My 38-year-old brother, a paramedic, has the most intense pain from an attack of gout in his big toe. He is taking prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammatories, but is there a natural remedy?
Gout is a type of arthritis caused by a build-up of uric acid in the body. This waste product forms as the body breaks down chemicals called purines in the cells.
If you produce too much or excrete too little uric acid, the excess can cause tiny needle-shaped crystals to form in and around joints, most often in the big toe. A flare-up, brought on by inflammation, causes severe pain, swelling and redness.
Gout often runs in the family, and affects one in 14 older men and one in 35 older women. Pre-menopausal women are protected by the hormone oestrogen, which reduces uric acid levels.
Your brother is taking the standard medication. He may be prescribed the uric acid-lowering drug allopurinol to prevent future bouts and asked to reduce purine-containing foods, such as red meat and seafood. Pharmacist Shabir Daya also recommends not eating asparagus, spinach, peas, cauliflower, lentils, beans and poultry.
Beer and spirits are best avoided, but some experts say a glass or two of wine should not significantly increase the risk of an attack.
However, sugary soft drinks raise the risk. Research suggests reducing all sugar intake can cut attacks by 85 per cent. Daya recommends CherryActive Concentrate, £15.99, which contains anti-inflammatory compounds and has no added sugar, and Terra Nova Tart Cherry, Nettle and Turmeric supplement, £19, which also contains celery. Cherry, nettle and turmeric reduce inflammation. Celery is a diuretic, and helps to remove excess uric acid.
Our young tester Theo (below), 18 months, loves his Cuddledry Cuddledeer bath towel. Made from a super-soft blend of cotton and bamboo, Cuddledry towels are 60 per cent more absorbent than regular cotton ones. The adorable hooded design ensures that your little ones are kept warm, while they feel like they’re playing dress-up. £29.99, from Mothercare stores or cuddledry.com.
JUST WHAT THEY REALLY NEEDED
When friends or family are going through cancer treatment, choosing a present that they will really enjoy can be tricky, so we asked the experts at Maggie’s Centres for their advice (maggiescentres.org). This is a list based on what the centres’ visitors, who all receive free professional help at these wonderful places, say they love to receive while going through treatment (people should consult their doctors before using any skin- or haircare products, as sensitivity may affect each person differently):
- Ginger sweets to help overcome nausea and the metallic taste associated with chemotherapy.
- Gorgeously wrapped non-perfumed soap, and organic lip balm for dry lips.
- Neal’s Yard Remedies natural hand and foot creams, and all-round moisturisers, as skin gets dry.
- Organic shampoo and conditioner.
- Silk pillowcases, so that hair doesn’t get tangled, especially when it starts to thin (find a wide range in stores such as John Lewis and at amazon.co.uk).
- A BPA-free plastic water bottle to encourage hydration (onegreenbottle.com gives £2 from every £7.50 BCUK bottle sold to Breast Cancer UK).
- Books of short stories and poetry to dip into.
- A cashmere scarf (pick one from the M&S Collection, £39.50, marksandspencer.com).
- Luxurious cardigans and wraps, as patients may have hot flushes and want to ‘layer’ clothes (also try Marks & Spencer).
- Box sets of DVDs.