Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis affecting more than 8 million Amercians. It is more likely to affect men however women, particularly after menopause, can become more susceptible to developing it also.
A gout attack can have these symptoms:
- Sudden, unexpected severe pain often affecting the base of the big toe
- Can also affect joints in the knee, ankle, foot and occasionally the hand, wrist, elbows or fingers
- Usually occurs at night without warning
- Joints affected will feel warm along with redness, tenderness, and swelling
- Mobility will be reduced as the gout progresses
- Pain is most severe within the first 4-12 hours
Causes of gout
Once described as a disease of the rich and famous caused by eating too much rich food and fine wine, the underlying cause is a buildup of excess uric acid in the body called hyperuricemia. The excess uric acid crystals get deposited in the joint cartilage causing excruciatingly painful symptoms within the joints.
Uric acid is a substance formed when our bodies break down purines. Purines are naturally found in all the cells of the body and in certain foods. Uric acid dissolves in blood where it is transported to the kidneys and eliminated in the urine. However, some people make too much uric acid to where the kidneys can’t process it efficiently causing a buildup of uric acid in the body.
Lifestyle factors also play a role in gout development:
- A diet high in purines
- Heavy alcohol intake
- High intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and foods high in fructose
Why diet has an important role in avoiding gout
Your diet has an important role in keeping gout attacks to a minimum. Foods high in purines can aggravate gout by causing an increase in the production of uric acid. If the kidneys are not able to eliminate excess uric acid from the body, then the levels build up causing hyperuricemia.
Foods high in purines to avoid:
- Red meat, pork and lamb
- Organ meats – liver, kidneys and sweetbreads
- Seafood – mussels, sardines, anchovies, shrimp, lobster
- Beer and hard liquor
Foods high in fructose to avoid:
There is a correlation between consuming a diet high in fructose and gout. Fructose is a simple sugar found naturally in fruit, honey and vegetables. Natural fructose is not the problem – it is the high-fructose corn syrup that is added to many foods in the American diet. Read the ingredient list looking for the words “high-fructose corn syrup.” High-fructose containing foods to avoid are:
- Soft drinks and artificially sweetened juices
- Store bought cookies, donuts, cakes, pies, pastries and breakfast cereals
- Candy bars and ice cream
- Ketchup and sweet pickle relish
- Salad dressings, BBQ sauces
5 foods and beverages good for gout:
1. Cherries – This antioxidant rich food may help by reducing uric acid levels and reducing inflammation. Several studies have shown that individuals eating cherries (fresh or frozen) or drinking cherry juice had fewer gout attacks than if they didn’t consume them. The compounds found in cherries responsible for reducing gout are anthocyanins and bioflavonoids, both which fight inflammation and help reduce uric acid levels. Eating 10 to 12 cherries a day can result in a 35% lower risk of another gout attack along with drinking tart cherry juice daily may also lower uric acid levels.
2. Vegetables – Filling your plate up with more vegetables can be smart way to lessen the likelihood of a gout attack. A 2014 study showed individuals with hyperuricemia consumed fewer vegetables. Vegetables have a much lower amount of purines than meat and are an important source of fiber, vitamin C, folate and potassium, all key nutrients associated with lower serum uric acid levels.
3. Water – A very safe and easy way to prevent recurrent gout attacks is to drink more water. A possible trigger for gout attacks might be dehydration. A 2009 study revealed that participants who drank 5-8 glasses water a day had a 43% reduction in gout attacks while those drinking more than 8 glasses a day had a 48% reduction.
4. Coffee – In addition to numerous health benefits coffee already provides, here’s one more reason to pour yourself another cup – several studies have shown a positive correlation of drinking 4 to 5 cups of coffee a day with lowering the risk of gout by 40%. The reason for this may be the antioxidant, phenol chlorogenic acid, which seems to increase insulin sensitivity helping to reduce the amount of insulin in the blood which decreases uric acid levels. That extra cup of java may just be the answer to keeping gout at bay.
5. Dairy foods – Dairy products do more than make our bones strong. Dairy foods, particularly skim milk and yogurt, seem to have protective factors in decreasing the incidence of gout. Milk is naturally low in purines and studies have found it to reduce the activity of xanthine oxidase, an enzyme involved in the production of uric acid. Milk also contains orotic acid which promotes uric acid removal by the kidneys along with milk’s anti-inflammatory properties which can also help during a gout attack.