It’s impossible to ignore gout symptoms, especially because they often come on in the middle of the night. But if you’ve ever felt like your toe is on fire, you can fight back.
It often surprises people to learn that gout is a type of arthritis. While many joint conditions are due to cartilage degeneration, this complex form develops in response to high levels of uric acid in the body.
Your body makes uric acid when it digests purines, a substance that comes from specific foods. Normally, this doesn’t cause issues. However, consistently high levels of uric acid can build up in your system, causing sharp crystals to form in the joints or surrounding tissue.
That’s when those painful, telltale gout symptoms flare up in the affected area, including:
- Severe joint pain
- Persistent joint discomfort
- Redness, heat, and inflammation
Most people associate gout with the big toe — which does account for most gout cases — but you can also develop problems in fingers, wrists, heels, and knees.
At Family Foot and Ankle Center of South Jersey in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, our talented team specializes in bone and soft tissue problems affecting the feet and ankles. Do you have recurring gout attacks? You may be eating foods that make you more prone to gout flare-ups.
Understanding uric acid
You can have high levels of uric acid — a waste product — in your system for two reasons: Your body makes too much, or your kidneys remove too little.
You have an increased chance of having high levels of uric acid if you:
- Are overweight or obese
- Have a family history of the condition
- Are male, especially 30-50 years of age
- Use medications like low-dose aspirin and diuretics
- Have certain medical issues, such as heart disease, kidney disease, or diabetes
- Have undergone a trauma or surgery
And because uric acid comes from purine, your diet also plays a role in developing gout.
Your diet and gout
Purine in and of itself isn’t bad. But because one-third of the uric acid made by your body comes from the purines you consume, eating a lot of purine-rich foods increases the amount of uric acid you have in your system. And, as mentioned above, the more uric acid you have in your body, the higher your chances of a gout attack.
Types of foods with high levels of purine include:
- Red meat, including lamb, pork, and beef
- Organ and glandular meats, like kidney, liver, and sweetbreads
- Certain seafoods, like sardines, shellfish, and tuna
- Sugary foods and sweetened beverages
- Alcohol, including beer and distilled liquors
Untreated gout can cause permanent joint erosion and deterioration. You can also experience recurrent gout attacks, have urate crystals form in tender nodules under your skin, or develop kidney stones.
Choosing foods that help prevent gout flare-ups
If you have gout, our team can put together a personalized treatment strategy to manage your symptoms, such as topical pain relievers and medications to increase your comfort. We also recommend making specific dietary changes:
- Consume more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Eat healthy proteins like lentils, lean meats, and low-fat dairy
- Reduce saturated fats like fatty poultry, red meat, and high-fat dairy products
- Limit or avoid alcohol
- Drink plenty of water
You should also work to reach and maintain a healthy weight. In fact, losing weight and reducing the calories you consume can help reduce uric acids and gout attacks — even if you don’t limit the purine-rich foods in your diet.
Do you have gout? Our team can help get your symptoms under control. Contact Family Foot and Ankle Center of South Jersey and schedule an appointment today.