Gout affects the big toe most commonly, but it can also affect other areas like the fingers, wrists, knees and heels.
If the uric acid levels remain high, people with gout can experience gout symptoms. Therefore, the management of gout is aimed at keeping it at a healthy level.
This article focuses on how diet impacts gout; including the foods to avoid and foods to add. But just before we do that, let us talk a bit on some lifestyle changes that can help lower uric acid levels.
Lifestyle Changes To Consider
Medication and diet can help lower your uric acid levels. But adding other healthy lifestyle changes can make the management of gout all the more elaborate and successful.
If you have gout, consider the following lifestyle changes:
- Exercise regularly. This will help you generally maintain a healthy body. But more importantly, it is a good way to loose excess weight. Studies have shown that excess weight can cause insulin resistance which can promote high uric acid levels and predispose you to diabetes.
- Drink water frequently to stay hydrated. The body removes excess uric acid through urine. So the more hydrated you are by drinking lots of water, the more your body flushes out uric acid and prevent gout attacks.
- Supplementing with vitamin C has also been shown to be beneficial in gout. Vitamin C helps in lowering uric acid by helping the kidneys produce more urine. However, more studies are being carried out to ascertain the effectiveness of vitamin C for this function.
- Stay away from alcohol. Alcohol competes with uric acid during excretion. So instead of your body to excrete excess uric acid effectively, it excretes alcohol instead. This leads to further increase in uric acid build up in the body which can result in gout attacks.
Role of Diet in Uric Acid Levels and Gout
Uric acids are waste products from food metabolism in the body. Your body produces uric acids by breaking down a substance called purine, which is found in many foods we eat. Normally, your body has a way of maintaining uric acid levels by excreting any excess uric acids out of the body through urine. This happens without any difficulty in healthy people.
Those who already have gout however, can not efficiently excrete these excess uric acid from their bodies. So when they eat foods that contain high purine, their uric acid levels remains high, which can trigger gout symptoms.
The most effective way for gout patients to reduce uric acid and maintain healthy levels is by avoiding or limiting certain foods high in purine – of course, in addition to their medications and other lifestyle changes. This is the best way for them to prevent gout attacks.
Now let’s talk about the foods you should stay away from if you have gout. These foods can increase your uric acid levels because of their moderate or high purine content.
Foods That Can Increase Uric Acid Levels
As stated earlier, our bodies have a way of maintaining healthy levels of uric acid by eliminating the excesses. But for some reasons, those who already have gout have a difficulty doing that. Therefore, their best shot is to identify those foods that can increase their uric acid levels and limit them or completely avoid them as the case may be.
Your doctor and dietitian would normally educate you about gout and give you the advice on foods to avoid. If perhaps you haven’t spoken with your healthcare provider yet about your gout symptoms, ensure you do that. However, here are some general foods to put a red sign over if you have gout:
Meat of mammals are referred to as red meat. They are named so because of their red colour when raw. Red meat contains high purine. Purines, when broken down in the body produces uric acid as a waste product.
Excess uric acid which cannot be excreted by gout patients increases the build up of uric acid crystals which can trigger gout symptoms and attack.
Those with gout should avoid organ meats such as liver, kidneys and other organ or glandular parts of animals. Organ meats contain moderate to high levels of purine, which can increase uric acid levels when broken down by the body.
Although organ meats are very nutritious, they should be consumed with limitation or avoided completely when trying to prevent gout attacks and symptoms.
Gout patients should avoid sea foods such as shrimps, sardines, lobsters, mussels, e.t.c. Among other healthful nutrients contain is sea foods, they are also rich in purines. But since gout patients have a hard time excreting excess uric acid from the body, they need to stay away from them to prevent attacks and symptoms of gout.
Alcohol and Beer
Gout patients should avoid beer and liquor. They can predispose them to and worsen their gout symptoms. This is because of the purine content in beer and liquor which increases uric acid levels in the body.
Generally, its a healthier choice to stay away from alcohol if you have any health condition because of its impact on the body. But healthy people who can not completely stay away from alcohol should limit alcohol intake to 2 bottles per day for males, and 1 bottle per day for females.
High Fructose Products
Although they are low in purine, research has shown that high fructose products and sweetened beverages can increase the risk of gout symptoms and attacks. Gout patients should therefore steer clear of products like soda, candy, ice cream, cereal, fast foods and some juices.
Foods That Can Lower Uric Acid Levels
Since we have seen those foods that can increase uric acid levels, now let’s talk about those foods that can actually reduce uric acid in the body.
Your diet goal should be to add foods that can reduce your uric acid levels, and avoid those that will increase uric acid.
Hear are some foods to consider adding to your diet because of their low purine content:
- Vegetables: Interestingly, although vegetables contain high purine, studies have shown that eating vegetables do not increase uric acid levels in the body. On the contrary, vegetables (peas, potatoes, dark green leafy veggies, mushrooms and eggplants) reduce uric acid levels and help minimize gout symptoms and attacks.
- Fruits: Fresh fruits like cherries, apples, berries, lime, bananas, and other fruits can help lower uric acid levels and reduce inflammation from gout.
- Nuts and seeds: Gout patients can gain some uric acid lowering benefits by adding various nuts and seeds to their diet.
- Whole grains: Whole grains like rice, oat, barley and others help absorb uric acid from the blood stream, thereby reducing the risk of uric acid crystal build up and gout symptoms.
- Legumes: Legumes like beans, lentils, and soy beans have uric acid lowering benefits for gout symptoms.
- Eggs: Eggs should be eaten with moderation, but they are generally okay for people with gout.
- Meat and fish: Some meats like chicken and fish are fine. However, gout patients should consume them with moderation.
- Dairy foods: low fat diary products can be beneficial in reducing swelling and inflammation in gout by lowering uric acid levels in the body.
- Oils: Plant-based oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, and flax oil are rich in omega-3 which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. They are beneficial for gout symptoms by helping lower uric acid levels.
- Spices and Herbs: All herbs and spices like ginger, garlic and the rest are fine for consumption by gout patients.
- Beverages: Gout patients should stay away from alcoholic and sweetened beverages. But beverages such as coffee, tea and green tea can help reduce high uric acid in the body.
There are numerous daily and weekly diet plan out there for patients with gout. However, one should take note that there is no specific diet plan that can completely eliminate gout. It is best to work closely with your doctor and your dietitian. They will help you find a plan that works best for you, based on your symptoms and specific needs.