Gout is a disease which is on the increase, now affecting up to about one in fifty of the world’s population. And this increase is partly due to the way we choose to live our lives. The food we eat is not ideal as part of a nutritious gout diet plan in many cases and, combined with a relatively exercise-free and sedentary lifestyle, can encourage the onset of gout.
What this means is that the food we eat will dictate the likelihood of suffering from gout… and a sensible gout diet plan is therefore a great way forward.
Podagra is the term applied to gout (or gouty arthritis as it’s also sometimes called) which affects the metatarsal phalangeal joint situated at the base of the big toes. This can be a particularly painful spot and accounts for over half of all cases of gouty arthritis now being diagnosed.
Lack of exercise, hereditary considerations, other underlying medical conditions and being overweight are all things which increase the likelihood of a gout attack, but changing your diet can often have a large impact on both the frequency and severity and further attacks.
So how does a gout diet help?
Briefly, gout is caused by the body producing an excess of something called serum uric acid (urate) which can subsequently crystallize in the tissue and joints of the body, forming sharp needles. It’s these that cause the inflammation, redness and pain of gout and podagra and it’s only by reducing these uric acid quantities that gouty arthritis can be effectively treated in the long term. And an effective and well planned gout diet is a great way of achieving this.
Uric acid is formed by the breakdown of a substance called purine, something which is present in all of the body’s cells and is also part of some of the foods we eat. It stands to reason therefore that if we reduce the volume of purine within our body, our levels of serum uric acid will also drop… and so will the severity and frequency of the occurrence of gout. Many patients have reported that a well balanced and rigid gout diet has cured them completely of the symptoms of gout. And done so surprisingly quickly too.
What should a good gout diet exclude?
As I’ve already mentioned, lowering your purine intake is a vital element of an effective gout diet, although to confuse matters slightly, not all high purine foods are a direct cause. However, you should rule out foods high in protein such as fatty red meat, mutton, bacon and offal (liver, sweetbreads, kidneys and suchlike), avoid all types of seafood particularly haddock, smelt, salmon, mussels, scallops and herrings, and eliminate yeast extract.
Do not drink alcohol as part of your gout diet although again, different alcoholic drinks show different risks to gout sufferers. Non-fortified wines are acceptable if limited to no more than one small glass a day (although fortified wines like sherry and port should be ruled out completely), but avoid drinking beer altogether (even the low alcohol content varieties) as these can often contain comparatively high volumes of purine.
And what foods should be part of your gout diet?
Include low-purine items and food that is relatively low in protein, although you of course need to include some protein as part of a more general and well balanced diet plan. Eat chicken instead of red meat, soy-based alternatives like tofu, eggs, plenty of vitamin C rich vegetables and fruits including unsweetened fruit juices, limes, grapefruit and in particular cherries which have been shown to be especially effective when incorporated into a gout diet.
Make sure you drink plenty of water too, although coffee and tea in moderation is also fine. These non-alcoholic drinks will assist the kidneys to expel any excessive amounts of uric acid from the body as quickly as they can.
How much of a factor is being overweight?
A big one I’m afraid. There has been shown to be a significant connection between even mild obesity and the onset of gouty arthritis, and your gout diet should include elements that are designed to lower your overall weight. Speak to your doctor before implementing any kind of diet strategy for the first time and whatever you do, avoid any possibility of embarking on any sudden weight loss program as this will raise the relative volume of urate within your blood, increasing the chance of a gout episode.
You’ll find however than many of the good gout diet alternatives are also helpful when it comes to lowering your weight, and you may well discover that you can easily work the two elements together side by side as part of a more general dieting plan.