Gout: Foods That Help and Hurt

Drink More Water

Drink more water to avoid dehydration which can trigger gout attacks.

The food you eat may help you manage gout and ease symptoms such as joint pain. Start by drinking more water because dehydration might trigger gout attacks. One study showed that men who drank five to eight glasses of water a day had a 40% lower chance of flare-ups. But avoid sugary sodas, which may raise your odds of an attack.

Find a Diet That Works for You

Being overweight makes you more likely to have gout.

Being overweight makes you more likely to have gout. So try to lose extra pounds -- it can help your symptoms. Talk with your doctor about how to make diet changes to slim down and avoid gout attacks. You may find that you can eat some foods without a problem, while others may make your gout worse.

Avoid Purines

Too much uric acid can cause gout so a low-purine diet may help mange it.

Weight loss is the most effective way to manage gout, but a low-purine diet may help you, too. Purines are natural substances in food that your body breaks down into uric acid. Too much uric acid in your blood causes gout. Some foods, like organ meats, sardines, and anchovies, have a lot of purines and can cause flare-ups. But many healthy options, like beans, lentils, and asparagus, have less. Talk to your doctor about what you can safely eat.

Eat Plenty of Fruits

Fruits high in vitamin C, like tangerines and oranges, may help prevent gout attacks.

Fruits are full of fiber and other nutrients that can help you eat a balanced diet and stay at a healthy weight. Plus, they tend to have very few purines. Those that are high in vitamin C, like tangerines and oranges, may help prevent gout attacks. Some research shows that cherries or cherry juice can offer relief from symptoms. Ask your doctor if you should add cherries to your diet.

Choose the Right Carbs

Focus on healthy carbs with a lot of fiber to keep weight in check.

If you follow diets that are low-carb or high in protein or fat, you may get too many purines. Processed carbohydrates like white bread and white-flour pasta have very few purines -- but they can make you gain weight. Instead, focus on healthy carbs with a lot of fiber such as oats, sweet potatoes, beans, and vegetables.

Choose Fats Wisely

Eat more foods rich in fatty acids which may help lower inflammation.

Cut back on saturated fats, like those in red meat and fatty poultry. Instead, eat more foods rich in fatty acids, including cold-water fish like tuna and salmon, flax and other seeds, nuts, and olive oil. Fatty acids may help lower inflammation. And try to cut back on, or get rid of, any trans fats in your diet, like those in fried foods and baked goods.

Limit Your Alcohol

Alcohol has a lot of purines, so it may raise the risk of a gout attack.

Booze has a lot of purines, so it may make you more likely to have a gout attack -- especially if you have more than one drink a day. Beer seems to be worse than other alcoholic drinks because it has yeast. But wine doesn't seem to raise your odds for a flare-up, as long as you stick to just a glass or two.

Use Caffeine With Caution

Talk to your doctor about whether caffeine might trigger your gout attacks.

Moderate coffee drinking is thought to be OK for people with gout. And for some people who drink it regularly, four or more cups a day may even lower the chance of gout attacks. If you only drink caffeine sometimes, though, it may raise your uric acid levels. Talk to your doctor about whether caffeine might trigger your gout attacks.

Eat Less Meat

Limit amounts of chicken, pork, or lean beef to one serving a day as these types of meat have fewer purines.

Eat limited amounts of chicken, pork, or lean beef -- at most, one serving a day. Those types of meat have fewer purines than organ meats like liver and sweetbreads. Other foods like gravies and meat-based broths are also high in purines.

Enjoy Low-Fat Dairy

Dairy purines don't seem to cause gout and low-fat dairy may lower your odds of an attack.

Dairy products were once off-limits to people with gout because they're made from animal proteins. But they're actually low in purines -- and dairy purines don't seem to cause gout. Low-fat dairy foods may even lower your odds of having the condition by more than 40%. During an attack, these foods may help you get rid of extra uric acid through your urine.

You Can't Avoid All Purines

Not all purines are bad for people with gout.

Not all purines are bad for people with gout. A few foods that have a lot of them don't trigger the symptoms. One study found that peas, beans, mushrooms, cauliflower, spinach, and chicken -- foods that doctors once said to avoid -- may not be linked to flare-ups.

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REFERENCES:

  • Rachel Beller, RD, Beller Nutritional Institute.
  • Family Doctor: "Low-Purine Diet."
  • Arthritis Today: "Drink More Water for Fewer Gout Attacks," "Milk Is Part of a Smart Gout Diet," "Foods' Purine Content," "Fight Gout with Your Gut," "Soda Increases Risk of Gout."
  • American College of Rheumatology: "Gout."
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Gout."
  • Arthritis Foundation: "Safe Foods for Gout," "Coffee May Lower Gout Risk."
  • Zhang, Y. American Journal of Medicine, September 2006.
  • Choi, H. New England Journal of Medicine, March 11, 2004.
  • Boston University Medical Campus: "Online Gout Study."
  • Palo Alto Medical Foundation: "Gout: Preventing Gout Attacks."
  • Johns Hopkins Health Alerts: "Gout and Soda: What's the Connection?"
  • Mayo Clinic: "Gout diet: What's allowed, what's not."
  • American Heart Association: "Trans fat."
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