Gout is a painful form of arthritis. It happens when too much uric acid builds up and forms crystals in your joints. It usually starts in your big toe but can spread to your knees, wrist, ankles, elbows, and fingers if it’s not treated. The crystals can also cause painless lumps called tophi.
Your body makes uric acid after it breaks down a substance called purine. Your body makes that chemical, too, but it’s also in a lot of foods you eat.
Gout used to be thought of as a disease of the wealthy, because it was associated with eating a lot of red meat and shellfish and drinking alcoholic beverages. We now know the amount of money you make doesn’t matter, but the foods and drinks you eat do.
No specific diet will definitely prevent flare-ups, but watching what you eat can make a difference.
What Foods Should I Avoid?
Being choosy about foods and drinks can help lower your chances of an attack.
You should stay away from these types of food:
- Beer and grain liquors (like vodka and whiskey)
- Red meat, lamb, and pork
- Organ meats, such as liver, kidneys, and sweetbreads (thymus or the pancreas)
- Seafood, especially shellfish like shrimp, lobster, mussels, anchovies, and sardines
- High-fructose products like soda and some juices, cereal, ice cream, candy, and fast food
What Foods Should I Eat?
Low-purine options are low-fat and non-dairy fat products, like yogurt and skim milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, and grains.
It’s a good idea to drink lots of fluids – 8 to 16 cups a day. At least half of what you drink should be water. Also, stay away from sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice. You also may need to limit or avoid alcohol as well (talk with your doctor to find out what’s right for you).
Vitamin C also can help lower uric acid. Caffeinated coffee can too, as long as you don’t overdo it.
Meats like fish, chicken, and red meat are fine in moderation (around 4 to 6 ounces per day), and the same holds true for low-fat or nonfat dairy and things like tofu, eggs, and peanut butter.
While a healthy diet can help control how much uric acid is in your system, you may still need medicine to prevent future attacks. Talk with your doctor about all your treatment options.