The Use of Cherry Juice for Gout: Studies Show It is Safe and Effective

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A type of arthritis, gout occurs when excessive uric acid builds up in the body. Crystals form in the joints and joints become inflamed with heat. Gout is more common in men over 40 with a family history, but women can have it too, especially after menopause. It is generally attributed to excessive intake of food and alcohol, surgery, infection, physical or emotional stress or the use of certain drugs. Symptoms include extreme pain in a single joint, usually the base of the big toe. It also shows up in the joint of the feet, fingers, wrists, elbows, knees or ankles. The joint becomes a shiny red or purple, swollen, hot to the touch and stiff. It can cause a fever as high as 102 degrees with or without chills. Symptoms can come on very quickly, often occurring at night.

You are considered at risk for gout if you have a family history of the disease, have high levels of triglycerides, drink too much alcohol or eat foods rich in purines such as meat, shellfish and sweetbreads. Uric acid is formed from the breakdown of purines.

Mainstream Treatments for Gout

Medications used to treat acute attacks and prevent future ones include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and more powerful prescription NSAIDs such as indomethacin. Side effects of NSAIDs include stomach pain, bleeding and ulcers. Colchicine is a pain reliever which reduces gout pain effectively, especially if started soon after the appearance of symptoms. Unfortunately, the drug also causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, help control inflammation and pain and may be taken in pill form or injected into the joint. Their side effects include thinning bones, poor wound healing and a decreased ability to fight infection.

Drugs used to block uric acid production include allopurinol and febuxostat. Their side effects include rash, low blood counts, nausea and reduced liver function. Probenecid improves the body’s ability to remove uric acid from the body and its side effects include rash, stomach pain and kidney stones.

Cherry Juice for Gout

With so many side effects associated with mainstream gout treatment, it’s no wonder that other remedies have been sought, including cherry juice for gout. Whether they are consumed fresh, frozen, canned or juiced, tart cherries are rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are the colorful compounds found in many fruits and vegetables and have antioxidative and free-radical scavenging abilities and anticancer effects. Anthocyanins are a special class of flavonoids which produce dark pigmentation to blueberries, raspberries and bilberries. They also contain the antioxidants quercetin, genistein, naringenin and chlorogenic acid.

Several studies have found cherry anthocyanins to offer powerful relief against inflammation and pain. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore studied the effects of tart cherry anthocyanins in rats and found it comparable to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, indomethacin, in reducing painful inflammation. A study in the June, 2003 “Journal of Nutrition” by R.A. Jacob, et al. found that high levels of urate in the blood could be averted with the use of Bing cherries. Women who consumed two servings of Bing cherries significantly reduced their serum urate levels and experienced a modest decline in two other markers of inflammation. Another study at the University of California Davis showed a 15 percent reduction in blood uric acid levels in women given fresh cherries to eat.

Since the research on the use of cherries and cherry juice for gout is in the early stages, there is no set “prescription” for the amount to use. Joint Pain’s website recommends two tablespoons of tart cherry juice concentrate a day, or one to two servings of fresh or dried cherries. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends 8 to 16 ounces of cherry juice a day and says that one-half pound of cherries per day, either fresh or frozen, for two weeks will lower uric acid levels enough to prevent attacks. Clearly, it is an individual matter and the amount varies from person to person.


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