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Foods That Cause Gout

Foods that cause gout tend to be high in purines.

Shellfish are among the foods the cause gout due to their high purine content.. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Shellfish are among the foods the cause gout due to their high purine content..

Foods That Cause Gout

Foods that cause gout tend to be high in purines. Purines are chemical compounds that are broken down into uric acid. High levels of uric acid can cause gout attacks. Most purines are produced by the body, but there are some foods that contain purines that gout sufferers should avoid. As the body processes purines, it produces uric acid as a waste product. If the body does not remove uric acid from the bloodstream, it may build up in the joints and cause inflammation and pain. People with gout usually experience acute attacks that come at night. The pain is severe, and most often concentrated in the joint of the big toe. Pain can also occur in the wrists, ankles, knees or feet. Left untreated, sufferers usually experience five to 10 days of intense pain; it can take up to two weeks for the gout to disappear entirely.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, gout is a type of arthritis that affects three million Americans. It is linked to chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia. Men tend to develop gout between the ages of 40 and 50; women are less likely to get gout, but their risk increases after menopause. Those with kidney conditions are also at risk, and the condition often runs in families.

Gout Treatments

Traditionally, gout treatment meant an extremely limited diet, but the Mayo Clinic reports that this is no longer necessarily the case. Oral medications can help the body remove uric acid without eliminating certain foods. Still, patients can try dietary modification to reduce the severity of their attacks. Weight loss can ease stress on the joints, which can contribute to gout.

There are also times when gout medication might interfere with other drugs a patient is on, or cause unpleasant side effects. Colchicine, a drug often used to treat gout, may cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to limit swelling, but can cause diarrhea and ulcers. Patients who have a condition that causes ulcers, who are taking blood-thinning medication or who have a kidney condition should not take NSAIDs. To relieve gout, doctors often tailor treatment to the patient and this can mean a combination of drugs and dietary restrictions.

Fluids to Drink and to Avoid

Doctors advise gout patients to avoid alcohol, which interferes with the body's ability to remove uric acid. Those suffering from acute gout attacks should eliminate it entirely. In addition to avoiding alcohol, gout sufferers should avoid sugary soft drinks that my contribute to gout as well.

There are plenty of fluids that help to cleanse the blood of uric acid. Patients can try drinking eight to 16 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice, which promotes kidney health. Unsweetened cherry juice, which is rich in antioxidants, may help ease symptoms. Decaffeinated green tea may also be helpful as it contains antioxidants too.

Foods to Avoid

Foods like herring, mackerel, shellfish, anchovies, and organ meats like sweetbreads, liver, kidney and brain are high in purines, and should be avoided by those who are prone to gout. Though patients are often advised to lose weight, an Atkins-like diet low in carbohydrates and high in proteins may contribute to gout, since most meats contain a moderate amount of purines. Patients should also cut back on foods that contain oxalates, which are crystals that may build up in the blood and cause gout. Such foods include spinach, wheat bran, strawberries, rhubarb, nuts, chocolate and black tea.

Cutting back on trans-fatty acids can reduce the hypertension and hyperlipidemia associated with gouts. Trans-fats are found in processed and fried foods like french fries; shelf-baked goods like crackers and cookies; and butter substitutes like margarine. Finally, because gout is caused by inflammation, patients can try eliminating foods that may cause it including wheat gluten, dairy products and corn.

Foods to Eat

There are also foods that can reduce gout symptoms and improve overall health. In addition to antioxidant-rich fluids like cranberry and cherry juice and green tea, there are also plenty of fruits and vegetables that provide the same benefits. Blueberries, tomatoes, squash and bell peppers are all recommended. And instead of cherry juice, patients can opt to eat a half pound of cherries a day to lower their uric acid levels.

The University of Maryland Medical Center, recommends replacing red meats with lean meats and cold water fish. Tofu and beans are also healthy ways to get protein without eating meat. In addition to cold water fish, patients can take fish oil capsules, which contain omega-3 fatty acids. High fiber foods, including oats and potatoes, onions, beets, carrots and psyllium seed may be helpful. Foods high in magnesium like bananas, avocados, brown rice, bran and barley are recommended as well. Gout patients should also try to cook with healthy vegetable and olive oils, rather than those that contain trans-fats.

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