Gout Triggers

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on January 26, 2022
3 min read

Once you’ve had one gout flare, you really don’t want another. To avoid them, it’s important to figure out the things that set off your symptoms. Here’s a rundown of the usual suspects and what you need to do.

Some can raise the level of uric acid in your body, and that’s what causes gout. If you can limit them, you could head off another flare.

Red meat and seafood. Meat (especially organ meats like liver and sweetbreads) and seafood (like fish and shellfish) can be high in chemicals called purines. When your body breaks them down, your level of uric acid goes up.

Instead, go forprotein from low-fat dairy products, like skim milk, cheese, and yogurt. You can also eat more beans, soy, and other plant-based forms of protein.

Sweetened drinks. Sodas and juices flavored with fruit sugars, like high-fructose corn syrup, can trigger gout flares.

For a sweet substitute, switch to flavored water or diet soda, which won’t raise your odds of an attack. In general, make sure to drink a lot of fluids. Aim for at least eight glasses a day, with at least half being water.

Alcohol. Liquor and especially beer can make you more likely to have gout. You don’t have to give up on cocktail hour forever, but your best bet is to limit how much you drink. Your doctor can help you figure out how much is OK.

Certain drugs, health problems, and lifestyle choices can trigger gout, too.

Medications. Aspirin, certain diuretics for high blood pressure (and other conditions), and drugs for people who had organ transplants can trigger gout. After a flare, go over all the medicines you take with your doctor. If needed, they should be able to find another option.

Being overweight. When you slim down, you can protect yourself from another flare. 

Fasting or crash diets. If you lose weight too quickly or fast, you could raise your chances of an attack. 

High blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, and heart disease. These health conditions make you more likely to have gout, especially if you don’t get treatment. Work with your doctor to keep them under control.

Injuries or surgery. When your body is stressed or sick, you’re more likely to have a flare. Of course, you can’t always avoid this trigger. But if you need to have an operation, make sure your doctor knows you’ve had gout in the past.

Gout triggers differ from person to person. Some people can eat a steak or drink an occasional beer with no problems. Others can’t tolerate a bite or a sip without a flare. So you need to learn what yourtriggers are.

Keep a diary of what you eat for a while. That way, you can go back and see whether you can link flares with specific foods. Then you’ll know what you really need to avoid.

Along with avoiding triggers, here are other things you can do to stay healthy and prevent flares:

  • See your doctor regularly. You may need to adjust your dose of gout medication over time.
  • Always have medicine on hand for flares. The faster you take it, the sooner you can control the symptoms.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and plant proteins (like beans and nuts). Cut down on processed foods (like white bread, cakes, and candy).
  • Get regular exercise.

Show Sources


Mayo Clinic: “Gout,” “Gout Diet: What’s Allowed, What’s Not.”

Jemima Albayda, MD, director, Rapid Arthritis Care and Evaluation Clinic, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore.

Shailendra Singh, MD, rheumatology medical director, White River Medical Center, Batesville, AR.

UpToDate: “Prevention of Recurrent Gout: Lifestyle Modification and Other Strategies for Risk Reduction,” “Gout (Beyond the Basics).”

Arthritis Foundation: “Gout Self Care.”

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