How Food Can Help (and Even Prevent) Gout
Even though it is often thought of as a single condition, arthritis has many different forms. For example, the “wear and tear” version that becomes increasingly more likely the older we get is actually osteoarthritis. Many people consider this condition to be “arthritis’ simply because it is the most common variation.
It’s actually more correct to think of arthritis as any condition that can cause painful inflammation—and subsequent stiffness and pain—in a joint, since the word literally means “joint” (arthron) “swelling” (-itis).
One of the arthritic conditions found in feet is gout. Whereas other forms of arthritis might come from “wear and tear” or autoimmune disorders (like rheumatoid arthritis), gout is actually caused by a natural-occurring byproduct that happens as cells break down food products. This byproduct is called uric acid.
Uric acid is normally flushed out in the kidneys and expelled from the body during urination. When there is an excessive amount of uric acid or the kidneys do not properly filter this byproduct, it tends to settle into joints. Once there, the acid begins to crystalize. When it does, the resulting uric acid crystals have sharp points. These sharp points can press into soft tissues – which then causes inflammation and pain.
Gout is not an ever-present source of pain, but it is an ever-present potential for gout attacks. These typically are experienced at night and can be quite intense. Even having light pressure (like a bedsheet) on the area causes severe pain.
Given the fact the condition is caused by food breakdown, management and treatment are centered on dietary choices.
Some of the best foods for easy gout-safe eating include:
- Vegetables. These nutritional all-stars have an unfair reputation as being bland, but veggies are not only chockfull of essential vitamins and nutrients, they can also be quite delicious (and we aren’t talking just about potatoes that are sliced and deep-fried!). Even better, we are still in the summer season, which is the best time to enjoy fresh carrots, peas, and asparagus.
- Cherries. Fruit in general is recommended for managing gout, but cherries are especially beneficial. A 2012 study found that cherries and cherry extracts (juice) led to an over 50% reduction in gout attacks for the next two days after consumption. As if their delicious taste weren’t enough, we are inclined to think this is a great reason to eat more cherries in their natural state (not in baked goods…).
- Dairy products. Keep them in the cooler if you are heading out for a picnic, but low-fat dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk are outstanding options for preventing gout flares.
- Legumes. You can inject a little spice into your gout-safe dietary plan with a Mexican bean salad (but limit the sugar). Of course, beans are legumes to include in your diet, whether you have gout or not!
- Water, coffee, and tea. Water is essential for sustaining life, but it is also important for reducing your risk of a gout attack. Always be sure to stay properly hydrated—especially on warm, summer days—and avoid sugary beverages. You also should consider passing on (or at least limiting) alcohol consumption. Beer and distilled liquors can contribute to increased and recurrent gout attacks.
Dietary choices play a major role in gout treatment and prevention, but there are other options we may incorporate in your treatment plan, including prescription medications to reduce uric acid production or improve the removal of it from your system.
For more information on gout-safe eating, or to request your appointment with either our Clifton Park or Troy, NY offices, simply call (518) 273-0053. You can also connect with us on our website, through our online form found here.