Before we get into the diet and everything else, let’s first say a few things about the condition, and what gout really is. Gout is actually a form of arthritis, which manifests itself suddenly and painfully in the form of inflamed joints. If you do not treat and control the condition, it will get out of hand and can cause other problems, like damage to the tendons, the joints, and other tissues.
What actually causes gout is a high level of uric acid in the blood. This acid is produced by breaking down a chemical known as purine. This chemical can occur in the body in a natural way, but can also be found in some foods. The body eliminates this acid through the urine.
Before, the condition was treated by strict dietary regimens, but now there are suitable medications in place, which have helped eliminate the symptoms, and even the need of a strict diet.
Nevertheless, a dietary regimen may still help your condition, as it can help decrease the levels of uric acid in your blood, so stick with us if you’d like to get more information on the diet and the products you’ll need to avoid to help get your gout under control.
History of gout
Gout has always been associated with the wealthy, and has been considered as a disease of the richest people. That’s mainly because it is caused from overindulgence in products that were not available to everyone, such as meats, and seafood, even alcohol. So even before the condition and the causes were understood, doctors had found a connection between the foods you eat and the symptoms of the condition.
Many years before medication for gout was invented, treatment meant eliminating the foods which were causing the problems. The list was very long however, and that complicated things a bit, and made it a bit hard for people to follow the list.
What we know now
Today we know much more about the condition, and we have a better understanding of the symptoms, as well as many improvements in the treatments. We now know that not all foods with purine in them should be eliminated, some should be, while others should only be avoided, or eaten in very small quantities. We also know that there are some foods which help with controlling the uric acid levels in the blood, and therefore should definitely be included in your diet.
The main purpose of the diet is to get you to a normal weight and teach you how to eat healthy, which is always a welcomed change, and will not only improve you condition, but will also improve your overall health and well-being
What causes the gout attacks?
The gout attacks occur when the uric acid levels in your blood reach high levels, start collecting in the joints and start making sharp crystals. They are mostly formed in the feet, the big toe, wrists, ankles, elbows, or knees. The pain is actually caused by those sharp crystals poking the soft tissues around them, and by the inflammation and swelling that they also cause. The immune system then gets the word that there is a treat and inflammation in a part of the body and sends white blood cells to help fight it off. The white blood cells are, however ripped off by the sharp uric acid, just as soon as they arrive there.
How can dieting help?
As we already mentioned, gout is a type of arthritis and is caused by the forming of crystals, on account of the high levels of uric acid in your blood. This crystals will then cause pain and swelling in your joints. The way the diet works is by lowering the intake of foods which cause a spike in the uric acid levels, helping you avoid possible future attacks of gout. When this happens the body experiences even more pain, and the inflammation increases. This is why you have to immediately do something about the symptoms, in order to avoid it from getting even worse. A healthy diet can do its trick here, and we are here to help you figure out exactly what type of diet that is.
What other illnesses can be associated with gout?
Elevated levels of the same, uric acid can be found in many other conditions too. People who have gout may also have raised cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure and may have a low tolerance of glucose. These predispositions may make it easier for you to develop metabolic syndrome, kidney disease or type 2 diabetes. Another link is also established between the patients’ weight and gout disease, with over half of gout’s patients being overweight.
If you are also carrying a lot of weight around your you waist, meaning you have central obesity, you will increase your risk of more frequent gout attracts, as well as some other problems, including heart disease.
Can your weight be a factor?
Yes, indeed. Weight can be a factor for developing symptoms not only for gout, but even for other diseases, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many other. The logical thing to try and do in such situations is to work on losing as much weight as you can in order to relieve your symptoms a bit. Try losing the extra weight in a natural and healthy way, with a healthy and nutritious diet, and a workout regimen. Do not even attempt of going on any sort of crash dieting, or any rigorous diets for that matter, since the prolonged periods of caloric and food restrictions may lead to an increase of uric acid in your blood.
The diet regimen
What should I avoid?
While on a gout diet it is recommended that you avoid, or eliminate some of the high purine foods. Those are:
- Yeast extracts and meat: beer, commercial gravy, Bovril and Marmite, turkey, goose, beef, pork
- Offal: heart, liver, brain, kidneys and sweetbreads
- Game: pheasant, venison, rabbit
- Oily fish: mackerel, herring, sardines, whitebait, sprats, anchovies, trout
- Seafood: shrimp, mussels, scallops fish roe and caviar
If you do want to include some animal protein in your diet, you can take up to 6 ounces a day and no more.
There are some animal proteins that are a bit lower in purines, and can be taken in moderation (up to 6 ounces a day). Those are:
- Mutton, bacon, salmon, partridge, trout, and haddock.
Alcohol also stands in the way of the process of removing uric acid from the body. Alcohol increases the purine levels, and they disrupt the uric acid balance, leading to a buildup of the acid, and the forming of gout. To prevent the symptoms and the attacks simply stick to this 3 pieces of advice:
- Lay off alcohol while you’re having an attack
- Limit the amount of wine you drink
- Eliminate beer
Sugary foods and refined carbs may not have a direct link to, or effect on the uric acid levels, but they do however lead to overweight and obesity problems, and those two are well known factors for gout. Sodas, and soft drinks have also been known to increase the risk of gout. They are high in fructose, and increase the uric acid levels in the blood.
White bread, pasta, cakes and candies are to be limited if you have gout, since they have a lot of refined sugar in them, and are allowed in very small amounts.
What should I include in my diet?
You might have guessed by now that the best foods to eat if you have gout will be those that are low in purine. Your best source of protein would be the legumes and the beans. Eating them will help you reach your daily protein needs, and you’ll also be cutting down saturated fat, because you’ll be limiting your animal protein intake.
Foods and drinks which we recommend for you are:
- Lentils, beans and legumes
- Lots of fluids, water being the most important one
- Dairy (16-24 oz. per day)
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grains (barley, brown rice and oats)
- Fruits and veggies
The dairy consumption is the only one that has been debated over and over again, and is a little bit tricky. What we mean by that is that some people find dairy very helpful with their symptoms, while others report an increase of symptoms because of the dairy intake. If you need to avoid dairy you may try some of the tasty alternatives, like: almond, cashew or coconut milk, tofu and so on. You can also try increasing your intake of:
- Vitamin C rich foods and cherries
- Veggies which are high in fiber, like: spinach, asparagus, peas, mushrooms, cauliflower and many other veggies, especially the leafy green ones.
Here’s what a sample menu may look like
- Unsweetened, whole grain cereal, with skim, almond or coconut milk
- A cup of strawberries
- A glass of water, and a cup of unsweetened coffee
- 3 slices of roasted turkey breast with a piece of whole grain bread
- Green salad with an olive oil dressing and balsamic vinegar
- A glass of milk
- A glass or two of water
- 3-4 ounces of roasted salmon
- Steamed or roasted veggies
- Half a cup of steamed brown rice
- A glass of yogurt
- A cup of sliced fresh watermelon
- A cup of tea, and a glass of water
As a snack you can have a cup of mixed berries and a glass of water.
How to treat gout attacks
If you have already had some gout symptoms you are familiar with the pain they bring about, and the agony that comes with them. Your joint become so sensitive and inflamed that it becomes hard to do just about any activity. The pain is often persistent for days and makes even simple everyday things, like sleeping, hard to do. You just want it to be over with, but you don’t know how to stop it. That’s when we come in, as we’ll try to share as much of the tips that are known to work in such cases.
- First thing you need to do is try and release the inflammation by taking an anti-inflammatory pill, such as ibuprofen. That should give you a quick relief. It’s a quick fix for the pain you’ll be experiencing, as well the inflammation, but it won’t help clear out the crystals from your joints. One thing you always need to remember is to take anti-inflammatory medications after you have eaten something, as they are not easy on the stomach.
- Drink plenty of water. If you have gout, that means that your body is overloaded in uric acid, so the more fluids you take, the better are your chances be of flushing out all those toxins and uric acid through your urine. So grab that bottle of water and start drinking.
- Take a rest. If you are experiencing a gout attack you should by no means be on your feet. You should be laying down, and resting. Keep that foot raised, in order to get less blood flow in that region.
- Putting an ice bag on top of it also wouldn’t hurt. An ice bag could soothe the region and help with the joint pain. The best way to do it is to ice the joints in 20 to 30 minute intervals.
- Get a big bowl of tart cherries. Tart cherries are not only delicious, but also have anthocyanins in them, which block the COX-1 and COX-2, which are pro-inflammatory. They also help get rid of the uric acid.
A few extra tips
- Increasing the amount of water you drink daily, and cutting down on sodas and soft drinks will ease your process of flushing out the uric acid in your body, which in term will help you prevent kidney stones.
- Though we all know how tempting and delicious sweets can be, it is better to try and leave them off your plate. Make room for healthier, plant-based, gout-safe options.
- Foods rich in vitamin C, and cherries have shown a lot of positive effects on reducing gout attracts.
- Natural food remedies are often used by people in order to avoid the cost and possible side effects that medication might lead to.
- Some studies have found out that drinking coffee actually reduces the risk for gout in both men and women.
- Try to lose some weight as well, as a lot of studies have found that overweight and obesity problems are directly associated with gout. Losing weight can also help you lower the uric acid levels in your blood and can reduce the gout attacks. You should always try to lose the extra weight in a healthy and natural way, as a fasting or fad diet may actually increase the uric acid levels and increase the chances of gout attacks.
- Although it is possible to have the gout attacks under control and also be able to drink some amount of alcohol, you should try to cut down on alcohol consumption as much as you can. You should especially avoid binge drinking (drinking a huge quantity all at once).
- Dehydration is also one of the risk factors and is something you certainly shouldn’t allow to happen. That is why you should try and get in at least 1.5 l of water a day. If you are however taking diuretics, or have some kidney problems you’ll need to consult your doctor on how you should proceed.
- You may also notice that some foods work better for you than they worked for others, while some don’t even make a difference in your symptoms. That’s because not all people are alike, and not all people react to medication and foods the same way. The best advice we can give you is to try the foods recommended and see which ones work best, after you know for sure which foods alleviate your pain and inflammation and which make it worse, just stick to the first ones and you’ll be on your way to recovery in no time.
It’s important to have in mind that this diet is not a treatment for gout. It is in fact a change in lifestyle that will increase your chances of alleviating the symptoms and even eliminating them. Although the diet is very helpful and offers many positive outcomes, the diet alone won’t do the trick. What you’ll likely need to do is lose weight and stick to the recommended workout regime that will be provided to you by your doctor. The difference between gout and all other types of arthritis is that gout can actually be cured. All of that depends on your dedication and motivation to make a change in your lifestyle and your diet. Make sure to pay your doctor a visit so that you can discuss all possible concerns and questions you might have about the condition.