Keeping flare-ups at bay: Foods to avoid with gout
Are you one of the millions of Americans who have gout? If you are, you're probably familiar with the often debilitating joint pain that can develop during a flare-up. Avoiding flare-ups requires a careful approach to daily living, including paying particular attention to the foods you eat.
Whether your provider recently diagnosed you with gout or you've lived with the condition for years, you may have questions about how to avoid flare-ups. Below are answers to common questions, including what foods to avoid with gout and what you should eat instead:
Q: What is gout?
A: Gout is a type of arthritis that typically affects a single joint. People with gout often experience flare-ups, which can occur for a week or two and then disappear. These flare-ups are due to hyperuricemia, in which excess uric acid levels build up and form crystals that cause joint pain and other issues.
The body produces uric acid when the body breaks down certain foods and drinks containing purines. The kidneys typically process uric acid, passing it through your urine as a waste product. High uric acid in the blood isn't always a concern, but you can develop gout if your kidneys don't process it as they should.
When gout flares up, it can cause intense pain and swelling
in a specific joint — often the big toe — and may cause the joint to redden,
stiffen, or feel warm to the touch. The pain can be debilitating, particularly
at first, then
Gout is three times more likely among men, particularly those younger than age 40, than women. However, it can affect women after menopause. Being obese increases your risk of developing gout, as does eating a high-purine diet and having certain medical conditions, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Underactive thyroid disease
- Kidney disease
Q: What foods should I
avoid gout flare-ups? remove from my diet
A: Although there's no foolproof way to eliminate gout flare-ups, changing the way you eat is an important step. To avoid gout symptoms, limit your intake of purines, which are found in:
- Red meats
- Organ meats
- Seafood, such as tuna, trout, scallops, and shrimp
Fructose, a type of sugar, can also cause gout flare-ups. Steer clear of sugary drinks and products sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, such as artificial fruit juice, sodas, and many packaged foods.
Finally, drinking alcohol has been associated with a higher risk of developing gout, so your medical provider may recommend limiting your intake or avoiding alcohol altogether. Water is the best drink for people with gout. If you want to add flavor, use fruit slices, herbs, and cucumbers.
Q: What foods can I eat to help avoid gout flare-ups?
A: You may experience fewer flare-ups if you eat a primarily plant-based diet, as all meats contain some purines. But you can usually safely eat moderate portions of some meats, such as chicken or turkey. A small amount of fresh or farm-raised salmon is also OK.
Another benefit of loading up on fruits and vegetables? They contain vitamin C, which may decrease uric acid levels. Grapefruit, pineapple, and strawberries have high levels of vitamin C but only a mild amount of fructose. Bell peppers are another good source.
Finally, tart cherries and their juice contain anthocyanins. This anti-inflammatory nutrient lowers the risk of flare-ups. Tart cherry juice alone cannot treat gout flare-ups, but it might help you avoid them.
Q: What else can I do to keep gout from flaring up?
A: Gout treatment typically focuses on two things: keeping uric acid levels in balance to prevent flare-ups and relieving pain caused by flare-ups.
Although changing your diet can help keep uric acid levels
low, it may not be enough to help manage the condition. Your provider will
likely encourage you to exercise
Medications are often necessary to treat gout-related pain. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can help when you are at home. Your doctor may prescribe other medications to lower uric acid levels, help your body eliminate excess uric acid, or treat gout-related inflammation. You could also benefit from corticosteroid injections, which are delivered directly to the affected joint.
You may also want to try at-home care, such as applying ice to the affected joint and elevating and resting the affected limb.
One final tip:
Manage your stress levels. Getting stressed out can increase your chances of
having a gout flare-up, and stress can lead to unhealthy habits, such as
drinking too much or eating unhealthy foods. Know your limits, set boundaries,
and recognize when you're feeling under pressure. Exercis
If gout flare-ups affect your feet, a Reid Health podiatrist can help you find relief through routine care and treatment. For gout concerns affecting other joints, visit the Reid Health Ortho Walk-in Now clinic.