Gout is a type of arthritis that causes recurrent joint pain, inflammation and swelling. Although the symptoms of gout are usually perceived in the lower regions of the body (big toe, heels, ankles, knees), they can occur in regions of the upper body as well (shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers). Statistics indicate that gout affects around 3.5 million people in the United States. Gout is commonly seen in people with ages over 50, rarely affecting young adults and children. Although gout can occur in both genders, the disease has the highest incidence in men.
The main cause of gout is the accumulation and deposition of uric crystals at the level of the joints and adjacent soft tissues. Uric acid is a waste product that results from purine metabolism. Most cases of gout occur due to under-excretion of uric acid on the premises of kidney dysfunctions. However, the intake of purine-rich foods greatly contributes to the development of gout as well. Thus, food regimens considerably influence the occurrence and the progression of the disease.
Corroborated with an appropriate medical treatment, a healthy diet can reverse the undesirable effects of gout, also minimizing the risk of relapse. Due to the pronounced chronic character of the disease, gout sufferers require ongoing treatment and need to respect a correct long-term food regimen. It is important to note that that gout diets alone can’t overcome the disease completely. In order to achieve a complete recovery, people affected by gout also need to make lifestyle improvements. If necessary, gout sufferers should take measures in losing weight, getting more physical exercise and reducing stressful conditions.
Gout diets work on multiple levels. Their main goals are to lower serum uric acid levels and to reduce the dietary intake of purines. In order to reduce serum uric acid levels, gout sufferers need to help their organism excrete this substance from their system. People with gout should drink at least two liters of pure water or unsweetened, non-alcoholic beverages each day.
In order to prevent the accumulation of uric crystals inside the body, gout sufferers are advised to limit the intake of foods that contain high levels of purine. A gout diet should completely exclude organ meats (heart, liver, kidneys), and seafood (shrimps, mussels), as they are very rich in purines. Try to replace these foods with small portions of boiled, steamed, grilled or roasted white meat. It is essential to avoid frying your meals, as greasy foods are not well tolerated by people who suffer from gout. Gout sufferers should also limit their intake of simple carbohydrates (sweets), as they also facilitate the progression of the disease.
A gout diet should contain complex carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, whole cereal products, pasta), green vegetables and fresh fruits. Low-fat dairy products such as skim-milk and light yogurt can be safely included in any gout diet. By drinking two glasses of skim-milk each day, one can greatly reduce the frequency and the intensity of gout attacks. Low-fat dairy products can normalize serum uric acid concentration and thus they are recommended to all people affected by gout.