Updated: May 23, 2022
Have you ever been woken up by an excruciating burning in your big toe? Welcome to gout, an inflammatory form of arthritis that causes pain and swelling in the joints. It often shows up in flare-ups that last a week or two, after which it subsides, allowing your face to gratefully un-grimace.
But you likely already know all this. You and some 8.3 million others (4% of the population) who periodically become prisoners in your own bodies. But just how do your bodies get highjacked?
And by what?
How Did This Happen?
The simple answer is that gout happens when an excess of uric acid crystals builds up in the joints.*
Here’s the longer version: This condition of an excess of uric acid is called hyperuricemia. It develops from the breaking down of Purines (chemical compounds that cells use to make the building blocks of DNA and RNA.) Purines come from both the body and the food we eat. An overabundance of uric acid creates needle-like uric acid crystals that build up in joints, fluids, and tissues. Remember your screaming toe? That.
But Why, Gout, Why?
Well, that can be due to several things:
Men are more susceptible than women- sorry, guys.
Obesity appears to be a contributing factor.
Alcohol and high fructose consumption stack the deck in gout’s favor.
Many health conditions lend themselves to increased gout vulnerability, like congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, diabetes, and poor kidney function.
Here’s the thing about self-diagnosis: don’t do it. Especially with gout. Its symptoms-- inflammation, intense pain, swelling, and heat—are indicative of many other conditions, and you don’t want to treat what you don’t have. Get to a doctor, a specialist, in fact. Here’s a list in case you don’t know one:
Handling Your Gout.
Once you choose a doctor who diagnoses you with gout, he or she will probably help you track and manage your condition. While there is no cure, gout is manageable. But the bulk of the managing will be on your end, friend.
Things like getting active in ways that are safe for your joints, losing weight, limiting your alcohol consumption, and eating healthy will go a long way toward keeping flare-ups off your radar.
Here’s a list of dietary yays and nays:
Water. Lots of it, as in 8 glasses a day regularly and 16 on a flare-up day (yes, you’ll be flushing the uric acid out of your system.)
Low-fat dairy products. Whether it’s a glass of milk or a serving of yogurt, the proteins found in dairy are known to promote uric acid excretion.
Coffee. And lots of it if it suits you. Studies show that long-term drinkers, as in 4-6 cups a day, have a reduced chance of getting gout at all. Enjoy a cup a’ joe!
Citrus. Vitamin C reduces uric acid levels and thus prevents attacks. Choose fruits that are lower in fructose, like grapefruit, oranges, and strawberries.
Veggie proteins. What—vegetables have protein? Yes! There are peas, beans, lentils, tofu, and even leafy and starchy greens. Go hog wild with veggies!
Tart cherries. The red-purple pigment in them comes from anthocyanins which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. You’re welcome.
Studies show that long-term coffee drinkers, as in 4-6 cups a day, have a reduced chance of getting gout at all.
Beer. It’s high in Purines which become uric acid. These are not your friend.
Liquor. Same deal. It increases your risk of gout attacks. Just say moderation.
Soda. Such a no-no. Along with fruit juices, soda is a tell-tale sidekick of many gout sufferers.
Organ meats. Ix-nay on the liver and onions. And limit your red meat consumption, while you’re at it. White meat should become your new BFF if you’re a carnivore since you’ll also be watching your seafood intake.
Wait—Didn’t You Mention Hemp?
While there are many tools in your self-management shed, doctors still often recommend drugs to add to your arsenal of preventative maintenance. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are the current options:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
This category is known to reduce pain but also carries the risk of stomach pain, bleeding, and ulcers. A less than ideal situation, to say the least.
These drugs are anti-inflammatory, but they frequently offer vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea as side effects. Yikes.
These are used for gout pain and inflammation.
They also often instigate mood changes, increased blood sugar, and increased blood pressure. Wow- the party just never ends with prescription drugs, eh?
But thankfully today there is another option: hemp.
Research has shown positive health correlations between hemp and inflammation.
What We Know About Hemp.
Hemp is a Phytocannabinoid which means it comes from plants. When it enters our bodies, it interacts with our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) receptors. As the ECS is vital in regulating pain, pleasure, inflammation, digestion, immune function, and many other things, having the power to modulate it opens the door to tons of healing opportunities. The great news regarding gout is that its two primary symptoms, inflammation and intense pain, respond positively to hemp- halleluiah!
Dr. Jason McDougall, professor in the department of pharmacology and anesthesiology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, believes that hemp most likely helps reduce the pain of arthritis by helping to repair the bare nerves (stripped of their natural coating) after it is administered to a patient.
Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., also believes that hemp can be effective in managing both pain and inflammation in arthritis. And since gout is in the family, this is great news!
And stepping outside the commonly recommended pharmaceuticals for gout pain, you don’t have to go far to reach opioids. The pain solution that even the medical community is wary of today. Our instant-gratification nature has gotten the best of us. Opioids, while having uber-effective pain-squashing properties, have proven to be beyond messy, both on a societal and an individual level. Addiction is devastating. Enough said.
New options are needed, and hemp is in the running.
According to Adie Rae Wilson-Poe, neuroscientist and founder of Smart Cannabis, the reason hemp is a far better choice than opioids for our health lies in how it works in our bodies.
While it turns off the pain by binding to receptors in the Peri Aqua ductal Grey (the part of our brains where pain registers), it does not highjack the brain’s reward pathway as opioids do.
“The difference in how hemp affects us is (versus opioids) is everything else (besides pain.) It doesn’t prioritize cannabis over everything else in life. It doesn’t bind to receptors in the brain stem that controls respiration,” she explained, on the Shaping Fire Podcast with Sang Los, during Episode 60.
Adie Rae went on to say that the CB-1 receptor (the one that hemp attaches to) is the most “ubiquitously expressed G-protein in the entire human brain.” It’s virtually everywhere throughout our brain tissue, making it invaluable for our evolution. It plays a huge role in our everyday functioning, from our metabolism to our circadian rhythm, from our relationship to stress to how we feel pain.
If you’ve experienced it, you’re aware of how not-fun gout is. And the idea that it’s incurable is even less so. But the fact that it’s manageable with healthy lifestyle choices and potentially hemp supplementation invites a big sigh of relief. Especially with the introduction of new forms of hemp that are greatly more bioavailable, as in Nano-Hemp. More on that next time.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from gout discomfort, you're in luck! Here at MORE, we have all sorts of mouthwatering, hemp-infused beverages to promote your healing journey. Take a look at our Alkaline Hemp Water collection to get started!