Historically called “the rich man’s disease”, gout is definitely not a pot of gold to search for. In the past, the rich would be the ones to suffer from gout because of the lavish and expensive diet it often took to acquire the condition. Today, gout is often found in older men and is sometimes seen in women after menopause. According to The Arthritis Foundation, about 6.1 million Americans have suffered from a gout attack. Characterized by inflamed joints and swelling, gout can cause severe damage if not controlled. Becoming educated about this somewhat mysterious, historically renowned disease is the best defense you can take to lower your risk of getting gout.
While there is not one single cause for gout, studies show that gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood which is known as a condition called hyperuricemia. It is important to note that while hyperuricemia is the main underlying factor that causes gout, many with this condition will never experience a single gout attack. When high levels of uric acid collect around the joints, uric acid crystals are created & cause the joint to swell. Uric acid is the product of purines, which are naturally occurring substances that are found in the body and in most foods that have been broken down. Gout can also result from obesity, diet or even genetics.
Symptoms & the 4 Stages of Gout
The first stage of gout involves high uric acid in the blood, but with no inflammation or pain of the joints. The second stage of gout, or acute gouty arthritis, is the period of time in which gout causes inflammation and swelling in the joints. While a majority of people report swelling or pain in their big toe, others have seen swelling in other joints such as fingers, ankles and knees. For most, gout attacks happen at nighttime and shortly after waking up. Although gout attacks may not happen for years at a time, a single attack can last for many weeks or a few days. The last two stages of gout include the symptom-free time between gout attacks & chronic gout. Chronic gout is the most painful and most disabling stage, with permanent damage seen to the affected joints.
Prevention & Treatment
Recent medical advances have found certain medicines that can control and treat gout. If a gout attack is already taking place, home care involves resting the joint and anti-inflammatory medicine to dull the pain. To prevent a gout attack from happening, changing your eating habits will lower your risk. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases certain foods can actually make your gout worse. Paying close attention to your food intake can help you prevent & manage gout attacks.
Foods & Habits to Avoid
- Do not consume large amounts of alcohol, especially beer, gin and whiskey.
- Limited whole grain intake but do not rid them completely from your diet.
- Limit your intake of asparagus, cauliflower and mushrooms.
- Foods high in purines to avoid:
- Liver and kidneys
- Meats especially bacon, beef, pork, and lamb, and large amounts of meat of any kind.
- Anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel, and scallops
While the foods on the “avoid” list may be some of your favorites, there are still many other foods that are just as delicious that you can enjoy while on a gout diet. Vegetables are one of the best defenses against the uric acid that causes gout. By making your diet generally healthier you will lower your risk of gout attacks dramatically.
Recommended Foods to Eat
- Sweet potatoes
- Fresh cherries, strawberries, blueberries, and other red-blue berries
- Low-fat or skim milk.
- Low-fat yogurt.
- A wide range of fruits and vegetables.
- Eggs, nuts, and seeds for protein.
- Small amounts of meat. Limit your serving size to 2 to 3 ounces a day.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids. This can help your body get rid of uric acid.
- Vegetables including kale, cabbage, parsley, green-leafy vegetables
- Foods high in bromelain (pineapple)
- Foods high in vitamin C (red cabbage, red bell peppers, tangerines, mandarins, oranges, potatoes)
- Drink fruit juices and purified water (8 glasses of water per day)
- Low-fat dairy products
- Complex carbohydrates (breads, cereals, pasta, rice, as well as aforementioned vegetables and fruits)
- Chocolate, cocoa
- Coffee, tea
- Carbonated beverages
- Essential fatty acids (tuna and salmon, flaxseed, nuts, seeds)
- Tofu, although a legume and made from soybeans, may be a better choice than meat
While gout attacks may not be completely preventable, it is important to avoid actions that may cause symptoms. Living a healthy life, limiting high-purine intake and alcohol consumption, talking to your doctor and the continuation of eating vegetables are important actions to take
This post was written by Justin Garvin, a staff writer for NorthShore. Northshore is an integrated health system with dedicated medical offices and hospitals in Chicago. The core mission of NorthShore University HealthSystem is to preserve and improve human life. Visit NorthShore today for personalized wellness services today.
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