Gout is a painful condition that usually involves severe pain and swelling of the big toe, and can cause fever, chills and can be a very intense experience that lasts anywhere from one day to two weeks. We know that most cases of gout are due to high levels of uric acid, forming crystals that deposit into the toes. Uric acid is formed in the liver, as a by-product of processing purines found in foods and medication. If left untreated, you may have recurring episodes that mutate into other forms of gout, such as tophaceous gout that erodes and damages joints and can result in deposits in the eye.
From a naturopathic perspective, dietary changes are a must to reduce your uric acid levels. Preventative measures such as losing weight, exercising and adjusting medications are important to help control gout.
However, a balanced diet is the number one recommendation for avoiding gout!
Here are 10 foods and drinks that may trigger gout
Although all alcohol can bring on gout, beer increases the risk of infection more than spirits (on their own) and wine. When spirits are mixed with soft drinks, its risk of triggering gout becomes heightened, and when the wine of choice is of the red variety, it is higher in purines (as is port) and so increasing its risk factor. White wine, when consumed in small amounts, is not associated with increased gout risk and so it is preferable to opt for this if you’d prefer not to abstain from alcohol completely.
Sugar- and fructose-sweetened drinks increase the risk of gout substantially, however this doesn’t mean swap to diet soft drinks! Instead, try and opt for sparkling mineral water instead with a small squeeze of fresh lemon, lime or orange to quench your thirst. (It’s a lot better for weight management and hydration, too).
High in purines, red meat from beef and lamb may cause a build up of uric acid. Dark meat from game like rabbit, kangaroo or venison is also a food to reduce. Instead, try to keep your meat intake to small servings a couple of times a week, and introduce more plant-based foods into you diet.
Scallop, prawn, crab, lobster are all a luxury items for the wallet and for gout sufferers! A small amount every now and then can be ok, however more than 200g per day may increase your risk of an attack.
Brewers’ yeast and bakers’ yeast are big gout culprits, so steer clear of beer and bread to avoid an attack.
Fish like sardines, tuna, anchovies and salmon should be limited as they are high in purines. Swap to white fish that won’t be as problematic.
Although not the most popular items on the menu, they are common enough for us to know that they can trigger gout. Offal, liver and kidneys need to be reduced or eliminated from your diet to lower your risk of high uric acid.
Deli meats that are high in nitrates, sodium and saturated fats may trigger gout. Instead, opt for naturally cured meats like Parma ham or traditionally made bacon and salami, in moderation.
The meats we discussed earlier will be among the foods to avoid to reduce your saturated fats, but add high fat dairy products to the list as well. It is recommended that people with gout should consume low fat dairy products, or dairy alternatives, to reduce the risk.
Although not as risky as the rest of the list, chickpeas contain moderate amounts of purines. (Mushrooms, peas, cauliflower, asparagus and fava beans also contain similar amounts). Depending on how high your levels are, you may want to reduce your intake of these while you reduce the inflammation in your body.
Although this list might seem extreme, and feel like it’s cutting out a good chunk of delicious foods, living with chronic pain (or the fear of another attack) isn’t a great way to pay for consuming them. Try slowly eliminating or reducing one food at a time (starting with what you know to have most triggered an attack in the past, this could be different from person to person).