In most cases, gout affects the joint at the base of your big toe. However, it can also affect any joint in the body. Symptoms can be intermittent, but gout flare-ups can occur suddenly and unexpectedly. Unfortunately, the condition will cause pain that lasts for hours or even weeks post-flare-up.
Gout can affect anyone, but the condition is more common in people aged 60 and above. Those at risk include men, postmenopausal women, and individuals with certain conditions (e.g., atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes).
You can prevent gout symptoms by adopting necessary dietary and lifestyle habits like limiting your consumption of foods that contain purines. These compounds contribute to gout flare-ups. (Related: Gout: Another metabolic disorder that can be controlled through lifestyle.)
According to Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian and health coach, purines are substances naturally present in the body as well as in many foods. When purines are broken down, they produce uric acid.
Gout occurs when uric acid builds up in the blood. Uric acid usually dissolves in the blood and is excreted via urine.
However, when the body produces too much uric acid or if your kidneys aren't sending enough of it out in your urine, uric acid builds up and forms urate crystals.
When these tiny, needle-shaped crystals of uric acid are deposited in your joints, they can trigger sudden swelling.
Gout should be treated immediately to prevent its symptoms. If left untreated, the condition will cause advanced gout and tophi.
Tophi are deposits of monosodium urate monohydrate crystals around a joint that cause a swollen growth under your skin. In time, tophi may cause permanent joint damage. Untreated gout can also cause kidney stones.
If you have gout, avoid purines and consume healthy foods that can help reduce pain and inflammation. Follow a low-purine diet to manage gout flare-ups.
While certain foods contain purine, not all of them are bad for you. For example, plant-based purines are most likely safe to consume. In fact, plant-based purines can even help reduce gout symptoms.
These foods will either lower uric acid levels or are good for your heart health:
While it's safe to consume some foods that contain purine, if you have gout, you should limit your consumption of foods with medium to high amounts of purine and beverages that are linked to symptoms of gout.
Limit your consumption of these medium-purine foods to at least four to six ounces per day:
Drastically reduce your consumption or avoid the following high-purine foods altogether:
If you have gout, following the Mediterranean diet may help manage the pain caused by the condition. According to a study with almost 4,500 participants, the Mediterranean diet helped lower the participants' risk of having high uric acid levels in their body.
The researchers posited that this was because the Mediterranean diet is full of fruits, healthy fats like olive oil, vegetables, and whole grains. The diet also contains moderate amounts of fish and poultry, meaning it is low in red meat and high in antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties.
Trying a whole-foods, Mediterranean approach to eating can help those with gout lose weight and manage other conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Being overweight makes your body produce more uric acid and causes your kidneys to have a difficult time eliminating excess uric acid.
Determine if a low-purine diet is good for you by finding out if you're at a higher than average risk of gout. Consult a registered dietitian who specializes in dietary approaches to managing pain before switching to a low-purine diet to manage your condition.