Gout is an ancient and complex form of arthritis that can affect almost anyone. Roughly 3.9% of Americans suffer from gout, with men being more commonly affected than women. Gout symptoms often include inflammation, swelling, redness, decreased mobility and intense joint pain in the feet, ankles, knees, wrists or hands. An attack of gout can occur suddenly and without warning, often waking people up in the middle of the night with painful sensations. Sometimes the affected area is so tender and swollen that even a bed sheet may appear to be causing discomfort.
Fortunately, gout is treatable, and there are also ways to decrease its severity by modifying diet and omitting certain foods that are known contributors to gout flare-ups.
What Not To Eat
Traditionally, gout was a associated with the social upper-class, as only they could afford to “overindulge” in certain rich food groups such as meats, seafood, and alcohol. Long before modern medicine began studying the causes of the condition, doctors were witnessing many advantages of using a controlled diet on gout patients.
These days, the goal of a gout diet is to address all of the factors that relate to disease risk and management; which generally means maintaining a healthy weight and consuming an adequate amount of nutrition — standards that apply to the prevention of many diseases.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
High-fructose corn syrup is present in many modern sweet foods such as breakfast cereals, sodas, ice creams, and even sports drinks. Removing HFCS from your diet is essential in helping to prevent gout.
Gout is often caused by hyperuricemia; which is a build up of uric acid levels in your blood. High fructose corn syrup prevents your kidneys from being able to expel this uric acid, which leads to a buildup inside your body.
Eating foods that are rich in purine can cause gout attacks. Purine is a chemical compound found in many foods which also contributes to the build-up of uric acid. When your body breaks down a food containing purines, uric acid is formed – which can often lead to gout attacks. Some foods that should be avoided due to their high purine content include organ meats, game meats, bacon, shellfish, anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel. Other foods that have moderately high levels of purine and should also be limited include grouse, mutton, bacon, salmon, turkey, partridge, trout, goose, haddock & pheasant.
The prevalence of highly processed food in the standard American diet is shocking. Apart from high-fructose corn syrup, different preservatives and additives are also used in most processed food, causing the foods to be nutritionally deficient and contributing to the risk of various diseases.
Staying away from processed foods is just common sense – but it will also help to protect you from gout attacks.
Alcoholic beverages contribute strongly to the risk factor for gout, since these types of drinks not only increase your blood uric acid levels but they also force your kidneys to deal with excreting the alcohol as a first priority, which therefore allows the levels of uric acid to continue building. Drinking too much wine can also raise your insulin levels, which is widely considered to be a significant risk factor for diabetes.
What You Can Eat
It’s not all doom and gloom for those who suffer from gout. There are many foods that will not cause gout flare-ups and a few that may even contribute to softening the effects of this condition.
A low-purine diet can help lower uric acid levels and work to prevent symptoms of gout. Beans and legumes are high in protein and consuming these plant-based sources can help to meet your daily protein requirements while cutting out the saturated fat that is often found in high-purine, animal-based proteins. Foods that you can eat daily include beans and lentils, legumes, whole grains (like oats, brown rice, and barley), quinoa, sweet potatoes, spinach and other leafy greens, peas, asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms and a variety of other high fiber vegetables. Furthermore, vegetables that are high in fiber and low in calories can help you manage your weight. Vitamin C rich foods such as berries and other fruits have also been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of gout.
High water intake is also essential in controlling gout. Keep yourself thoroughly hydrated by drinking water regularly and increase the amount you drink each day, if need be. An increase in daily water consumption has been linked to fewer gout attacks.
Lifestyle Changes For Gout
Gout is a condition that can be severely aggravated by being overweight, so maintaining a reasonable level of fitness is an important component in limiting the prevalence of gout attacks. For people who are overweight, production of uric acid often increases and the pain from gout flare-ups can become more intense. If you feel that you might be a little overweight, it’s important go easy on your joints, avoiding any exercises that may cause a high level of stress on areas of inflammation. Ask your doctor or physical therapist to assist you in creating some simple exercises that will help reduce your risk of gout attacks.