Gout: The Disease of Kings… and Everyone Else (Part 2)

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Talk to anyone who has had a flare-up of gout and you may hear that it’s one of the most painful experiences that he (or she) has ever had. It’s hard to imagine that a few uric acid crystals embedded in one of your joints could hurt so bad, but from what I hear, it does.

Last week I wrote about risk factors and triggers for gout. Having Type 2 diabetes is pretty much a risk factor. If you can take steps to prevent gout from ever happening, all the better. Why have to deal with one more thing? Most of the people who have gout have it because the body has a hard time getting rid of excess uric acid. A smaller number of people have gout because they produce too much uric acid.

To prevent gout, the main priority is to keep uric acid levels in the body from getting too high. How do you do that?

Reach and stay at a healthy weight for you. Losing weight, if you need to, or maintaining your weight are important steps in preventing gout from ever occurring, as well as preventing future gout attacks (if you’ve already had one).

But lose weight in a healthful way. It’s best to avoid high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, as well as fasting, if you’re trying to prevent gout, as these diets may actually trigger a gout attack. Cutting back on portions, eating lower-calorie foods, and increasing physical activity are the best steps you can take to shed some pounds.

Go easy on saturated fat. Hopefully you are anyway, as saturated fat (the solid fat that raises LDL [“bad”] cholesterol) can make it harder for the body to get rid of excess uric acid. Red meat, whole milk, cheese, butter, and processed foods tend to be high in saturated fat.

Cut back on high-purine foods. Purines can increase uric acid levels. Foods high in purines include red meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal), shrimp, lobster, scallops, mackerel, sardines, organ meats, and high-fat dairy foods. In one study of men who did not have gout, those who ate the most beef, pork, lamb, and organ meats were 40% more likely to develop gout than men who did not eat much of these foods. You don’t have to stop eating these foods, but if your gout is acting up, it’s wise to avoid them. Keep your portions of these foods to about 4–6 ounces per day.

Limit alcohol. In fact, avoid it altogether if you have a flare-up. Otherwise, keep your alcohol intake to one drink, about three times per week. Avoid beer, as it can increase uric acid production. Wine is a better choice.

Avoid high-fructose corn syrup. This type of sweetener may increase uric acid production. Stay away from sodas and other soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.

Choose low-fat dairy foods. Research indicates that consuming low-fat dairy products like low-fat milk (one to two glasses per day) and yogurt may actually reduce the risk of gout by 50%.

Drink water, and lots of it. In a study done at the Boston University School of Medicine, researchers discovered that the more water a participant drank, the less likely he would have a recurrent gout attack. It may be that dehydration leads to high uric acid levels, so drink at least eight glasses of water each day, and more, if possible.

Consider coffee. Two separate studies showed that drinking four or more cups of coffee each day can substantially lower the risk of gout in men. It’s not the caffeine that has a protective effect, but rather another ingredient in coffee seems to help.

Swallow some tart cherry juice. Your mouth may pucker, but your joints may thank you. Tart cherry juice (about one tablespoon, twice daily), has been shown to reduce gout attacks by 50%.

Boost your vitamin C intake. Vitamin C can lower uric acid levels, and in a study of men, those who consumed 1500 milligrams of vitamin C each day were 45% less likely to develop gout than men not taking supplemental vitamin C. But too much vitamin C may actually trigger a gout attack. Taking 500 milligrams of vitamin C may be an amount to aim for, but check with your doctor first.

If you have gout, you will likely need to take medicine. But following the steps above may help you prevent or at least lessen the likelihood of another flare-up. Talk to your health-care provider if you have questions or concerns about how your gout should be treated.

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