Gout is a type of arthritis characterized by painful, stiff and inflamed joints. The stiffness and swelling are a result of excess uric acid forming crystals in your joints, and the pain associated with this disease is caused by your body’s inflammatory response to the crystals.
Gout is essentially a breakdown of the metabolic process that controls the amount of uric acid in your blood. Gout can occur in any joint of your body, but most commonly occurs in your big toe.
With or without treatment, gout symptoms will usually go away within three to 10 days, and the next attack may not occur for months, or even years, if at all. Nonetheless, if more attacks occur, they tend to increase in frequency, become more severe, and last longer. Over time, recurrent gout attacks can damage your joints and the surrounding areas.
This is why it’s important to treat your gout as soon as possible, before it begins damaging your body permanently. Natural treatments are kinder and gentler to your body than drugs, as well as being more effective overall. I’ll discuss in an upcoming section natural treatments that can pack a real punch in helping your body get rid of gout.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup Is a Major Risk Factor
Although gout is commonly blamed on eating too many high-purine foods, such as organ meats, anchovies, herring, asparagus and mushrooms, there is another clear culprit: high-fructose corn syrup .
A recent study showed that consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks is strongly associated with an increased risk of developing gout.
High cholesterol and diabetes, increase your risk of developing gout. Additionally, fructose converts more readily to fat than other sugars, making it a major risk factor for both diabetes and obesity — another gout risk factor.
In a fructose metabolism study, it was noted that when two high-fructose breakfast drinks were consumed, the build-up of stored fat continued into the afternoon, during which time the quick conversion of fructose to fat remained active during digestion of the lunch meal.15 The study concluded that the higher the concentration of fructose in the diet, the higher the rate of fat conversion.
Frequently, fruit juices also have fructose added to them, and if you still believe that this is an acceptable form of sugar. Fructose contains no beneficial enzymes, vitamins, minerals, or additional micronutrients.
Maintaining Ideal Body Weight Large Part of the Solution
Another risk factor for gout is obesity, or any excessive weight gain. Excess weight worsens gout because irritated nerve endings are further irritated by having to support and deal with extra weight. Of course, obesity can worsen any type of arthritis.
Weight loss represents a safe method for reducing inflammatory states and ameliorating blood-vessel dysfunction in obese women. Cytokine levels returned toward normal even though women did not lose all their excess weight. Gout is an inflammatory condition, and it is clear from this study that losing weight, and keeping it off, will greatly improve your chances of avoiding further gout attacks.
Eating Right for Your Nutritional Type
The REAL underlying problem causing the inflammation associated with gout, and the subsequent damage, is likely due to having chronically elevated blood sugar. (The sugar molecule causes far more damage than any other molecule.) And, your number one way of normalizing your blood sugar and insulin levels is through your diet. But what constitutes an optimal diet?
Limiting or eliminating your intake sugar, and grains (which are metabolized as sugar). For most people this means first eliminating soft drinks and fruit juices, along with sugary snacks. But there’s more to it than just that. It is important to understand that there is no perfect diet for everyone. We each have our own unique individual and biochemical nutritional needs.
When you eat based on your Nutritional Type™, you will resolve most health disorders, including gout, and achieve optimum health. Not only will cravings that have plagued you for years disappear, but your newfound energy will amaze you. You will also discover how much impact foods can have on your state of mind. Eating the wrong foods for your Nutritional Type™ will not only imbalance you on a physical level, but also on an emotional one. This can easily leave you feeling irritable, nervous, angry, hyper, depressed, or hopeless.
Foods and individual nutrients do not behave the same way in two people with different Nutritional Types. This explains why some healthy foods that make other people energetic might make you unhealthy, sluggish, bloated, heavier, or more prone to gout. And it also explains why, no matter how much you try to stick to foods you’ve been told are “healthy,” or even organic, you may still not feel as good as you’d like to. There is a reason for this. It’s the result of a giant factor outside your control — your metabolism.
Limiting Alcohol Crucial for Succesful Gout Treatment
Gout is often seen in association with hypertension, excessive alcohol consumption, and coronary artery disease, so alcohol is a strong risk factor for this disease. In general, I believe alcohol should be reserved for people who have already achieved optimal wellness and therefore have their carbohydrates (sugars and grains) under control, and do not have disease conditions such as gout, diabetes, or other signs of ill health.
Although wine has been shown to have some health benefits, it may also increase your insulin levels, which is not only a risk factor for diabetes, but increased insulin levels have been linked with a shorter life span, in general.So it needs to be used cautiously, especially if you have gout. Most importantly for those suffering with gout, alcohol may raise the levels of uric acid in your blood, and therefore could even initiate a gout attack, so it’s wise to limit the alcohol you drink, or eliminate it altogether.
Exercise Can Dramatically Help
While exercise is not recommended while your joints are in pain or when it might cause further injury, once your gout is under control, exercise is needed as a necessary adjunct to a healthier lifestyle. Exercise will even help prevent further attacks by increasing circulation and normalizing your uric acids levels, which it does primarily by normalizing your insulin levels. An exercise routine has other advantages as well.
Factors that can precipitate a gout attack, include:
- Overweight – many patients who suffer from gout are overweight or obese
- Alcohol – acute attacks of gout are often precipitated by overindulgence in alcohol
- Dietary purines – eating foods rich in purines (meat, fish, fish roes) can cause an attack
- Starvation or very-low-energy diets – blood urate levels rise dramatically when body proteins are broken down due to starvation or very low energy intake
- Kidney disease – any disease, such as chronic renal failure, which prevents the kidneys from functioning properly and excreting sufficient urate can cause gout
- Other diseases – diseases such as leukaemia or psoriasis can cause increases in urate production
- Drugs – chemical compounds which decrease the excretion of urates, such as the so-called thiazide diuretics used to treat hypertension and edema, can cause a gout attack
Adopting new, healthy habits
You can reduce your risk of another gout attack. Follow these guidelines:
- Reduce weight
- Avoid alcohol: Cut down on alcohol intake drastically. If necessary avoid all alcohol or restrict drinking to less than two drinks a day. A harsh, but effective way of preventing gout.
- Avoid gorging: Avoid rich, heavy meals which contain lots of fat and purines – i.e. the typical Christmas dinner is an excellent example of a meal laden with fat and purines.
- Avoid purines: Avoid high-purine foods like liver, kidneys, sweetbreads, sardines, anchovies, fish roes (eggs and caviar) and meat extracts.
- Drink water: Drink six or more glasses of water throughout the day and a glass at night before going to bed to help the kidneys excrete urates.
- Go easy on caffeinated drinks: Don’t overdo tea and coffee drinking and switch to rooibos tea if you find your joints start aching after a coffee/tea binge.
The basic principles of restricting dietary purines
- Water – Drink at least six glasses per day and make sure that you have one of the glasses before you go to sleep. It helps getting rid of uric acid.
- Tofu (bean curd) – Use as protein source. Research suggests that it increases uric acid secretion.
- Macronutrients – Diet should be relatively high in carbohydrate (like bread, rice and pasta), moderate in protein (e.g. tofu) and low in fat.
- Alcohol – An excess of alcohol should be avoided. Total abstinence and avoidance of alcohol may be required in severe cases.
- Body weight – Maintenance of, or gradual reduction to, ideal body weight could prove helpful.
The absolute don’ts:
Avoid foods with a high purine content. The following foods contain 100 to 1 000 mg of purine nitrogen per 100 g of food:
- Meat extracts
- Yeast (baker’s and brewer’s, taken as supplement)
The maybes, and in moderation
Foods with a moderate purine content
These foods contain 9 to 100 mg of purine nitrogen per 100 g of food. One serving of meat, fish or poultry (90 g) or one serving of vegetables (1/2 cup) from this group, is allowed per day, depending on the condition of the patient:
- Dried beans
- Meat, fish and poultry (except the above-mentioned)
- Dried peas
The yes foods
The foods with a low purine content
These foods contain negligible amounts of purine and may be used daily:
- Bread (white) and crackers
- Butter or margarine (in moderation)
- Cake and cookies
- Carbonated beverages
- Cream (in moderation)
- Fats (in moderation)
- Gelatin desserts
- Ice cream
- Sugar and sweets
- Vegetables (except those mentioned in the first group)
Source: Krause’s Food, Nutrition, & Diet therapy, 10th edition