About 8 million Americans suffer from the sudden painful symptoms of gout. The excruciating and immobilizing pain that occurs with this condition is so severe that Hippocrates called gout “the unwalkable disease.”
Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that results from hyperuricemia, a condition that occurs when too much uric acid accumulates in your blood. Uric acid is the byproduct of the process that occurs when your body metabolizes purines, which are contained in many foods.
Under normal circumstances, your body breaks down uric acid and eliminates it through your kidneys. If too much uric acid collects or your kidneys can’t process it adequately, uric acid can change into sharp, needle-like crystals that surround your joints.
Crystallization of uric acid often develops in the coolest parts of your body because it is highly sensitive to changes in temperature. Though gout can attack any joint, it typically affects your big toe. Since this joint is farthest from your heart, it’s where temperatures are the coolest.
At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, our team of board-certified foot and ankle specialists deliver professional gout diagnosis and treatment. After a medical history and thorough physical examination, your podiatrist defines the source of your symptoms and recommends a personalized treatment plan to relieve pain and reduce future attacks.
When you have the right professional care, gout is a treatable condition. Although you can’t eliminate a genetic risk of the disease, you can reduce gout attacks by following these lifestyle practices that can lower uric acid levels.
You may be increasing your risk of gout attacks if your diet includes foods high in purines. Avoiding these foods, which are high in purines, may help prevent symptoms.
While reducing foods high in purines can be beneficial to managing gout, increasing your consumption of the following foods and beverages may also help limit gout symptoms:
Modifying your diet with these recommendations can lower uric acid levels and reduce the amount of purines your body has to process.
Research indicates that being overweight is a modifiable risk factor associated with the onset of gout. Eating more food increases the risk of having too much uric acid in your blood.
Findings from a study of 14,000 American adults found that individuals who were classified as being overweight based on body mass index (BMI) had an 85% higher risk of having elevated uric acid levels compared to those who had an average BMI. Researchers reported that carrying extra weight alone was linked to 44% of the hyperuricemia cases identified in the study group.
Drinking alcohol increases your uric acid levels and makes you more susceptible to a gout attack because alcoholic beverages are high in purines. Since beer is made with brewer’s yeast, a substance which is very high in purines, it may deliver the greatest threat.
Drinking alcoholic beverages can also increase your risk of dehydration. When your body lacks water, urine output decreases, which can prevent your body from removing uric acid efficiently. You can offset the threat of dehydration by drinking plenty of water, whether or not you’re drinking alcohol.
Diuretics, also called water pills, can increase the amount of salt and water that you remove from your body through urine. These medications can be effective for treating high blood pressure because they reduce your total volume of blood, which lowers the pressure exerted inside your blood vessels.
Although diuretics can help control high blood pressure, reducing the amount of water in your body can increase your risk of gout attacks. If you’re taking a diuretic and experiencing gout symptoms, ask your primary provider or cardiologist about the possibility of changing to a different medication.
Even though changing medications may help reduce your risk of gout, you should never change or discontinue prescribed high blood pressure medication without a medical recommendation. Doing so can increase your risk of life-threatening results.
Staying physically active with regular exercise can help prevent gout attacks. In addition to helping you lose weight, exercise can help reduce uric acid levels because it works to reduce fat in your body. Fat carries more uric acid than muscle.
Building strong muscles can also help protect affected joints from the wear-and-tear that can occur during a gout attack.
Find out more about lifestyle practices that can reduce your risk of gout symptoms. To schedule a consultation, call our office, or book an appointment at one of our four locations throughout the Chicagoland area.