Tart Cherry Juice for Gout: A Natural Remedy?

March 17, 2024

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Gout is a common and painful form of inflammatory arthritis caused by excess uric acid buildup in the bloodstream. An estimated 8.3 million Americans suffer from gout, which most often affects the big toe joint but can impact any joint. Tart cherry juice has emerged as a popular supplement to help prevent gout attacks, with evidence suggesting it can lower uric acid levels and reduce inflammation. But does science support the use of tart cherry juice for gout treatment and prevention?

What Is Gout and What Causes It?

Gout occurs when excess uric acid in the bloodstream crystallizes and deposits in the joints, tendons, or surrounding tissue. This causes redness, swelling, heat, pain, and tenderness in the affected joint. While high uric acid levels don’t always lead to gout, most people who develop gout have too much uric acid in their blood.

Uric acid comes from the breakdown of purines, which are found naturally in some foods and are also made by your body. Foods particularly high in purines include:

  • Red meat and organ meats like liver or kidneys
  • Certain seafood like anchovies, sardines, mussels, scallops, trout, and tuna
  • Beer and hard liquor
  • Some plants like asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower and spinach

Factors that can increase uric acid buildup and your risk of gout include:

Men develop gout more often than women, especially women before menopause. But rates in women rise after menopause.

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Symptoms of a Gout Attack

A gout attack usually comes on suddenly and causes intense joint pain, along with swelling, redness, heat, and extreme tenderness in the joint. Attacks most often strike the joint at the base of the big toe but can affect the ankles, heels, knees, wrists and fingers as well.

  • The joint pain is often described as excruciatingthrobbing, or crushing
  • Even the lightest touch or pressure can trigger severe pain
  • Most attacks occur at night and symptoms are worse in the first four to 12 hours
  • Attacks typically last three to 10 days, even with treatment

Without treatment, gout attacks will recur. Each subsequent attack may increase in intensity, last longer, and impact more joints. Properly managing gout lowers the risk of permanent joint damage and gout tophi, which are uric acid crystal deposits that can develop under the skin.

The Role of Tart Cherries and Tart Cherry Juice in Gout Prevention

Tart or sour cherries, like the Montmorency variety, have properties that may help prevent gout attacks in two ways: lowering uric acid and reducing inflammation.

Tart cherries are rich in certain plant compounds and antioxidants linked to these uric acid and anti-inflammatory effects, including:

  • Anthocyanins
  • Flavonoids
  • Melatonin

Some small studies suggest that consuming concentrated tart cherry juice and extracts can significantly decrease uric acid levels to potentially help prevent painful gout flares:

  • In one 2012 study, 20 women drank two 10-ounce servings of tart cherry juice daily for four weeks. The women had reductions in uric acid levels ranging from 17% to 42%.
  • A 2019 study gave 20 participants with high uric acid 30 mL (one ounce) of tart cherry extract daily for four weeks. Uric acid declined significantly compared to the placebo group.
  • Another 2019 study followed 184 gout patients who drank 480-mL of tart cherry juice daily. After four months, they had a nearly 40% drop in uric acid levels and reduced inflammation. Some also had a more than 50% reduction in flare ups.

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of tart cherries may also inhibit some pro-inflammatory pathways activated by uric acid crystals. So they may help calm pain and inflammation once gout develops, not just reduce uric acid.

For example, a lab study found tart cherry anthocyanins substantially decreased inflammatory COX enzymes and markers. While a small pilot study gave people with gout non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS) plus either two daily 8 oz. servings of tart cherry juice or a placebo. The cherry juice group saw a greater drop in inflammatory CRP levels.

So evidence indicates tart cherry juice can potentially:

  • Help lower high serum uric acid levels
  • Reduce painful inflammatory response to urate crystals
  • Cut risk factors and mechanisms for gout attacks

Dosage: How Much Tart Cherry Juice Should You Drink for Gout?

Studies showing uric acid and gout benefits used amounts equaling about two 8 oz servings, or one 16 oz bottle, of tart cherry juice daily.

Most gout guidelines suggest this is an effective general tart cherry juice dosage range to lower uric acid and prevent flare-ups. While amounts up to three daily 8 oz. servings appear safe for most healthy adults.

  • 30 mL tart cherry extracts and 480 mL (16 oz) of tart cherry juice also successfully reduced gout attacks and uric acid in studies.
  • Note actual juice amounts delivering benefits can vary based on tart cherry juice concentration. Check percentage of Montmorency tart cherry juice on any brand you buy.

Of course, the tart cherry gout juice serving size and duration giving you best results can depend on:

  • Your weight, age, activity level
  • Whether you take any uric acid or gout medications
  • If you follow an otherwise uric acid-lowering diet for gout
  • Other medical conditions like diabetes or kidney problems

So consult your doctor about the ideal daily cherry juice dosage for your gout. Especially if taking prescription uric acid drugs or at high risk for complications.

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Tart Cherry Juice for Gout Flares: Can It Ease Symptoms?

Some small evidence shows tart cherry juice could potentially calm gout flare symptoms like pain and swelling once an attack starts.

In that pilot study combining cherry juice with an NSAID drug, the cherry juice group showed faster relief of flare symptoms versus NSAIDs alone.

Tart cherries contain the same inflammation-inhibiting plant nutrients found in some tropical fruits. Like pineapple and mangosteen, which research also shows may ease gout attacks.

So tart cherry juice could provide supplemental anti-inflammatory relief alongside your doctor’s recommended medical regimen when a flare strikes. But always consult your physician if symptoms fail to improve or worsen.

Is All Cherry Juice Good for Gout? Tart vs. Black Cherry Differences

There are two main varieties of cherries — tart and sweet cherries. Tart or sour cherries include:

  • Montmorency
  • Balaton
  • Danube

These cherries contain higher levels of certain gout-fighting nutrients than sweet black cherries. Specific bioactive compounds linked to gout benefits like anthocyanins, melatonin, and other anti-inflammatory antioxidants [6].

So while black cherry juice contains some useful plant nutrients too, tart Montmorency cherry juice is the best choice for lowering uric acid and inflammation in gout.

Other Anti-Gout Effects: Kidney Protection and Weight Loss

Excess fat tissue contributes to high serum uric acid, while obesity and overweight increase gout risk. Tart cherry juice may aid gradual weight loss since plant compounds called anthocyanins bump up fat burning while inhibiting new fat formation [7].

Kidney problems also complicate gout by reducing uric acid excretion. Tart cherry anthocyanins protect kidney function by decreasing inflammation and scarring [8]. So cherry juice supports the kidneys’ efforts to clear uric acid.

Through these uric acid-lowering mechanisms, tart cherry juice offers a range of potential gout prevention and treatment benefits:

✔️ Reduces uric acid production
✔️ Lessens uric acid crystal formation
✔️ Lowers inflammatory response
✔️ Boosts uric acid excretion
✔️ Aids weight loss

So adding cherry juice to your gout diet supports both the underlying cause — high uric acid — and painful downstream effects like flares.

Additional Anti-Gout Diet and Lifestyle Tips

Alongside tart cherry juice, making certain dietary and lifestyle changes can further help treat and prevent painful gout attacks.

Follow a uric-acid lowering diet for gout: Limit meat, seafood rich in purines like sardines or anchovies, sugary foods/drinks, and alcohol that increase uric acid. Enjoy low-purine foods like nuts, whole grains, dairy products, eggs, tofu, fruits and vegetables instead. Drink at least 64 oz. (8 cups) water daily.

Exercise regularly to prevent obesity and high uric acid. But avoid new forms of intense exercise leading up to longstanding gout attacks, which can trigger flares.

Lose excess weight to decrease uric acid levels. Just be sure to lose gradually at a healthy pace. Quickly losing over two pounds a week can temporarily spike uric acid and risk attacks.

Take gout medications as prescribed by your doctor, such as anti-inflammatories or uric acid blockers.

Quit smoking and limit alcohol, since both inflame gout symptoms.

Rest and gently stretch the affected joint during gout flares to ease swelling and pain. Apply wrapped ice packs for 20 minutes at a time.

See your doctor regularly so they can monitor your condition and adjust treatments as needed. Immediately contact your physician if symptoms worsen or don’t improve quickly.

Who Should Not Drink Tart Cherry Juice? Possible Side Effects

For most healthy people, up to three daily 8 oz. servings of pure 100% tart cherry juice appears safe according to research. Occasional minor side effects include:

  • Mild diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Bloating

Unless you experience an allergic reaction, tart cherry juice side effects seem fairly uncommon. But check with your doctor first if you have:

💊 Blood disorders that slow clotting like hemophilia
💊 Diabetes or digestive problems
💊 Kidney disease
💊 Liver disease like hepatitis
💊 Scheduled surgery soon

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should exercise caution with tart cherry juice, since effects are unknown.

Certain blood pressure and gout medications can also interact with compounds in cherry juice. So talk to your physician or pharmacist before drinking tart cherry juice daily if taking:

  • Blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin)
  • Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium
  • Losartan or other ARB blood pressure drugs
  • Sulfinpyrazone uric acid medication

The Bottom Line: Is Tart Cherry Juice Effective for Gout?

Small clinical trials report meaningful uric acid reductions and less frequent gout attacks from daily Montmorency tart cherry juice over months. The most extensive study to date saw a nearly 40% drop in gout patients’ average uric acid levels.

So evidence suggests tart cherry juice can help lower uric acid to reduce painful gout attacks and inflammation. Though larger, more rigorous clinical trials are still needed.

Of course, no single supplement treats gout alone. But for many with painful high uric acid levels, tart cherry juice is an accessible, low-risk addition to traditional gout therapy.

Just be sure to start slowly and work with your doctor to find the daily cherry juice dosage – in the 8 to 16 oz range – bringing you the best relief.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does tart cherry juice reduce uric acid levels?

Yes, several small studies show drinking 8 to 16 oz of Montmorency tart cherry juice daily over weeks to months can significantly decrease uric acid. Less uric acid lowers your risk for painful gout attacks caused by uric acid crystal formation in joints.

Is fresh or bottled tart cherry juice better?

Either fresh or commercially bottled 100% tart cherry juice provides anti-inflammatory, antioxidant plant nutrients that fight gout. Just be sure to use 100% Montmorency tart cherry juice rather than lower quality sweet cherry or mixed fruit juices. And check labels for an optimal percentage of actual cherry juice concentrate.

How long does tart cherry juice take to reduce gout symptoms?

Studies found tart cherry juice lowered uric acid and reduced gout flares within two to four months for most people. But anti-inflammatory compounds may also help ease painful inflammation during gout attacks more quickly.

Why are tart cherries better for gout than sweet black cherries?

Montmorency tart cherries contain higher levels of certain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant plant chemicals like anthocyanins. These gout-fighting nutrients are present but less abundant in sweet black cherries.

Can tart cherry juice be harmful? What are the side effects?

Other than possible stomach upset or diarrhea, little risk exists with pure 100% tart cherry juice for healthy adults. But some medication interactions are possible. So talk to your doctor before trying tart cherry juice if you take blood thinners, gout medications or blood pressure drugs.

Key Takeaways

  • Gout occurs due to excess uric acid forming painful crystals in joints
  • Studies show Montmorency tart cherry juice can lower uric acid and reduce gout attacks through anti-inflammatory, antioxidant plant compounds
  • For gout prevention, aim for 8 to 16 oz of 100% tart cherry juice daily
  • Tart cherry juice may also calm gout flare symptoms but should not replace medical treatment
  • When buying cherry juice for gout, choose 100% Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate over other juices
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