Gout is a painful form of arthritis. Sometimes gout is referred to as inflammatory arthritis. Historically attributed to rich food and alcohol, gout used to be thought of as a disease of the wealthy. Today it is known that avoiding some foods and consuming others can help. However, diet is not the main factor in managing gout.
Attacks of gout come on suddenly, with no warning and include sudden, intense pain, tenderness warmth and swelling in joints, usually the big toe. However, other joints can be affected including ankles, fingers, wrists, knees and elbows. The spine, hips and shoulders may also be affected. Flare-ups last a few days to a week and increase in intensity and duration over time.
Causes of Gout
The cause of gout is excess uric acid in the blood, or hyperuricemia. Its primary cause is genetic. Uric acid is a waste product normally discharged in urine. When the uric acid forms into tiny crystals and gets deposited in joints, gout flares up. Uric acid is formed from the breakdown of substance called purines. Some foods contain more purines than others. One rule of thumb is that higher protein foods contain more purines, so some doctors suggest avoiding higher protein foods to prohibit aggravating or triggering gout symptoms.
Gout and Diet
Eating mostly foods that have a lower purine level may keep the crystals from forming in your joints. Foods that have higher purine:
Alcohol, especially beer. Seafood, especially anchovies, sardines, trout, haddock, scallops, mussels and caviar. Meats, including beef, pork, lamb and especially liver and kidney. Spinach, peas, beans, asparagus, cauliflower and mushrooms. Roasted nuts.
By avoiding certain foods you may be able to reduce uric acid, but medication may be at least as important as your diet. Some prescription medicines, such as allopurinol, are much more effective in controlling gout. A study at Duke University Medical Center in 2009 showed that a new drug, an enzyme called pegloticase, lowered uric acid in blood within hours of taking it.
Modern medicine now believes dietary restrictions assume a secondary role in controlling gout. Adding in foods that are higher in vitamin C may provide a useful option in the prevention of gout, according to Dr. Hyon K. Choi of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Citrus fruits, black cherries, blueberries and strawberries are all good options for adding vitamin C to your diet. Supplements are another source. Dr. Choi's study showed that by adding 1,500 mg of Vitamin C a day, a person could reduce his risk of a gout attack by 45 per cent. To achieve the best results and avoid flare-ups, doctors also suggest gradual weight loss to lessen the load on affected weight-bearing joints and decrease uric acid levels. However, avoid fasting or rapid weight loss, because this can actually raise uric acid levels.