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Gout is a type of arthritis caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in one or more joints. It most often occurs in the big toe joint, but also can affect your hands and your knees. Uric acid forms when the body breaks down purines (substances that occur naturally in human tissue). Purines also are found in many different foods; this is why many people with gout are advised to follow a gout diet, keeping in mind that there are certain foods to avoid with gout.
In fact, gout has been known as the “disease of kings” or “arthritis of kings,” because it is associated with people who eat a diet high in meat and alcohol.
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Gout Causes and Symptoms
What causes gout symptoms? Normally, purines dissolve in the blood and pass through the kidneys into your urine. But in people who have gout, uric acid builds up and can form sharp crystals in the joint space. This causes swelling and intense pain in the affected joints.
Gout symptoms may develop suddenly, and they usually occur at night. The affected joint becomes red, feels hot, and hurts, especially when you touch it.
Food and Gout
Gout is one of the few forms of arthritis in which diet seems to play a role. Some studies have found that drinking water or skim milk may help prevent gout symptoms, while eating a diet high in meat, seafood, and sugary drinks and fruits may raise your risk for gout symptoms.
If you often suffer from gout symptoms, it’s a good idea to keep a food journal in which you make a note of any foods that seem to trigger an attack. As a rule, foods to stay away from include:
- Foods high in purines. These include organ meats (such as liver, kidneys, hearts, sweetbreads, brains); game meats (venison); anchovies, fish eggs, sardines, herring, mackerel, trout, cod, haddock, scallops and mussels; veal; turkey; and gravy, broth, bouillon, and consommé. Limit moderate-purine foods to occasional consumption—these include asparagus, cauliflower, green peas, kidney beans, lima beans, spinach, and mushrooms; beef, ham, chicken, duck, and pork; crab, oysters, and shrimp; oats and oatmeal; wheat germ and bran; and whole-grain breads and cereals.
- Beer and other alcoholic beverages. While you may associate red wine with gout, beer is more likely to cause gout symptoms due to its yeast content.
- Sugary drinks. Dehydration can trigger gout symptoms because dehydration makes it harder for your kidneys to process and excrete uric acid. This means you need to be sure to drink plenty of fluids to help remove uric acid from the body. However, be sure to limit your consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks, which have been linked to an increased risk for gout symptoms. If you like soda as an occasional treat, stick to the diet version, which is not associated with gout symptoms.
Keep in mind that making a note of which foods to avoid with gout is only one aspect of managing gout symptoms. It is important to take medications prescribed to ease your gout symptoms as directed, eat a healthy and balanced diet, exercise, and maintain a healthy body weight.