Gout is a painful form of arthritis, which occurs with high levels of uric acid in the blood, causing the formation and accumulation of crystals in and around the joints
Uric acid is produced when the body breaks down a chemical called purine. Purine occurs naturally in the body, but is also found in certain foods. Uric acid is eliminated from the body in the urine.
People with gout experience sudden, sometimes severe bouts of pain, swelling and inflammation of the joints. Fortunately, gout can be controlled with medication, proper healthy eating and diet and lifestyle changes.
A diet suitable for gout can help reduce uric acid levels in your blood. It may not be easy, but it will reduce the risk of recurrent gout attacks and slow down the progression of damage to your joints.
However, it is important to mention that people with gout, unfortunately, also need drugs to control pain and lower uric acid levels.
Goals of the diet for gout
The gout diet is designed to help you:
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight and good eating habits.
- Learn to avoid certain foods with purines.
- Learn to recognize foods that can control uric acid levels in your blood and that can increase it.
What exactly are purines?
Purines are a type of organic compound that is found in a variety of foods, but they are also produced naturally by our body. Chemically, purines form the building blocks of DNA and play a key role in maintaining our overall health.
However, purine bases break down to uric acid, which can cause crystals to build up in the joints and cause gout. Therefore, a low purine diet is often recommended to prevent the build-up of uric acid in the blood.
Details of a diet for gout
General principles of the diet follow the typical recommendations for a healthy diet:
- Weight loss: Being overweight increases the risk of developing gout, and losing weight reduces the risk of gout Studies show that reducing calories consumed and losing weight, even without a purine-restricted diet, lowers uric acid levels and reduces the number of gout attacks. Weight loss also reduces the overall stress on the joints
- Complex carbohydrates: Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to secure complex carbohydrates. Avoid foods and beverages high in fructose, corn syrup and limit the consumption of naturally sweet fruit juices.
- Water: Be well hydrated.
- Fats: Reduce the amount of saturated fats from red meat and dairy products high in fat.
- Protein: Eat a moderate amount of meat, low-fat dairy products and more legumes for a good source of protein.
All healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, are promoted as part of the diet, while ingredients such as red meat, seafood, game and other meat products should be are consumed in moderation or avoided.
Foods high in fructose, which is a type of sugar, should also be limited. Fructose is broken down into purine, which can increase uric acid levels in the body. Although fructose is found naturally in fruits, these foods are also high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, which can compensate for possible negative effects.
Soft drinks, fruit juices and processed foods usually contain a concentrated amount of fructose or sugar and should be limited or avoided in a gout diet. Low purine diets are recommended for gout sufferers to keep symptoms to a minimum.
Recommendations for specific foods and supplements:
- Organ meats: Avoid meats such as liver, kidneys and others. They will increase the levels of uric acid in your blood.
- Red meat: Limit the consumption of beef, lamb and pork
- Seafood: Some types of seafood such as mussels, sardines and tuna have high levels of purine. Do not overdo it with fish, because it can cause an imbalance in gout.
- High-purine vegetables: Unlike other foods, studies show that high-purine vegetables, such as asparagus and spinach, do not increase the risk of gout, so you can eat them without restrictions.
- Alcohol: Beer and distilled liquids increase the risk of gout and recurrent attacks. Moderate consumption of wine does not seem to increase the risk of gout attacks, but avoid large amounts of any alcohol, especially beer.
- Sugar foods and beverages: Limit or completely avoid sugar-sweetened foods such as sweetened cereals, baked goods and candies
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C can help lower uric acid levels. You can take a dietary supplement of this vitamin without a problem, but still, talk to your doctor beforehand, just in case.
- Coffee: Some studies suggest that drinking coffee, especially coffee with high levels of caffeine, can significantly lower uric acid levels
- Cherries: There are studies that say eating cherries reduces the risk of gout attacks
- Eat: Nuts, peanut butter, cereals, potatoes, rice, bread, pasta and eggs (moderate)
Following a diet suitable for gout can help limit uric acid production and increase its elimination. Unfortunately, a gout diet is unlikely to lower blood uric acid levels enough to treat the condition without medication.
However, a good diet can help reduce the number of attacks and reduce their severity.
Following a proper diet for gout, along with calorie restriction and regular exercise, can improve your overall health by helping you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
What increases the chances of gout?
Here’s what will make you more likely to develop hyperuricemia, which causes gout:
- If you are a man
- In obesity
- Certain health conditions, such as:
- Congestive heart failure
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Insulin resistance
- Metabolic syndrome
- Poor kidney function
- Use of medicines such as diuretics
- Alcohol use. The risk of gout is greater with increasing alcohol intake.
- Consumption of foods and beverages high in fructose.
How is gout diagnosed?
The doctor diagnoses gout, by evaluating your symptoms and the results of your examination, your X-ray and your laboratory tests, such as a blood or urine test.
Gout can only be diagnosed during an attack, when the joint is hot, swollen and painful, and when a laboratory test can detect uric acid crystals in the affected joint.
Risks and side effects
Although a low-purine diet is often recommended to minimize gout attacks and reduce symptoms, medications and other treatments are almost always needed. For example, anti-inflammatory drugs are often prescribed to relieve symptoms during an attack, and other types of drugs are sometimes used to reduce the body’s production of uric acid.
Also, keep in mind that a low-purine diet may not help prevent all types of kidney stones. In fact, if you have calcium oxalate, cystine, or struvite kidney stones, other, more specific dietary modifications, lifestyle changes, and treatments may be needed to help.