The information in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Instead, consult your physician or any licensed healthcare providers if you have questions.
If you have been diagnosed with gout, one of the most critical changes you can make to improve the condition involves limiting your diet. Creating a list of foods that aggravate gout will help you avoid dietary triggers for the condition. Foods that aggravate gout include red meat, organ meat, seafood (i.e., shellfish and oily fish), alcohol, and sugary foods. Learn more about these foods as you read on.
What Is Gout?
Gout is a type of arthritis resulting from the accumulation of excess uric acid. This condition primarily impacts the joints where sharp crystals form due to uric acid buildup. Notably, gout affects the big toe, causing severe pain, swelling, discoloration, and tenderness in the joint area.
People affected by gout often have limited mobility during an episode due to the prolonged inflammation. However, these flare-ups will start to diminish within three days of treatment. Otherwise, the affected individual will have to endure the episode between one to two weeks.
Uric acid is a waste product excreted through urine. It comes from the metabolism of purine, a chemical compound found in certain foods.
The buildup of uric acid can be traced back to excessive consumption of purine-rich foods or any impediment in the body’s ability to process the uric acid. If you have been diagnosed with gout through the aid of a physical exam and lab tests, like a uric acid blood test, avoid dietary triggers for gout to minimize the flare-ups.
Red meats such as pork, beef, venison, and lamb are rich in purines. The exact amount and potential uric acid buildup brought about by red meat depends on their cut and size. Nonetheless, if you have gout, it’s important to limit your intake of red meat and consider other protein sources, such as fruits and vegetables.
Organ meats include kidneys, liver, tongue, sweetbreads, intestines, brain, heart, blood, bones, and skins. Much like red meats, these foods can also trigger gout due to their high purine content. Sweetbread, in particular, which is typically made of pancreas and thymus from claves, is considered to have the highest purine concentration among organ meats.
Shellfish such as scallops, oysters, lobsters, shrimps, and crabs have high purine levels. Likewise, oily fish like tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring made it to the list of foods that aggravate gout. However, you can choose not to completely eradicate these foods but simply consume them in moderation, as they also contain other essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and iodine. Ask your doctor for better gout meal planning.
Not all alcoholic beverages have high purines. But all of them can adversely impact the liver and your kidneys’ uric acid filtration process. One alcohol to avoid or limit, however, is beer. Beers are rich in purines, which means as you increase your daily consumption or per glass intake, you also raise your risk of experiencing gout flare-ups.
Fructose is a type of sweetener that can also yield excess uric acid. Some examples of food sources for fructose are table sugar, corn syrup, fruit juices, sodas, candies, honey, and agave nectar.
What to Include in a Gout Diet?
A gout diet contains foods low in purine – approximately equal to or less than 100 grams per 100 grams of such food. Including these food items in your diet while at the same time avoiding foods that trigger gout increases your chances of avoiding painful flare-ups.
The following are foods you can add to your gout diet plan.
- Lean and white meat, like duck and chicken
- Low-fat or non-dairy milk or products
- Coffee and teas
- Grains (except oats)
While red meat and seafood generally have high purines, you can still consume them in moderation. The same principle applies to the other dietary triggers for gout. For a more accurate and personalized gout diet, talk to your doctor or nutritionist.
Complications of Gout
Much like other forms of arthritis, gout requires proper management to reduce flare-ups. Aside from the pain, untreated gout can increase your risk of developing other health conditions. The following covers the most common complications of gout that you should watch out for.
Tophi are multiple nodules or lumps that develop where the uric acid builds up. They are highly pronounced, looking like large bumps that could cause long-term damage to the affected joints and even erode the bones.
Individuals with tophi often have chronic gout, as it is rarely seen among those at the early stage of the condition. A tophus does not usually cause pain, especially if they are small, but your risk of developing infections becomes higher.
- Joint deformity and bone loss
Chronic inflammation and tophi can severely damage the joints and bones, especially if these clumps of crystals become bigger. Tophi can erode the osteocytes or bone cells and cause deformity in the joints. These can also leave your bonds prone to fracture.
- Kidney problems
As a waste product, uric acid gets processed in the kidneys. This explains why gout has a close link to the development of kidney disease, as excessive uric acid can overwork the kidney cells, leading to issues such as kidney stone formation and kidney failure.
A study published in Arthritis Research and Therapy highlighted the impact of gout on the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Between the cohort group composed of patients with gout and the other group without the condition, people with gout showed a significant risk for CKD stage three and above.
|Pro tip: As with gout, people with CKD should also have a list of foods that aggravate kidney problems. Learn more about them when you read our guide on renal diet.|
- Heart disease
Chronic gout translates to frequent and long-term inflammation, which is a common risk factor for heart disease. With this connection in mind, it’s no surprise that people with poor gout management also increase the likelihood of developing heart disease by twofold.
Nonetheless, the exact role and pathway of uric acid buildup leading to heart disease is yet to be uncovered. Nonetheless, recent efforts in the scientific research community have been directed at understanding the prevalence of cardiovascular conditions among patients with gout and vice versa.
Uric acid has been found to impede insulin signaling, inducing insulin resistance. When your body doesn’t respond well to insulin, glucose in the blood increases, causing diabetes. Hence, people with gout also must take full control of their sugar intake and keep an eye on the early symptoms of diabetes.
|Pro tip: A1C levels measure your average blood glucose within three months. If your blood test shows an elevated result, you must limit foods high in sugar and employ other ways to lower your A1C level.|
- Mental health issues
The apparent deformity caused by chronic gout can lead to poor self-perception, which can drive anxiety and depression. In addition, the pain caused by gout inhibits a person’s day-to-day activities, exacerbating the stress of not being able to function properly.
Despite the lack of a permanent cure for gout, you can avoid these complications by avoiding foods that trigger gout and following through with the prescribed treatment. Consult your doctor regarding your risk of developing the above mentioned condition to include the necessary preventive measures in your gout management plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What stops gout pain immediately?
Taking your medication ensures proper pain management. Colchicine, for example, is a drug prescribed specifically to treat gout and can provide fast relief. Pain relievers designed to address inflammation, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also relieve pain. But make sure to consult your doctor first. You can also apply an ice pack on the affected joint and keep it elevated to ease the pain and swelling.
What is the best drink to get rid of gout?
Water is considered to be the best drink to combat gout. It neutralizes the concentration of uric acid and helps speed up its processing for excretion. You can also drink coffee and tea to inhibit uric acid production.
Should I walk with gout?
If you’re experiencing a painful episode of gout flare-up, it’s best to simply rest and apply less pressure on the affected area. This means limiting your mobility, such as walking or running. However, when the pain subsides, make sure to walk around and do light physical activities to improve your joint flexibility and blood circulation.
The Bottom Line
Gout can be an unbearable experience due to the excruciating pain it brings. For this reason, it’s important to know what foods to avoid and which ones to include in your diet. Otherwise, you may unknowingly aggravate the condition leading to other health complications. When creating a daily meal plan, make sure to exclude the above mentioned foods that trigger gout. If you are unsure about replacing them with suitable alternatives, ask your doctor or nutritionist.