Being overweight appears to be the most common determining factor for excess uric acid production – which is a primary cause of gout.
Not all people with raised levels of uric acid, and ultimately gout, are overweight – kidney disease or genetic predisposition are two other causes of overproduction. However, it can safely be stated that the majority of gout sufferers are overweight to some degree, as several recent studies have shown.
Losing weight should, therefore, be a priority – but avoid crash dieting as it can be counter-productive, increasing uric acid levels and causing an acute attack. Ideally, you should aim to lose no more than two pounds a week. Make sure you start to eliminate any of these foods to avoid with gout from your diet as a starting point.
When a person with gout begins to lose weight, they are, for the following reasons, mounting a two-pronged attack on the cause of their disorder:
- The kidneys are more able to eliminate uric acid.
- In some cases, the production of uric acid by the liver is reduced.
Weight loss can also have the happy effect of moderating blood pressure. Obviously the risk of developing the disorders that high blood pressure can lead to is then much reduced.
How Can I Lose Weight?
Starving yourself is not recommended as a means of parting with the pounds; neither is fad dieting where entire nutritional components are cut out, such as a carbohydrate-restricted diet, the ‘cabbage-soup diet’ and so on. It is important to choose a diet that is sustainable, which means eating a wide variety of healthy gout-friendly foods. Happily, changing to healthy eating will naturally cause weight loss in gout sufferers who are overweight; it will reduce levels of lipids (fats) in the blood; and it can reduce raised blood pressure.
However, it is essential that you slowly retrain your palate to accept different tastes. For this reason, it is advisable to cut back gradually on the amounts of sugar, salt and saturated fat you consume. It takes only 28 days of eating a food regularly for it to become a habit.
Keeping a Diary
Keeping a food-intake diary is an excellent way of monitoring your progress. I suggest that you buy a notebook and devote a page to each day, listing all the foods you eat – including snacks and drinks.
It’s a good idea to set goals on the very first page. For example, you may wish to make a goal of eating two types of vegetables each day. Without the diary, you may assume you have done badly – but upon reading your entries you may see that you’ve actually eaten two types of vegetables three or four times a week. That’s a good starting point. Now you can focus on slowly increasing that amount.
As time goes by and you begin to achieve your goals as a matter of habit, list a new set of slightly more difficult ones.
Examples of long-term, general healthy eating goals are as follows:
- to eat two or three types of vegetables every day;
- to eat two or three portions of fruit every day;
- to eat nuts, seeds and dried fruit as snacks once or twice a day;
- to drink as much as 3.5 liters (6 pints) of water a day, including that in fruit and vegetable juices and green tea;
- to use vegetable oil, flower oil, corn oil or olive oil in cooking and dressing (extra virgin olive oil is best, and hemp oil, which is very nutritious, is also great for dressings);
- to minimize the amount of salt added to cooking and baking, and to avoid sprinkling it on food at the table;
- to reduce your intake of meat and dairy products, making sure to spread butter very thinly;
- to cut down on caffeine – coffee, chocolate, cola drinks, tea and cocoa;
- to cut down on alcohol (seek your doctor’s advice if cutting down is a problem);
- to cut down on saturated fats;
- to cut down on table sugar and other sugar-containing products, such as cakes, sweets, biscuits and sugar-coated cereals;
- to cut out junk food;
- to cut out artificial sweeteners;
- to cut out fried foods
If you are ultimately unable to eliminate certain foods, don’t be discouraged. Reducing your intake should have a positive effect on your weight and the levels of uric acid in your blood. Ask your doctor to check your levels after changing your eating habits for a month or so – an indication that there is already less uric acid in your blood may give you an added incentive to persevere with your diet.