The pain of a gout flare-up is an agony most people never want to endure again once they’ve experienced it. An illness caused by an elevation of uric acid in the body and characterized by aching, redness and swelling in the joints, gout more commonly attacks people who have a diet high in red meat and fats. It can be very painful and reduce mobility when the swelling occurs, but with appropriate prevention and medical care, gout can be treated with success.
Allopurinol is a medication known to lower uric acid levels and ward off flare-ups. Medication, however, is not the only option for averting a gout incident. There are simple lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your chance of getting a painful gout attack and help you avoid this illness altogether.
EAT A LOW-PURINE DIET
Meat and seafood, especially organ meats, are high in purines, which are broken down by the body into uric acid. When there’s too much uric acid in the blood, it forms crystals that lodge in joint spaces. Some vegetables are high in purine as well, although eating purine-rich vegetables doesn’t seem to increase the risk of gout like animal products do. Replacing the meat in your diet with vegetarian sources of protein, like soy, generally helps with reducing episodes of gout by lowering uric acid levels.
Other foods to avoid include nuts and seeds and full-fat dairy products. Low-fat dairy products and certain types of fruit such as cherries and other berries may actually be beneficial. One study showed that those who ate more low-fat dairy foods were able to reduce their risk of gout flares in half. Replace whole milk products with low-fat milk and low-fat yogurt – and look for a list of high-purine foods online. Avoid these foods to prevent gout.
A low-purine diet may not be enough to prevent attacks in everyone. Some people still need medications, but adopting a low-purine diet can help with the frequency and severity of the event.
CHANGE WHAT YOU DRINK
Certain types of beverages increase the risk of gout flares in people who are prone to the disease. Alcoholic beverages, especially beer, should be avoided because they boost uric acid levels. The exception is wine. Drinking modest amounts of wine – one or two glasses – may slightly reduce the risk of a gout attack. Just don’t go overboard.
Soft drinks should be avoided completely. They contain the sweetener fructose, which increases the risk of a gout flare. Fructose is also found naturally in fruits, but fruits contain antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory compounds that offset this risk, and some fruits may actually be beneficial because of their anti-inflammatory properties.
Carrying around excess weight is a double whammy. It raises uric acid levels and reduces its elimination. Getting to a healthy body weight can greatly reduce the number of gout flares you have. And the importance of exercise should not be underestimated. Many people with gout also have elevated triglyceride levels and lipid abnormalities, losing weight and exercising can help to correct these problems, too.
CONSUME MORE VITAMIN C
Vitamin C helps the kidneys excrete uric acid, which is a good thing if you’re prone to gout. On the other hand, high doses of vitamin C also increase the risk of kidney stones, especially if you take it in conjunction with certain medications used to treat gout. Supplemental vitamin C has shown some benefit for lowering uric acid levels and preventing gout flares, but talk to your doctor before taking vitamin C as a supplement. As an alternative, eat more vitamin C rich fruit to help your body better handle uric acid. Some good choices would be bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwi, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas, and papayas.
THE BOTTOM LINE?
Making these lifestyle changes won’t ensure you’ll never have another gout flare, but it can limit their frequency, and, for some people, it may reduce the need for medication. Implementing these changes, especially exercise and weight loss, is also good for your overall health.
If you are experiencing symptoms and have concerns about your joint health, you can walk into any Urgent Clinics Medical Care location in the Houston Metropolitan area including Pearland, Champions, The Woodlands and 3 locations in League City: Creekside, Marina Bay and Tuscan Lakes. No appointment is necessary and our experienced healthcare providers can administer professional medical services to treat the painful, debilitating condition.
Annals of Rheumatic Disease. 2000; 59; 539-43.
Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2004; 50(8): 2400-2414.
Victor Konshin. (2009) Beating Gout. Ayerware Publishing