What Is Gout?

Our primer gives you the basics on this sometimes painful type of arthritis, answering the question

what is gout

When uric acid builds up, it can result in sharp crystal deposits in joints, typically in the big toe.

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Gout, a form of arthritis, occurs when uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints. Uric acid forms when the body metabolizes substances called purines, which are found in a variety of foods. In further answering the question “What is gout?” we should describe the impact food can have.

Gout is one of the few types of arthritis in which diet seems to play a genuine role. What food causes gout—or, we should say, may contribute to gout?

Some studies have found that drinking water or skim milk as your main beverages may help prevent gout attacks; consuming meat, seafood, and sugary drinks and fruits may increase gout risk. So if you have gout or are at increased risk of developing gout, your doctor likely will recommend a diet that limits purine-rich foods and beverages.

Our handy checklist of three basic gout relief dos and don’ts will help you avoid the condition or lessen its effect.

what is gout

Uric acid deposits in joints create sometimes severe cases of gout. Feet are especially susceptible, but gout also strikes knuckles and hands.

Gout Relief Tip #1: Avoid High-Purine Foods and Beverages

  • Meats: veal, turkey, gravy, broth, bouillon, and consommé
  • Organ meats (liver, kidneys, hearts, sweetbreads, brains)
  • Game meats, including venison
  • Seafood: anchovies, fish eggs, sardines, herring, mackerel, trout, cod, haddock, scallops, and mussels
  • Beer and distilled spirits

Gout Relief Tip #2: Limit Moderate-Purine Foods to Occasional Consumption

  • Moderate-purine vegetables include asparagus, cauliflower, green peas, kidney beans, lima beans, spinach, and mushrooms.
  • Moderate-purine meats include beef, ham, chicken, duck, and pork.
  • Moderate-purine seafood includes crab, oysters, and shrimp.
  • Oats and oatmeal, wheat germ and bran, and whole-grain breads and cereals are other moderate-purine foods to limit.

Gout Relief Tip #3: Get Your Vitamin C

Vitamin C may have a role in reducing the risk of gout. One study found that men with higher intakes of vitamin C through food and supplements had a reduced risk, while another found that vitamin C supplementation significantly reduced levels of uric acid, which can accumulate and form the crystals that cause gout pain.

Stay Informed…

One more important gout relief tip: Stay informed. University Health News offers a number of free posts that can help you deal with gout conditions:

Originally published in May 2016 and updated.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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Helen Boehm Johnson, MD

Helen Boehm Johnson, MD, is a medical writer who brings the experience of a residency-trained physician to her writing. She has written Massachusetts General Hospital’s Combating Memory Loss report (2019, 2020, … Read More

View all posts by Helen Boehm Johnson, MD

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