Gout is a disease that affects the joints. When levels of uric acid in the blood increase excessively, urate crystals form in the joints. Uric acid is a by-product of substances in food called “purines.” The body usually eliminates uric acid in the urine, but in some people, the kidneys cannot flush out the uric acid quickly enough, which can lead to attacks of gout.
Men are more likely to have gout than women. Women are affected, but usually after menopause. Some health problems, such as obesity and high cholesterol, make gout more likely. And some medications such as diuretics (“water pills”) can trigger a gout attack.
Symptoms of gout usually affect one joint, often in the big toe, which becomes red, swollen, and extremely painful for a few days at a time.
Drugs may be used as conventional treatment of gout. The drugs will inhibit the production of uric acid and increase its excretion. People with gout are advised to reach a normal body weight and to eat foods that are low in purines.
Beneficial foods that help prevent gout are whole grain cereals and whole wheat breads that supply zinc. Breakfast cereals and breads fortified with folic acid may help to reduce uric acid production. Breads, pasta, milk, low fat milk products, eggs, lettuce, and tomatoes are low in pruines. Fruits and vegetables supply vitamin C, which may help the kidneys to excrete uric acid.
Foods that are to be avoided are meats, including liver, which are rich in purines, as are asparagus, spinach, cauliflower, and mushrooms. Beans, peas, lentils, herrings, mackerel, sardines, crabs, and shrimp also supply significant amounts of purines. Alcohol also increases the production of uric acid from purines in food. Beer also contains purines. Dried fruits should be eaten in moderation since fructose increases urate production.
Other measures can be taken to avoid gout. Drinking at least two quarts of water a day to help flush urate crystals out via the kidneys. Fish oil supplements can help reduce inflammation caused by gout. Losing weight is important if it is above normal, since uric acid levels increase as weight creeps up. Fasting and drastic diets should be avoided as they may cause urate levels to rise.