What is Gout? What Foods trigger it?

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What is Gout

Gout is defined as a painful type of arthritis that occurs when there is a build-up of uric acid in the body. A build-up of this kind causes crystal formations in joints. Your body makes uric acid by breaking down a substance called purine, which is found in various foods. People suffering from gout generally feel sudden attacks of severe pain and swelling.

Symptoms

Certain people have excessive uric acid in the blood with no symptoms. This condition is called asymptomatic gout. In the case of acute gout, symptoms can manifest quickly due to the buildup of crystals of uric acid. These symptoms can last from 3 to 10 days. Symptoms can include intense pain and swelling. Your joint may feel warm. Gout often occurs in the lower extremities, with the big toe being a classic location. Knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, or hands can also be affected by the disease.

If left untreated, gout can become chronic and lead to the development of hard lumps in the joints and skin. These lumps are called tophi and can cause permanent damage to your joints.

Causes and Diagnosis

Conditions like dehydration, blood disorders, and metabolism disorders lead to excess production of uric acid. Moreover, if you have a kidney problem, thyroid problem, or an inherited disorder, your body finds it harder to remove the excess uric acid. Given below are a few cases in which the person is more likely to get gout.

  • Middle-aged man or postmenopausal woman
  • A person who has a family member suffering from the disease
  • A person who is on medication such as cyclosporine or diuretics
  • A person suffering from conditions like thyroid disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, or kidney disease
  • A person who consumes alcohol
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Your doctor will check your medical history, symptoms, and conduct a physical exam. Diagnosis will be based on the description of the pain, frequency of intense pain, and redness and swelling of the area. You may also be asked to get your joint tested for uric acid build-up.

Treatment
Gout, if left untreated, can lead to arthritis and permanent joint damage. Your treatment plan will depend on the severity of your condition. Drugs like corticosteroids, colchicine, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen are used to relieve pain. Drugs like probenecid and xanthine oxidase inhibitors are used to prevent further attacks. Moreover, lifestyle changes will also help to manage symptoms and reduce the chances of attacks. Reducing alcohol intake, losing weight, and quitting smoking are some of the changes that can help reduce the effects of gout.

Foods to Avoid

If you have gout, the foods you eat can impact its effect on your body. Certain foods can trigger attacks by increasing uric acid levels. These trigger foods are generally high in purine. Purine, when digested by the body, produces uric acid as a waste product. Therefore, your goal should be to limit the intake of foods with high purine content in them. According to research, foods that may trigger attacks include beer, red meats, and organ meats. High-purine vegetables, however, do not cause triggers. It has also been observed, that even though sweetened beverages and fructose are not purine-rich, they can increase the risk of attacks.

Foods that are considered high in purine are certain fish and shellfish like anchovies, sardines, mackerel, scallops, mussels, codfish, and trout, alcoholic beverages, and meats like beef kidney, brain, veal, liver, bacon, and venison.

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Foods that are considered to have moderate amounts of purine include crab, lobsters, shrimp, oysters, meats such as beef, veal, poultry, lamb, pork, vegetables like asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, peas, lentils, kidney beans, and lima beans.

Your goal should be to avoid the foods mentioned above in order to reduce the risk of gout attacks. Apart from these, sugary beverages like fruit juices, soda, sugars like honey, high-fructose corn syrup, and yeasts must be avoided.

Foods that are beneficial

A gout-friendly diet has various limitations and eliminates many foods. However, there are many low-purine foods you can consume and enjoy. A few foods that are generally considered safe to consume are given below.

Fruits and Vegetables: Almost all fruits are considered safe to consume. It is believed that cherries may prove beneficial in preventing attacks by reducing uric acid levels. Green leafy vegetables, eggplants, and most vegetables with low purine levels are safe to consume.

Nuts:  All nuts and seeds can be eaten.

Whole grains: Whole grains like barley, oats, and brown rice are beneficial.

Beverages: Coffee, tea, and green tea can be consumed.

You can also include low-fat dairy, tofu, soybeans, eggs, herbs, spices, and plant-based oils in your diet.

Apart from a change in the type of food you eat, you can also ensure lifestyle changes like losing weight, exercising regularly, and staying hydrated to help manage your symptoms.