferers.

“We have a great number of customers telling us how this product has helped them and has really changed their lives. In a recent customer survey, of those how knew their uric acid levels*, 85 per cent experienced less severe gout attacks after using Gout Care Formula.”

Other foods to aid a gout-friendly diet include low fat dairy, whole grains, fruit – especially those high in vitamin C, vegetables, turmeric, milk and a moderate coffee intake.

2. Weight control

With all conditions that affect the joints, maintaining a healthy weight is the best way to avoid putting excess pressure on the site of pain. Being overweight increases your risk of developing gout, while research suggests losing weight lowers the overall stress on joints and lowers uric acid levels.

When you are living with gout, a lack of exercise can cause a vicious cycle that worsens and intensifies the painful effects of the disease. Gout makes your joints hurt and that makes you less likely to get up and get moving. This inactivity in turn makes you less flexible, weakens your muscles and joints, and can result in bone loss. These changes amplify the painful symptoms of gout.

The right exercises can reduce pain and increase your energy as well as keep you in shape by maintaining a healthy body weight and building healthy bones, joints, and muscles. Choose low impact activities like walking, yoga, cycling and swimming to put the least amount of pressure on the joints.


3. Water

Water can help to relieve gout in several ways – it helps lubricate the joints, dilutes the uric acid and helps the kidneys expel it from the body and makes it less likely that it will form into crystals, thus hopefully preventing the next gout attack. Dehydration can also lead to kidney infections, stones and even failure and has been identified as a possible trigger for acute gout attacks. All this can create that excess uric acid that causes gout in the first place.

Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine set out to determine if drinking water could lower the risk of recurrent gout attacks.

“Having five to eight glasses of water in the past 24 hours was associated with a 40 per cent lower risk of having a gout attack, compared with drinking none or one glass of water in the past day,” says Dr Tuhina Neogi.

“This suggests that dehydration may indeed be an important trigger for gout attacks, and that drinking water may be a simple intervention to help reduce the risk of recurrent attacks.”

4. Prevention is better than cure

The old adage “prevention is better than cure” is especially true when it comes to gout. 

Keeping uric acid levels balanced and reducing your risk factors could save you the excruciating pain and crippling effect of gout as Les Murdoch found out.

For more information about gout and how cherries can help relieve pain, head to

*Based on 33 respondents that have taken or continue to take Abeeco Gout Care.