You wake up one morning with excruciating pain in the first knuckle of your big toe. Your knuckle is hot and tender. You go to the medical clinic, and your doctor runs some tests on you. When you return to the clinic, the doctor tells you that you have gout, which is a type of arthritis. The physician also tells you that the symptoms of gout can be managed with medications and lifestyle changes.
After your first gout flares up, you're ready to make changes to your lifestyle to avoid having a gout flare up again.
Too much uric acid causes gout in your bloodstream. The excess uric acid migrates to joints and crystallizes, causing pain and inflammation. The episodes where the joint becomes swollen and painful are called gout flare-ups. Substances called purines, which exist in the foods you eat, are converted into uric acid and excreted through your kidneys. When you eat foods high in purines, your kidneys may not be able to process all the uric acid out of your bloodstream.
Although purines occur naturally in your body, they also occur in food. Eating food high in purines can cause a gout flare up. You need to reduce or cut out eating red meats, organ meats, fatty foods, and certain types of fish and shellfish to reduce the level of purines in your diet. Talk to your doctor about the right diet for you.
If you're fond of fruit drinks or drinks or foods with high fructose corn syrup, they may be contributing to your gout. Fructose is high in purines, and when you have fruit drinks or foods made with high fructose corn syrup, you are increasing your chances for another gout flare up.
Alcohol, especially beer, is high in purines and calories. Alcohol is known to cause gout flare-ups. When you socialize, go for a nonalcoholic drink, but be sure to stay away from soft drinks with high fructose corn syrup, fruit drinks, and drinks loaded with fructose as these can also cause gout attacks.
If you're obese, the best thing you can do is lose weight. People who are obese have more uric acid in their bloodstreams than people who are the correct weight. Talk to your doctor about a diet that is low in purines that will also help you lose weight. Your physician should be able to direct you to a diet that is right for you.
Along with weight loss, you should consider starting an exercise program and keep fit. Because gout is a type of arthritis, it's important to do low impact types of exercises that will improve your flexibility and range of motion. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program and see what exercises they recommend.
Being dehydrated can cause gout flare-ups. If you don't get enough water throughout the day, uric acid builds up and can't be excreted through the kidneys. This is why making certain that you have enough water throughout the day is crucial -- both for healthy kidneys and no gout attacks.
Coffee lovers rejoice! If you love coffee, you may have found something you can drink that will help lower uric acid in your bloodstream. Studies show that drinking coffee, whether caffeinated or decaffeinated, can actually reduce your uric acid, but researchers don't know why. So, enjoy your cup of coffee and know it's good for you.
While we're on the subject of coffee, you might as well make it a skinny latte. It seems that low-fat dairy products have some effect to protect you from gout flare-ups. Because dairy is high in protein, you can safely substitute low-fat cheeses, yogurt, and milk for the red meat, fish, and shellfish you aren't eating.
You've heard the adage, "No Pain, No Gain." In the case of gout, don't listen to that. If you have a gout flare up, rest the joint on soft pillows, preferably elevated. If your doctor has prescribed medication for gout flares, take that and rest. You won't improve things by trying to work through the pain.
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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.