Whey for gout - it's a gout diet food, but not really a way to a gout cure

This page about whey for gout was last reviewed, or updated, on 19 October 2018.

                                              Little Miss Muffet,
                                                Sat on a tuffet,
                                       Eating her curds and whey;
                                             Along came a spider,
                                          Who sat down beside her,
                                     And frightened Miss Muffet away

                                           English Nursery rhyme

                                                                                                                                                                       A jug of whey


Fresh whey is made during the process of making cheese, when milk, to which rennet or perhaps vinegar has been added, curdles. Whey is the liquid strained from the curds.

You may find whey resides in your brand of yoghurt (yogurt), cottage cheese, or kefir, if you spot some liquid in it. Ricotta cheese is made from whey, not from the usual curds in cheese making. But most people will get whey from a drink made from whey protein powder. Its popularity, said to be growing, is primarily due to its complete range of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. In fact, whey is the very best source of natural proteins.

Whey for gout has been known for centuries, long before "Little Miss Muffet" was composed, in fact way back to the ancient times of  Hippocrates and Claudius Galen, when it was called "healing water."

In the 17th century, Thomas Sydenham (1624-89) recommended whey for gout and was also a gout sufferer. In his time he was such a famous physician and author that he was called the "British Hippocrates" and his reputation has trundled on through the centuries till the present time. Sydenham has been much quoted by writers of books about gout in subsequent centuries.

In the 18th and 19th centuries whey was a remedy at health spas across Europe.

You couldn't get a recommendation from a better person, but was whey successful on Sydenham? He thought it alleviated his pain somewhat, and this is why he recommended whey for gout. However, unfortunately he suffered gout attacks until the end of his life, and so whey was not his complete cure. As he said at the end of his Treatise of the Gout  "the radical cure of the gout is yet (still) a secret, nor do I know when, nor by whom it will be discovered."

Because of Sydenham's comments I wouldn't want to state the case for whey for gout very firmly. And real studies that demonstrate it lowers uric acid, or inflammatory pain, or improves another undesirable symptom of gout, have not been done. As far as gout and whey is concerned, what we have are anecdotal glimpses from history plus hints from some of whey's abundant nutrients that whey is good for gout. 

What are these hints?

Glutathione and gout

No one has proposed that the master antioxidant glutathione can directly lower uric acid (unlike for example Vitamin C) but glutathione's general effect on health and some adverse health conditions, is much touted. As is its ability to boost the work of vitamins C and E. It's not easy to boost glutathione levels in cells and fluids from foods, and its concentrations decline as we age, especially past 60.

The glutathione precursors l-cysteine (in the form of l-cystine), glutamine/glutamic acid and glycine, are abundant amino acids in whey. Although they are precursors of glutathione, how much they produce is disputed.

To boost glutathione, Dr. Robert Atkins (the Atkins diet) wrote in his Vita-Nutrient Solution  that selenium, and vitamins B2 and B6 are additional building blocks. In this book he also described his complete glutathione boosting formula).

Could one of whey's proteins lower uric acid?

Whey is a useful source of the milk protein alpha-lactalbumin. Lactalbumin and casein, the main milk protein which is scarcely found in whey, (but it's abundant in milk and curds), are the milk proteins which have been found to lower uric acid (UA)

In one study, by 0.5 mg/dL, when about 10 glasses of milk was drunk, and in others to lower UA by small amounts.

Epidemiological (population) studies suggest milk lowers uric acid too, so if you drink a "whey shake," (see further on) made from milk, maybe you'll be doing something to lower UA. In one population study those who drank a single glass of milk a day for years had lower uric acid than those who didn't.

Whey is alkalising (alkalizing)

Although some brands of whey don't show alkalizing (alkalizing) minerals on the ingredients' list, whey is also a good source of alkalising (alkalizing) minerals – calcium, potassium and magnesium. However, you could easily get the amounts of these three in whey from a multi vitamin tablet. Whey is categorised (categorized) in acid-alkaline foods charts as an alkalising (alkalizing) substance, which is possibly another reason why whey is good for gout.

Raising pH (a more alkaline body) can assist uric acid excretion.

Whey is originally alkaline when first strained from the curds, but it turns acidic. Modern production of whey powder captures the alkalinity but when you add a liquid to the powder, the drink will eventually turn acidic. To benefit from the alkalinity, Christopher Vasey N.D., in his book The Acid Alkaline Diet for Optimal Health, recommends you drink up your whey within an hour.

How do you eat or drink whey?

A level scoop of whey can be added to water, milk or juice. You can mix it, or bake it into soups, sauces, and cereals, plus English muffins, pancakes (hotcakes), scones, and other baked goods.

Whey shake What I do is make my "whey shake." It really does taste almost as delicious as a milkshake, but it is much healthier and it's a gout diet food.

I stir a level scoop of vanilla flavoured (flavored) whey protein powder (the brand I buy comes with its own 25 grams plastic scooper, which makes a useful kitchen measurement utensil), and you could use another of the many whey flavours (flavors), into 8 fluid ounces of full cream (100%) milk and add one sachet of a sugar substitute. You can use low fat milk if you prefer that. The whey easily mixes into the milk with a few stirs. No need to use a blender's electricity.

Banana whey  Or my banana whey.....I mash up a couple of bananas with a fork, add half a scoop of whey powder, mix in some cream (whipping, double or clotted) and two sachets of a sugar substitute. It makes a delicious and healthy snack or pudding (dessert). You could do this in a blender. To make it even healthier, add some berries or cherries. For a full serving of whey, use a full scoop or eat this twice a day.

If you're on a restricted carbohydrate diet, monitor the carbs in the whey shake and the banana whey. Note: bananas are quite high in carbs - 23 carb grams per 100 grams serving. Both these snacks/meals are good foods for gout, even if whey doesn't lower your uric acid.

Bananas are a good gout diet food - high in potassium, have a useful amount of vitamin C, and are low purine and alkaline. But they aren't in the same league as cherries, strawberries, other berries, celery and others. No-one has said they can lower uric acid.

Whey and purines – whey is low purine.

Whey won't be found on purines-in-foods lists; it's too much a speciality (specialty) food. But whey will be low purine because it's made from milk and milk, along with cheese, yoghurt (yogurt), cream and ice cream is low purine. So it can be eaten on a low purine diet.

Whey protein powders are usually low carb – check the nutrition panel of a whey powder, you are thinking of purchasing that it has only 2 grams of carbohydrate per serving. That is low. If you are on a low calorie diet, a serving of the whey is 90 calories, and you get 20 grams of protein per serving which is a lot of protein for not many calories, one reason why muscle builders and athletes like it. The protein per serving size is 20 grams: 25 grams. i.e. 80%, which is good.

Whey and the kidneys – perhaps whey's effect on the kidneys stimulates uric acid removal.

The kidneys' failure to expel uric acid sufficiently is one of the major causes of gout. Urosuric (uricosuric) drugs such as Probenecid and Sulfinpyrazone work to stimulate the kidneys to expel more uric acid, and so, it is thought, does Vitamin C. Whey is believed to stimulate the kidneys and although the whey and uric acid reduction question has not been studied, whey may encourage the excretion of uric acid. And the actalbumin protein has been found to stimulate uric acid clearance. (1)

                                                                              Whey protein powder


All these are interesting hints about whey for gout and they suggest whey is good to drink for your general health if you have gout, or if you are taking active measures to prevent gout whey isn’t going to raise you uric acid level.

I'll return to Thomas Sydenham for some concluding comments.

He was a very accurate gout observer, suffering from it for the last 40 years of his life. He wrote very detailed and vivid accounts of his gout attacks in both The Works of Thomas Sydenham (which also contained his book A Treatise of the Gout and Dropsy and in The Whole Works of Thomas Sydenham. You can read these books free online, or download them free, courtesy of books.google.com.

He also made medical discoveries. Sydenham created a version of Laudanum, (opium tincture) that mix of opium alkaloids and alcohol, a medicine that has lasted till today; his remedies for scurvy – horseradish, scurvy grass and watercress - were spot on because of their high vitamin C content, centuries before  Vitamin C was discovered. There were other remedy inventions. He wasn't a publicity agent for a whey maker.

Of course whey in his day was not the whey protein powders of today. In those days people drank the whey leftovers from making cheese, often warmed whey mixed with white wine. Sydenham thought it did some good for gout, and he was a very accurate observer. But as he admitted he didn’t find the Holy Grail cure for gout.

On the other hand, it obviously didn't cause him a gout attack, but some folk, especially body and muscle builders, worry whey's proteins might cause gout.

Could all the proteins in whey raise uric acid?

Whey is not a well-known gout trigger. It is low (or no) purine so can't itself produce much (or any) uric acid from purines, but it does have all those proteins and some people think proteins raise uric acid and cause gout.

However, a study a few years ago of 730 confirmed new cases of gout found that total protein intake was not associated with a increased risk of gout.(2) This study (2) is listed below, and you can download it free, courtesy of the New England Journal of Medicine. It is not the only study to find that proteins do not raise uric acid.

And read the whey and gout debate at this page at Arthritis Today, if you want to go into this in more detail.

Check with your doctor 

If you are pregnant, nursing or on medication, you are advised to check with your doctor, before you start taking whey. Don't eat or drink whey if you know you are lactose intolerant. Lactose, milk sugar, is whey's sugar.

Reading On…

The Whey Prescription: The Healing Miracle in Milk. Christoper Vasey N.D. Healing Arts Press, Vermont 2006.

Whey for gout > Related pages

How about yoghurt (yogurt) for gout ?  Go to the first of our two pages about yoghurt

Read about an encouraging study that demonstrated gout flare and pain reduction from a specially formulated milk drink.

Read why milk is a good drink for gout 

Whey for gout study references

(1) Milk and soy-protein ingestion: acute effect on serum uric acid concentrationDominique R. Garrel, Maurice Verdy, Claude PetitClerc, Christophe Martin, Danielle Brule, Pavel Hamet.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1991; 53:665-9

(2) Purine-Rich Foods, Dairy and Protein Intake, and the Risk of Gout in MenHyon K. Choi, M.D., Dr.P.H., Karen Atkinson, M.D., M.P.H.,Elizabeth W. Karlson, M.D., Walter Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., and Gary Curhan, M.D., Sc.D. New England Journal of Medicine 2004;350:1093-103.

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