Gout is an excruciatingly painful form of arthritis that often affects the feet. Dietary factors, such as red meat and alcohol, can trigger gout pain, however, medications and medical conditions can be a problem too.
A gout attack happens when higher than normal levels of uric acid in the body build-up over time around a joint. This causes uric crystals to form, which causes a painful gout flare. Many things, including alcohol, certain foods, stress, and some medications, can cause your uric acid level to rise, leaving you open to a gout attack.
A gout attack can begin with a few subtle clues like burning, itching, or tingling feeling in a joint maybe an hour or two before the flare-up starts. The joint may feel a little stiff or sore, then not long after these warning signals, the telltale signs of gout begins. If you get repeated gout attacks, you’ll learn your body’s signals that a flare-up is about to happen. However, some people with gout have no warning signs, and wake up in the middle of the night with a very painful joint.
When the gout flare starts, most people have redness, swelling, and severe pain usually in one joint. One of the most common places for a flare is the big toe, but it can occur in other joints such as the elbow, knee, wrist, ankle, and instep.
The pain is often so strong that it hurts to have anything touch the area at all. Many people with gout say that just the feel of the bed sheet touching the inflamed joint is very painful.
Causes Of Gout
Gout has been associated for centuries with overindulgence in meats, seafood and alcohol. The condition was considered a disease the wealthiest people who could afford rich eating habits. And long before the cause of gout was understood, doctors had observed some benefit of a restricted diet on gout management.
Foods That Trigger Gout
- Beer and other alcoholic beverages
- Organ meats, such as liver, kidney, heart and gizzard
- Poultry, especially goose
- Red meat
- Sweetbread, a food made from animal glands
- Wild game
- Dried beans and lentils
- Green peas
The study published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases found that meat is associated with an increased risk of gout. It is common to find a gout attack can be traced back to a largely meaty dinner.
Drinking too much alcohol can interfere with your body’s ability to excrete uric acid, meaning higher levels can build up in the bloodstream. Beer, in particular, seems to increase gout-like symptoms as well.
Eliminate or Reduce Sugar Intake
Many studies are now showing that gout is common in people with excessive sugar intake, especially high fructose corn syrup. It’s wise to read the labels of all your food and drinks, and look for sugar added under the guise of other common names for sugar; look for ‘cose’ at the end of words and these are probably types of sugar you don’t want to be consuming.
Stop Drinking Soda & Diet Soda
Soda and diet sodas are loaded with sweeteners either natural or artificial. It’s vital to eliminate them from your diet altogether if you want to avoid a flare, and studies have shown that three sweet beverages a week increased men’s chance of getting gout by a whopping 85%.
Other Triggers Of Gout
It’s not enough just to limit those food items that are particularly bad for gout, such as meat, alcohol, and sugary drinks. Research suggests that obesity itself raises gout risk by stimulating the body to make more uric acid and blocking uric acid excretion. Maintaining a healthy weight is a very important step toward keeping uric acid levels under control.
If you want to get both your weight and uric acid levels down to within a healthy range, forget about crash dieting.
Trying to lose weight by fasting can put you at risk of gout attack, because when you fast, the level of ketones in your body increases, and ketones compete with uric acid for excretion.
Diuretics help reduce blood pressure by flushing water and salt from the body, but at the same time, they block the excretion of uric acid from the kidneys, which can allow uric acid to accumulate. Switching to a different blood-pressure drug can help some people get the best results.
Dehydration can have many ill health effects, and gout is one of them because it can increase the blood uric acid concentration. In susceptible individuals, this kind of an increase can contribute to a gout attack.
Aspirin drives up the amount of uric acid in your blood high enough to leave deposits in the joints, especially the big toe and fingers. If you take low-dose aspirin to reduce your risk of heart disease, don’t skip your daily pill for fear of gout. Instead try to avoid other gout risk factors like the food triggers, and for occasional pain, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) might be better options for the gout-prone.
An increased risk of gout can be a consequence of menopause, because the hormone estrogen that helps the kidneys excrete uric acid, dips during and after menopause. This protective effect of estrogen is helpful to premenopausal women, making them less likely to get gout than men. After menopause you should be careful to avoid other gout risk factors.
A minor injury like bumping your big toe can do more than just hurt for a few minutes. Injured joints seem to make better spots for uric acid to collect, and can lead to a gout attack that can last for weeks. A traumatic event can start a small inflammatory response, which may then precipitate a gout attack in the injured joint.
Osteoarthritis, or the wearing down of joint-cushioning cartilage as we age, is also associated with gout. Take this as another reason to try to avoid jamming a toe or finger, twisting an ankle, or putting repetitive stress on a joint.
Although there haven’t been studies looking at the effect of shoes on gout risk, wearing uncomfortable shoes is rarely a smart health move. That combination of having high uric acid, being predisposed to gout, and wearing shoes that are hurting your feet, that could do it. Women should opt for shoes with a lower heel most of the time to reduce stress on the toes, or limit time they wear high heels.
Foods That Relieve & Prevent Gout
A lack of water in your body can make your uric acid levels rise even higher than they already are. Drinking water will help your body stabilize uric acid to a normal level.
Here’s a little weight based formula to help you to figure out how much water you should be drinking daily.
- Take your current weight and divide by two.
- Take that number and drink that many ounces of water a day.
- So if you weigh 130 pounds you should drink 65 ounces of water a day.
If you exercise for under an hour an extra glass or two of water should do the trick of replenishing fluids lost though sweating, but if you are exercising for over 60 minutes you will need more.
In addition to proper hydration, you should also avoid carbonated drinks and too much caffeine because they can increase cramps during menstruation.
Foods Rich in Omega-3’s
Essential fat Omega-3 from items like flaxseeds, walnuts, fishes like salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines reduces inflammation and swelling.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, adding foods high in dietary fiber helps lower uric acid levels because it absorbs uric acid in the bloodstream, then eliminates it through the kidneys. Increasing consumption of dietary soluble fiber such as oats, broccoli, apples, oranges, pears, strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, celery, and carrots, barley.
Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, provide complex carbohydrates. Avoid foods such as white bread, cakes, candy, sugar-sweetened beverages and products with high-fructose corn syrup.
Foods that are considered complex carbs make up the Mediterranean diet, which is a diet low in purines. One recent questionnaire study from the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology found that out of 2380 men and women free of cardiovascular or renal disease, the people who reported following a Mediterranean diet generally had lower levels of uric acid. High levels of uric acid are associated with an increased risk of gout.
This juicy summertime fruit can reduce the risk of recurrent gout attacks, according to a case-crossover study from Boston University. Researchers looked at 633 men and women with an average age of 54 who had a medical diagnosis of gout, and found that those who regularly consumed cherries or a cherry extract had a 35% lower risk of developing a gout attack compared to those who didn’t have this fruit. Researchers believe cherries and cherry extract help the kidneys filter out uric acid.
Cherries are also rich in anthocyanicns and bioflavonoids both which help to relieve and prevent arthritis. In addition, both are high in antioxidants which will help to fight off free radical damage.
Berries especially strawberries, and blueberries have anti-inflammatory properties so include them in your diet.
Malic acid in apple neutralizes uric acid providing relief to the sufferers. You should consume one apple daily after a meal.
The citric acid found in lime juice is a solvent of uric acid. Just half a lime squeezed into a glass of water should be taken twice daily.
This is a popular home remedy to lower uric acid levels in the body. Have celery seeds extract to get best results.
These are also beneficial in lowering uric acid, and is said that a banana-only diet, consisting of eight or nine bananas per day for three or four days, can alleviate the swelling and inflammation of joints caused by gout or other forms of arthritis more rapidly.
A morning cup of java can act as more than just an eye opener. Research shows it may also help protect against gout, as one Harvard study looked at 45,869 men who were dentists, optometrists, osteopaths, pharmacists, podiatrists, and veterinarians, were predominantly white (91%) and were ages 40–75 years with no history of gout. The men who drank coffee over a four year period had a lower risk of developing gout that those who did not drink coffee. There was even a modest risk reduction with decaffeinated coffee consumption.
Consume green tea on a regular basis to control hyperuricemia (high uric acid levels) and lower your risk of developing gout.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Drinking apple cider vinegar. Add 3 teaspoons of vinegar to 8 ounces of water and have it 2-3 times every day to treat uric acid. The acidity in apple cider vinegar will help relieve acute pain. You can also add honey to the remedy to boost the body’s anti-inflammatory response. Mix one to two teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. Drink it two to three times daily.
The anti-inflammatory properties present in ginger root can be very helpful in relieving pain and inflammation. There are many ways to use ginger root in the treatment of gout:
- Mix equal amounts of fenugreek powder, turmeric powder and dried ginger root powder. Add one teaspoon of this mixture along with warm water. Take it twice daily.
- You can easily add ginger root to recipes, or eat a small, raw piece of ginger root daily.
- You can add one-half teaspoon of ginger root to one cup of boiling water and mix it well. Drink this solution at least once daily.
- Another option is to make a paste of ginger root with a little water and apply this paste on the affected area. Leave it on for about half an hour. Do this once daily.
Baking soda can help lower the amount of uric acid, giving you relief from the pain.
- Mix one-half teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water.
- Drink this solution four times a day but not more than that.
- Continue up to two weeks.
Since obesity is linked to gout, it’s a good idea to exercise regularly if you’re trying to relieve gout flares. Include cardio and weight training to maximize your health benefits from exercise.
Non-Medication Pain Relief
These self-care tips may help your gout flare-up pain:
Use Cold Packs
If the pain isn’t too bad, try cold packs or cold compresses on the joint to lessen the inflammation and help the pain. Ice the joint for 20 to 30 minutes several times a day.
Rest The Joint
It’s a good idea to rest until the pain lessens. Most people having an acute attack of gouty arthritis probably won’t want to move the joint much anyway. Raise the joint if you can on a pillow or other soft object.