Your Anti-Gout Food Plan
Published April 16, 2012
When you’re at risk for gout pain, your favorite
foods and drinks can be your worst enemies. Fortunately, there are also plenty
of anti-gout eats that prevent attacks of this inflammatory arthritis
condition. Ready to trade beer and shellfish for coffee and nuts? Read on to
learn what you should be eating more of, and what to keep off your plate to
avoid pain and discomfort...
One night after a satisfying feast, you awake with a really grouchy big toe –
inflamed, throbbing and red. Your life with gout pain has begun.
The condition, a form of inflammatory arthritis, is largely hereditary and
mostly strikes men over 30. But women are also at risk, especially after
Gout is caused by excess uric acid, a useless byproduct of dead cells. Once
uric acid levels build up in blood, it forms needle-like crystals that lodge
around joints and even in soft tissue, creating excruciating pain.
Uric acid is also formed from purines, compounds in certain foods, especially
organ meats. Although dietary changes alone aren’t enough to banish gout pain
attacks, it’s still important to eat anti-gout foods, while avoiding those
likely to sabotage your body.A gout-friendly diet not only lowers the risks
and severity of attacks, but can also diminish other disorders that accompany
it, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, says Kelly O’Connor,
R.D., diabetes educator at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
But first, identify your problem snacks.
“Most patients have their own set of foods that trigger attacks,” says Harris
H. McIlwain, M.D., a rheumatologist in the Tampa Medical Group in Tampa, Fla.,
and co-author of Diet
for a Pain-Free Life (Da
Still, it’s clear which foods are most likely to cause gout, and which can
help reduce your risk. Here are the ones you need to know about.
Foods to Avoid
Pro-gout food #1: Alcohol, especially beer.
Skip the pub crawl.
“Alcohol is worse than most foods,” says rheumatologist Frank Arnett, Jr.,
M.D., a professor at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.
That’s because all alcohol lowers the blood’s pH level, or its acid-alkaline
balance, which helps cause uric acid to crystallize.
“More than two drinks a day are likely to precipitate a gout attack,” says
Zorba Paster, M.D., clinical professor in the University of Wisconsin’s School
of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.Alcohol is also dehydrating, which
limits excretion of uric acid and increases the risk of kidney stones, more
common in those with gout, says Lanah J. Brennan, R.D., certified diabetes
educator with a private practice in Lafayette, La.
If you do drink, stick to wine, because beer is especially likely to cause
gout attacks. Its yeast is high in purines. (Don’t overdo yeasty breads
Pro-gout food #2: Organ meats.
Some consider foods, such as liver pâté and calves’ sweetbreads (the thymus
gland, pancreas and kidneys) to be delicacies. But they’re bad news for gout
sufferers because they’re loaded with purine.
While there’s little research on women, men who ate meats with the highest
purine content had a 40% higher risk of gout than those who ate the least,
according to a 2004 study of more than 47,000 participants tracked for 12
years at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. Pro-gout
food #3: Beef and pork.
Although organ meats are worst, most meats are moderately high
in purines, Arnett says.
Eat no more than 4-6 ounces of lean meat or fish per day, O’Connor recommends.
“A standard serving of red meat is about 3-4 ounces, [about the size of] a
deck of cards,” she says.
Pro-gout food #4: Shellfish.
It’s best to take high-purine items like shrimp, lobster and
scallops off the menu.
Men who ate the most seafood were 50% more likely to develop gout than those
who ate the least, the Harvard study found.
Pro-gout food #5: Fatty fish.
Other finned creatures should be limited as well. Anchovies, herring, redfish
(ocean perch), sardines and tuna are among proteins that cause gout pain and
should be limited to 4-6 ounces per day.
Pro-gout food #6: Sugary sodas.
Gout risk was 74% higher among women who drank a serving of sweetened soft
drinks each day than those who drank less than one serving per month, a 2010
analysis of the 79,000-participant Nurses’ Health Study found. Diet soda
didn’t cause gout to rise.Fruit juice and high-fructose fruits, such as apples
and pears, also create a higher risk of gout pain. Fruit has many health
benefits, but go for lower-fructose items such as berries and stone fruits
like apricots and nectarines.
What You Should Eat
Anti-gout food #1: Tofu.
“For those who are carnivores and miss meat, consider tofu
instead,” suggests Nathan Wei, M.D., director of the Arthritis and
Osteoarthritis Treatment Center of Maryland in Frederick, Md.
Or toss back other soy-protein meat substitutes (veggie burgers, soy dogs, soy
cheese), soy nuts, soy protein shakes, soy milk or edamame (steamed soybeans
still in the pod).
Anti-gout food #2: Water.
Drink at least 12 cups of fluids per day, which helps flush out
uric acid and reduces the risk of kidney stones, Brennan advises.
Water’s your best bet since it’s calorie-free and almost always available,
Brennan says. For a touch of flavor, add lemon and lime slices to a pitcher
you keep ice-cold in the fridge. And always have a bottle to drink in the car
and at your desk.
Anti-gout food #3: Cherries.
“Dark berries have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect and the
best are cherries,” Wei says.
Like blueberries and strawberries, they contain anthocyanins,
anti-inflammatory plant pigments – the darker the berry, the more you get.Wei
recommends eating one-half to 1 cup of cherries or dark berries per day. You
can also drink cherry juice or take cherry supplements in capsule form (as
directed on the package).
Anti-gout food #4: Nuts.
A handful (or 1/4 cup) of almonds or walnuts is a good meat substitute for
those at risk for gout pain, says O’Connor. Nuts don’t contain any purines, so
they minimize the threat of an attack.
So spread a little peanut butter on whole-grain crackers for lunch.
Although nuts are high in fat, it’s mostly the healthier unsaturated kind. And
both the fat and whole grain satisfy you longer, which keeps your waistline
Anti-gout food #5: Low-fat dairy foods.
“Dairy products like skim or 1% milk, low-fat yogurt and low-fat cottage
cheese may play a role in decreasing gout risk,” O’Connor says.
That’s because low-fat dairy significantly lowers uric acid levels, according
to several studies, including a 2005 analysis of the government’s Third
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers speculate
that two dairy proteins – casein and lactalbumin – increase uric acid
secretion.Low-fat dairy also is a good way to get protein into your diet. A
three-quarter cup of 1% cottage cheese has 21 grams of protein and only 122
Anti-gout food #6: Legumes.
Lentils, peas and beans are high in purines, but they don’t
cause gout risk to rise, according to the 2004 Harvard study.
Beans are low in fat and high in protein and fiber, so they reduce saturated
fat intake, which could be partially responsible for gout.
Anti-gout food #7: A cup of java.
Drinking coffee may lower your gout risk, according to a 12-year 2007 Canadian
and American study of 46,000 men.
In fact, the more coffee men drank, the more their uric acid levels fell –
they were 40% lower in those who drank 4-5 cups a day.
Although no one’s recommending you gulp coffee by the gallon, your morning
habit could help prevent gout pain.
Anti-gout food #8: Vitamin-C-rich vegetables and fruits.
Most fruits and vegetables are low in purines. O’Connor says. What’s more, men
who took in at least 1,500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day had a 45%
lower risk of gout than those who got less than 250 mg, according to the
Canadian-American research.Foods high in vitamin C include oranges,
grapefruit, broccoli and red peppers.
Popping a supplement might be easier, but talk to your doctor about the dose.
Too much vitamin C could increase uric acid levels or even trigger a gout
attack by causing rapid shifts in uric acid, Wei says.
Anti-gout food #9: Pineapple.
Pineapple has bromelain, an enzyme that reduces inflammation and
pain, says Wei. Eating a half-cup per day can help when gout pain ratchets up.
Anti-gout food #10: Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
This may sound contradictory, because people who have or are at
risk for gout should avoid eating too much fatty fish like salmon and
mackerel. But moderate amounts – no more than 4-6 ounces per day – provide
omega-3 fatty acids, which are powerful anti-inflammatories, Wei says.
You can also get omega-3s from flaxseeds. Sprinkle a tablespoon a day on
cereal or stir-fry. How
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