Cherry Juice And Gout - The Facts
'A Quick Look At One Of The More Unusual Gout Treatments'
The Short Answer –
Cherry juice and gout have long been linked together. Cherry juice is thought to work to prevent gout – but how can it? And if cherry juice is so good, is it all foods with cherries in or just certain ones?
In this article we separate the gout fact from the cherry fiction and find a really hopeful outcome that shows cherry juice really could help gout…
The Positive Relationship Between Cherry Juice And Gout
Gout is no longer ‘the disease of kings’ that is used to be considered – as western diets have evolved, so gout has surged in prevalence to become an everyday diagnosis in doctors’ surgeries. And with this has come an ever-increasing need/ desire to find ways to prevent future attacks.
A whole range of ‘super-foods’, supplements and proactive therapies have been rumoured or suggested as making a real difference.
One of the strongest claims, full of anecdotal ‘evidence’, is that for the case of cherries.
Cherries contain a high level of the antioxidant known as ‘anthocyanins’. This antioxidant is thought to have a considerable anti-inflammatory effect, although this is also true of other fruits that are blue, purple or red in colour.
Cherries also have another big benefit going for them – Vitamin C. Vitamin C on it’s own has been shown to have a positive effect when it comes to lowering your uric acid levels.
Potentially, the vitamin C and the anthocyanins work together to provide some sort of ‘anti-gout synergy’. On the one hand they could counter the pain of gout and delay a ‘gouty athritis’ attack by helping to control the inflammation. Or maybe cherries could push back the point of ‘hyperuricemia’ – the stage at which a build-up of uric acid occurs.
Causes of gout…
We know gout can be caused by many factors – but ultimately is instigated by a build up of uric acid inside you. This may because the wrong foods are causing your body to produce to much uric acid or your kidneys are struggling to excrete the uric acid fast enough.
You suffer from ‘hyperuricemia’ when the uric acid builds up to form what is effectively a backlog waiting to be excreted. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll suffer with gout, until the uric acid is converted in to urate crystals and they start to attack your joints, whereupon you get inflammation, swelling and pain.
By then unfortunately it’s all too late.
So the theory behind cherry juice and gout is that they help firstly by lowering your uric acid levels – potentially stopping the build up that is required to create the urate crystals needed for an attack.
Secondly, if urate crystals still manage to form and start attacking your joints, cherry juice can help by tempering that inflammation. As much of the pain from gout attacks is caused by inflammation and swelling, if you don’t get any inflammation.
Cherry Juice And Gout – The Evidence
So that’s the theory and the rumour, but what are the facts….
Well, one such clinical trial sought to test exactly the hypothesis above. Under the title ‘Cherry Consumption and the Risk of Recurrent Gout Attacks’ 633 gout sufferers were given various treatments in isolation or as a combination. The group that were purely given cherries noticed a 35% lower risk of a gout attack.
Interestingly, those that combined cherries with allopurinol (a drug for controlling uric acid) saw as much as a 75% drop. This was further good news, because it suggests cherry juice can be taken with other treatments, without losing it’s effectiveness.
Selecting the ‘right’ cherry…
Another, albeit substantially smaller study, in the UK looked for the first time at the effects of Montmorency cherry concentrate (a tart cherry) on both uric acid levels and the anthocyanin plasma bioavailability (that impacts inflammation.)
It was quite unique in that it aimed to actually measure both potential claims of cherry juice and gout – rather than just cherries’ on gout attack frequency.
The good news when it was published in the ‘Journal of Functional Foods’ was that uric acid levels noticeably dropped and then increased 24-48hrs after stopping consumption.
Positive changes were also noted to anthocyanin levels (the anti-inflammatory), although more research is needed, particularly on patients suffering with gout.
The final study into the relationship between cherry juice and gout that I would draw to your attention is actually a review of an impressive 86 small studies, published in May 2019 by Collins et al.
After a thorough review of both current gout treatments and focusing on the more leftfield option that is cherry juice, they concluded
“ Given the potential beneficial effects of cherries, this powerful fruit is becoming a more attractive option, and clearly has a role in the management of gout.”
That was the conclusion from a group of clinicians that made the time to read and study all 86 trials. With that in mind, if would seem foolish to suggest cherry juice should not be considered for the treatment of your gout.
Tips For Including Cherry Juice In Your Diet If You Suffer With Gout
– Some cherry juice will be made ‘from concentrate’ while others are not. Neither option has been found to be less healthy or useful in preventing gout.
– Always look for 100% cherry juice, preferably with no added sugar, as the sugar is bad for uric acid and may counter some of the benefits of the cherries.
– Try to pick specific varieties of cherries. Black cherries are good for you, but more ‘tart’ varieties like Balaton or Montmorency contain a much higher concentration of anthocyanins. Thankfully, these are the exact cherries most used in cherry juice.
– If you try cherry supplements, always check the % of cherry extract and try to find as close to 100% as possible. Many supplements mix lots of different vitamins together and end up not achieving an effective concentration of any.
– Avoid very sugary versions of cherries such as syrup or cherry brandy – again because the sugar will have detrimental effects on your gout, similar to that of fizzy soda (a big ‘no’ for gout sufferers).
How To Make Cherry Juice To Fight Gout
Another alternative to buying cherry juice is to actually make your own.
Many manufacturers when they make their cherry juice will add lots of sugar or sweeteners to it to make it taste even better. However, if you make it yourself, you can make it fresh and very often wont need to add sugar at all.
Furthermore, if you do decide to add sugar, you can do it to a minimum that you enjoy, rather than being forced to consume the preselected amount.
To make fresh cherry juice simply follow these simple steps –
- Wash and stem a punnet of fresh cherries (vary amounts according to number of drinkers etc)
- If you wish, you can cut all the cherries open and remove seeds at this point (or wait until blending)
- Measure cherries in to a blender, mixing ¼ of a cup of water to one cup of cherries
- Blend lightly in a food processor if still containing seeds. More aggressively, if you’ve already taken the seeds out.
- Use a sieve to strain the juice in to a bottle.
- Throw away leftover skin and seeds
- Keep refrigerated.
- Drink within 4-5 days
By 2020, there have been quite a few small to medium size clinical trials looking into the relationship between cherry juice and gout. Each one seems to conclude that cherry juice does indeed offer some distinct benefits.
As with many ‘alternative’ treatments, most clinical boards are reluctant to offer wholesale recommendations without qualification. This normally comes in the form of ‘but more research is needed….etc’.
However, in the case of cherry juice and gout, both the logical rationale and the clinical data back up each other.
There are also other big advantages with cherry juice.
These include the many other health benefits of consuming fruit juice and the fact that it is genuinely tasty (not all healthy drinks are), as well as most importantly, that is doesn’t appear to affect other gout treatments.
A new part of your ‘gout plan’…
This means cherry juice can be added to a ‘gouty arthritis’ plan as an additional treatment.
Even more so because it doesn’t have any known side effects.
This combination of anti-inflammatory enzymes plus uric acid control, in alignment with a lack of side effects and the belief that cherry juice will continue to provide benefit alongside preventative medications, make cherry juice and gout a very good combination.
If you suffer with gout today, you could do a lot worse that try a daily glass of cherry juice.
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