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Can Gout Be Treated with Changes to My Diet?

 Can Gout Be Treated with Changes to My Diet?

Gout is one type of the over 100 forms of arthritis, a disease characterized by inflammation of the joints. Gout was once called the disease of kings, because only the rich could afford the alcohol and rich meats that appeared to accompany its development. 

The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (the wear-and-tear kind) and rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune condition). Like them, gout causes inflammation in the joints, but the underlying cause differs. 

Gout occurs when crystals of uric acid, a waste product, deposit in the joint space. For some reason, about 50% of first-time attacks occur in the big toe, and it causes the joints in the toe to become inflamed and painful.

At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, our team of board-certified foot and ankle specialists treats gout and a range of other other podiatric problems at our offices in and around Chicago, Illinois. Patients often ask if they can control their condition with dietary changes. The answer is yes, and here’s why.

The development of gout

Uric acid is a normal breakdown product of purines that you consume in certain foods and drinks. Normally, your kidneys filter out the acid and flush it from your system along with urine. 

But if you ingest high levels of purines, if you don’t drink enough fluid to flush out the uric acid, and/or if your kidneys can’t process a large amount of uric acid effectively, the waste builds up, crystalizes, and deposits in the joint space.

Certain foods, drinks, and medications can increase your body’s uric acid levels, leading to painful gout flare-ups. Some of these include:

Other risk factors for developing gout and increasing the frequency of flare-ups include hypertension, diabetes, and/or chronic stress.

With the crystals entrenched in the joint, white blood cells from the immune system flood into the area, causing widespread inflammation, severe pain, and chronic disease. If the crystals deposit in the urinary tract instead, they can lead to kidney stones.

Can I treat gout with changes to my diet?

Since gout often starts with consuming too many purines, controlling your consumption can calm your condition. Some suggestions include:

Vegetables with high levels of purines, such as spinach and mushrooms, are safe to eat, and low-fat dairy choices (e.g., yogurt, cheese) may actually lower your level of uric acid.

Can I do anything else?

There are other ways you can control the amount of uric acid in your body.

One of the best ways of reducing uric acid is by exercising — but in the right way. Regular exercise at regular intensity only makes the pain-causing inflammatory process worse. Non-weight-bearing, low-intensity exercise is not only more comfortable, but it may also help reduce inflammation, decreasing the pain.

Swimming and water aerobics, which take advantage of the water’s buoyancy, provide the cardiac and circulatory system benefits of regular aerobic exercise while decreasing stress on your painful joints.

Another way to control uric acid levels is by taking medication that either dissolves crystals or prevents them from forming. Medications work by blocking production of uric acid, helping your kidneys filter out uric acid, or breaking down what’s already in the bloodstream. 

At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, we ensure medication regimens meet your specific needs, and combine them with dietary and lifestyle modifications to achieve the highest effectiveness.

Do you want to learn more about diet and gout? Chicagoland Foot and Ankle can help. To get started, book online or call us at any of our locations — the Mount Greenwood and Portage Park areas of Chicago, Orland Park, and New Lenox, Illinois.

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