Gout is a form of arthritis that affects one or more of the body's joints and is characterized by pain and inflammation. Gout commonly affects the big toe and occurs when when uric acid builds up and forms crystals in the joints. If you suffer from gout, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as diclofenac or a drug known as colchicine may help reduce inflammation and ease pain. Omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in the treatment of gout, although scientific evidence to prove they are effective is limited.
Sources and Dosing
There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, both of which are commonly found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel and halibut. They are also found in fish oil supplements. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests gout sufferers take one or two fish oil capsules or 1 tbsp. of fish oil once daily to help alleviate inflammation. However, check with your doctor what dose is right for you personally.
Clinical studies evaluating the role of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of gout specifically are lacking. However, several studies support the use of omega-3 fatty acids in arthritic conditions. The results of a study published in the October 2009 issue of "Lipids" show that eicosapentaenoic acid can reduce inflammation and associated symptoms in arthritis. An article published in the May 2010 issue of "Nutrition Reviews" also notes that consuming eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid may help to reduce the incidence of inflammatory conditions.
Medline Plus says that taking a fish oil supplements as a source of omega-3 fatty acids is likely safe, although side effects may include bad breath, heartburn, loose stools and nosebleeds. Taking more than 3g daily may affect the blood's ability to clot and may also compromise the immune system. Eating large quantities of oily fish may be unsafe because fish meat can sometimes be contaminated with heavy metals, including mercury. Taking fish oil may not be safe for people with conditions such as diabetes, depression, liver disease or high blood pressure. Check with your doctor before taking a fish oil supplement
The University of Maryland Medical Center says that a combining a number of therapies may help decrease both the frequency and length of gout attacks. Rather than solely relying on omega-3 fatty acids to relieve gout symptoms, incorporate other alternative therapies such as acupuncture and homeopathy into your gout treatment program. Making dietary changes such as cutting out purine-rich foods and reducing your alcohol intake may also help to stave off a gout attack.
- NHS Choices: Gout
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Gout
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Omega-3
- PubMed: Contrasting Effects of N-3 and N-6 Fatty Acids on Cyclooxygenase-2 in Model Systems for Arthritis
- PubMed: Fatty Acids from Fish: The Anti-Inflammatory Potential of Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Medline Plus: Fish Oil Supplements