As anyone who has ever had gout can attest, the severe pain of this episodic form of arthritis is something no one wants to experience. Gout is characterized by sudden pain, redness, warmth, swelling and tenderness of the affected joint. It develops when urate crystals form in the joint, leading to intense inflammation. The crystals form when the level of a chemical called uric acid is too high. The recommended diet for people with gout focuses on avoiding foods that increase uric acid and including foods that may help lower levels.
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Limit or Avoid Certain Meats
Many foods contain substances called purines in varying concentrations. Uric acid is a product from the breakdown of purines, so people with gout are advised to avoid or limit foods high in purines. A diet rich in meats -- which are moderate to high in purines -- is associated with an increased risk of gout. To help prevent gout attacks, the American College of Rheumatology, recommends avoiding meats high in purines, such as liver, kidney, sweetbreads, goose and game meats. Limiting portions of other meats -- including beef, lamb and pork -- and meat-based gravies and sauces is also recommended.
Similar to meat, seafood also has moderate to high purine content. The American College of Rheumatology recommends limiting high-purine seafood, including sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring, mussels and scallops. Lower-purine options include crab, oysters and lobster -- although it's still important to limit your portions. If you enjoy seafood and suffer from gout, try incorporating seafood into an appetizer or side salad, as opposed to your main dish, to reduce your risk of triggering a gout flareup.
Limit or Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol consumption is linked to gout attacks because drinking causes a rise in the uric acid level. Although wine and spirits are not as high in purines as beer, limiting intake of all alcoholic beverages is recommended for people with gout. Alcohol overuse -- more than 2 servings per day for men and more than 1 serving for women -- should be avoided in all people with gout. Completely abstaining from alcohol is recommended during a gout attack.
Limit or Avoid Foods or Drinks High in Fructose
The American College of Rheumatology recommends avoiding foods and beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, including regular soda and some energy drinks. This is because the fructose, a type of sugar, increases uric acid levels. The effect occurs rapidly -- especially in people with a history of gout -- as fructose promotes the breakdown of purines in the body. Limiting naturally sweet fruit juices, table sugar and sweet desserts, like cakes, pies and cookies is also recommended.
Eat Low-Fat or Nonfat Dairy Foods
Eating low-fat or nonfat dairy products, especially skim milk and low-fat yogurt, is recommended as these foods have been shown to decrease the incidence of gout attacks. Scientists believe that dairy products reduce gout attacks by increasing the removal of uric acid from the body through the kidneys.
A moderate intake of vegetables -- even purine-rich vegetables such as spinach, cauliflower, asparagus and peas -- does not increase your risk of gout. Additionally, vegetables are a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Because gout is linked to a number of other health conditions, like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, the American College of Rheumatology encourages people with gout to eat vegetables for the overall health benefits.
While adhering to dietary recommendations can help reduce your risk for gout attacks, other lifestyle measures are also important. Maintaining a normal weight and daily exercise are recommended to control gout and optimize your health and well-being. In addition to dietary and lifestyle measures, your doctor may recommend medication to control your gout if you have frequent attacks and a persistently high uric acid level.