Gout is a metabolic disorder that results in an inflammatory arthritis that commonly affects the big toe, but also any other joint in the body. What happens in gout is crystals of sodium urate form inside the joints and lead to symptom such as sudden and severe pain, swelling and redness. These symptoms can develop rapidly, known as a gout attack where there is a severe increase in symptoms over a 24 hours period with the attack subsiding over a 3-10 days period. After this the joint starts to feel normal again with any pain or discomfort eventually disappearing.
Gout is caused by something called hyperuricemia, which means high levels of uric acid in the blood that the kidneys fail to excrete. Gout is more common in men than women, mainly because the female hormone oestrogen reduces a woman’s level of uric acid. However after menopause uric acid levels rise as oestrogen declines increasing a women’s risk of gout.
The of symptoms gout usually occur after the age of 30 in men, and after 60 in women and it is estimated that 1 in 70 adults in the UK suffer from gout. There a number of factors which increase the risk of suffering gout that include:
- Age and gender
- Being overweight
- Rapid weight loss
- High blood pressure
- Having long-term kidney problems
- A diet rich in purines
- Drinking too much beer or spirits
There are also certain types of medications that increase uric acid levels in the blood and your risk of developing gout such as:
- Diuretics, used to treat high blood pressure
- Niacin, used to treat high cholesterol
Conventional treatment of gout
The medical management for gout is to use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) to deal with the acute pain and inflammation. The drug Allopurinol is also prescribed as it blocks an enzyme that produces uric acid in the body thus lower blood levels. Doctors will also recommend these medication are combined with lifestyle modification (diet and exercise) and weight loss.
Nutritional management of gout
There a number of foods that are naturally high in purines. When purines are metabolised in the body they can end up as uric acid. Thus foods high in purines can increase uric acid. London nutritionist Steve Hines can design you a eating plan to reduce purines in your diet. Foods naturally high in purines include:
So if you suffer from gout it would be sensible to reduce these foods and chose foods that are low in purines. There are also a number of nutrients that have been shown to reduce uric acid and should be included in the diet if you suffer from gout. These include:
- Foods rich in vitamin C
- Cherry extract
Likewise there are foods that increase uric acid so should be avoided:
- Sugar sweetened beverages