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Researchers are studying how probiotic pills can help with gout symptoms. Extreme Media/Getty Images
  • More than 41 million people globally have gout.
  • There is currently no cure for gout.
  • Researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid have found a specific probiotic that helps lower the number of gout episodes a person has and gout-related drugs they have to take.

More than 41 million people worldwide have gout — a chronic arthritic condition causing pain, stiffness, and swelling of the joints.

There is currently no cure for gout. Doctors treat people with gout with medications to help prevent attacks as well as treat symptoms of flare-ups.

Now researchers from Complutense University of Madrid in Spain say they have found a probiotic strain that helps lower the number of gout episodes a person has and may reduce the need for gout-related drugs.

Additionally, they say the probiotic improved certain blood parameters in study participants related to oxidative stress, liver damage, and metabolic syndrome.

The study was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

Gout occurs when a person has too much uric acid in their body. This is called hyperuricemia.

In addition to gout, hyperuricemia can also cause kidney stones.

Uric acid build-up can sometimes occur if a person eats a diet high in purine. Foods and beverages high in purine include:

If a person’s kidneys are not able to fully remove the extra uric acid from their body, it can build up in the body and form needle-like crystals. These crystals cause inflammation, leading to joint pain.

Symptoms of gout include:

  • a sudden attack of severe pain in one or more body joints, especially a big toe.
  • joints tender to the touch.
  • swelling around the joints.
  • skin that appears red and/or feels hot around the joints.

Gout can appear in any joint in the body but particularly affects joints at the ends of limbs, such as toes, ankles, fingers, knees, wrists, and elbows.

Probiotics are living microorganisms a person takes as a dietary supplement.

They can also be found naturally in fermented foods such as kefir and yogurt.

Probiotics are normally a mix of both “good” live bacteria and yeasts that naturally live in the body.

When ingested, probiotics help increase and balance the amount of “good” bacteria in the body, helping aid the body in digestion.

Taking additional probiotics can also help rebalance the amount of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the body after taking antibiotic medication.

And previous research shows probiotics can help with certain health conditions, including:

In this study, researchers examined a particular probiotic called Ligilactobacillus salivarius (L. salivarius).

This probiotic is a type of bacteria that normally lives in the body’s gastrointestinal tract.

First, the research team evaluated different strains of L. salivarius to see which was best at metabolizing purine-related metabolites. They reported L. salivarius CECT 30632 to be the most efficient strain for the conversion of uric acid, inosine, and guanosine.

Next, scientists conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial involving 30 participants with hyperuricemia and a history of recurrent gout episodes.

Half of the study participants received L. salivarius CECT 30632 for 6 months. The other half of the participants took the gout-management drug allopurinol for 6 months.

Upon analysis, the research team said that people with gout who received the L. salivarius CECT 30632 probiotic had a significant reduction in the number of gout episodes and in the use of gout-related drugs.

Additionally, those who used the probiotic also experienced an improvement in some blood parameters related to oxidative stress, liver damage, and metabolic syndrome.

According to Dr. Emily Carroll, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and an attending physician in internal medicine, rheumatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, who was not involved in the study, it is important to have new therapy options for gout as many people with gout also deal with other comorbidities, such as cardiovascular, kidney, and liver disease.

“This can impact what medications can safely be used in these patients, so it is good to have a wide range of options, especially safe options like probiotics,” she told Medical News Today. “There is (a) growing understanding of the role that the gut microbiome plays in rheumatologic disease. Previous research has suggested the microbiomes of patients with gout differ from those of healthy patients, so it is not surprising that there was a positive impact with probiotics.”

“And as gout is known to be linked to metabolic syndrome it isn’t surprising that improvement in all those parameters was seen,” Carroll added. “Because this is a small pilot study with only 15 patients per group who were only followed for six months, it is important not to oversell the effects of probiotics, though, until larger studies with longer-term follow-up can be performed to confirm these findings.”

Medical News Today also spoke with Dr. Nilanjana Bose, a rheumatologist at Memorial Hermann Health System and Lonestar Rheumatology in Houston, Texas, also not involved in the study, who agreed new therapies can always help patients.

“Probiotics can improve (the) gut environment,” she explained. “It makes sense that any inflammatory arthritis may improve with (the) administration of probiotics.”

And Crystal Scott, MS, RD, LD, CDCES, CSP, CSSD, a registered dietician at Top Nutrition Coaching, not involved in the study, told Medical News Today she was not surprised to hear a probiotic had positive outcomes for people with gout.

“I was not surprised due to the fact of research supporting probiotic use to help increase the diversity of the microbiome,” she continued. “We know that gut health is connected to chronic diseases such as gout, diabetes, colon cancer, and others.”

(Previous) research has shown probiotics improve hyperuricemia and symptoms of gout, among other inflammatory diseases,” Scott added. “In the research, probiotic intervention reduced C-reactive protein (CRP), which led to serum uric acid improvement. Researchers state that it is necessary to evaluate (the) efficacy and optimal dosages of probiotics.”