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Gout: What to Eat & What to Avoid

Monday 15 June 2020
Gout

Table of Contents


I. What is Gout?

a. What Causes Gout?

II. Gout Diet

a. Alcohol

b. Sugar

c. Meat and Seafood

d. Low-Purine Foods

e. Other Diet Tips


What is Gout?

Gout is a common form of arthritis that can cause severe pain and can have a large negative impact on the lives of patients. More than 8 million people in the United States have a form of gout. [1] Gout is typically found in feet and is particularly common in the big toe. Approximately half of gout cases involve the big toe joint. [2] However, gout can affect any joint and is also common in fingers, elbows, knees, and ankles. [1] This condition may occur once and then never occur again once treated with medications like Colcrys. However, some patients suffer from recurrent gout and have several flare-ups a year.

Gout attacks are incredibly painful and may prevent patients from putting any weight on the joint or moving the joint at all. Areas of the body may become so tender and sensitive that even the weight of a bedsheet may cause severe agony. Gout attacks are most painful during the first day or two, although pain and symptoms can last for days or weeks.

In addition to extreme pain in the affected joint, gout patients may also suffer from other symptoms, including:

  • Limited motion in the joint
  • Lingering discomfort after a gout attack
  • Joint swelling or discoloration
  • Small, hard lumps (tophi) on the flesh
  • Interrupted sleep

a. What Causes Gout?

Gout is the umbrella term for several conditions that are caused by an excess of uric acid building up in the blood. Uric acid is a chemical that is produced when the body breaks down the natural substance purines. Uric acid is typically removed from the body through urination. If the body produces too much uric acid or the kidneys remove too little, then a build-up can occur.

When uric acid builds up, it forms urate crystals in the joints. These crystals can then trigger an inflammatory response from the body’s immune system. Gout attacks typically occur overnight as patients’ body temperatures get lower, making it easier for urate crystals to form. [3]

A man lying asleep)

Gout is often genetic and people with a close relative with the condition are more likely to suffer from gout themselves. Several other risk factors that may contribute to gout.  This includes unpreventable factors such as age, gender, and race. Changeable factors for gout can include weight, medications, and lead exposure.

One of the biggest factors for gout can also be prevented. Although purines are naturally found in the body, they also enter the body through food and drinks, which can increase the risk of gout. Read on to learn more about suitable foods and drinks for gout patients and which foods and drinks should be avoided.

Gout Diet

As previously mentioned, diet is a primary factor in gout. Historically, gout was called ‘the disease of kings’ because it was a common condition amongst wealthy men and women that were able to overindulge in meat and alcohol.

Uric acid is produced by breaking down purines. Therefore, having a lower-purine diet can help to lower the amount of uric acid in the body and lessening the risk of gout.

a. Alcohol

Reducing or removing alcohol from a diet can be a great way to reduce the risk of recurrent gout. As well as being high in purines, alcohol also hinders the body in removing excess uric acid. However, all forms of alcohol are not the same and if you do want to continue drinking alcohol, some types are better for gout than others. Beer and red wine both have particularly high purine levels and should be avoided. [2]

Beers on a table

b. Sugar

A high sugar diet may also worsen gout symptoms. Particularly, a specific type of sugar known as fructose. Fructose is a natural sugar that is often found in fruit, honey, and corn syrup. The breakdown of this natural sugar in the body can produce uric acid very quickly after eating. [4]

Sugary-sweetened soft drinks is another type of beverage that should be avoided. Research shows that people that drink one or more can of sugared soda a day have a far higher risk of suffering gout than people that rarely drink sodas. [4]

c. Meat and Seafood

Gout patients should try and limit their meat and seafood intake, although it doesn’t need to be cut from the diet entirely. People that have gout should not be eating a high-protein diet and patients should try eating more plant-based proteins such as nuts, tofu and legumes. However, gout patients may still eat small quantities of meat and seafood. Try to eat less than 4-6 oz of meat or fish a day and replace red meat with fish or poultry.

d. Low-Purine Foods

Low-purine foods are foods that have less than 100mg of purines for every 100g of food (0.1%). [5] The following foods and drinks are all considered to have a low-purine level and should be safe for gout patients: [6]

  • Fruits, especially cherries
  • Vegetables, including potatoes, leafy greens, and mushrooms
  • Legumes including beans, lentils, and tofu
  • Eggs
  • Herbs and spices
  • Low-fat dairy

Four Tupperware containers containing a mixture of rice, vegetables and beans

e. Other Diet Tips

People that are overweight or obese have a higher risk of gout than other people. They are also likely to develop gout ten years earlier than patients that are a healthy weight. [7] As well as trying to avoid foods high in purines, eating a healthy diet and exercising can help patients to reach a healthy weight, lowering the risk of gout.

Water can help to keep kidneys healthy. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day can help to remove uric acid from the body through urine. [2]

Following a gout diet is unlikely to treat gout symptoms completely, but doing so may decrease the severity and frequency of attacks. Following a gout diet should be part of a treatment plan that also includes prescription medications such as Colcrys, Uloric or Zyloprim.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.