What Foods Cause Gout Flare Ups?

While gout is a complex disorder with many possible triggers, there are some foods that are more likely to cause gout flare-ups. Here’s a list of some of the most common offenders.

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1. What is gout?

Gout is a form of arthritis that causes severe pain, swelling, and inflammation in the joints. It most commonly affects the big toe, but can also affect the knees, ankles, elbows, and hands. Gout is caused by the buildup of uric acid in the blood, which can be due to a variety of factors, including diet. Foods that are high in purines can increase levels of uric acid in the blood and may trigger gout attacks. Here are some foods that are known to cause gout flare-ups and should be avoided if you have this condition.

1. Alcohol: Alcohol is a major contributor to gout flare-ups. Beer and hard liquor are especially problematic because they contain high levels of purines.

2. Fish: Fish such as anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are high in purines and should be avoided if you have gout.

3. Meat: Meat is another major source of purines and should be limited if you have gout. Red meat (beef, pork, lamb) is especially problematic, but poultry and game meats can also trigger flare-ups.

4. Shellfish: Shellfish such as crabs, lobsters, mussels, oysters, and scallops are also high in purines and should be avoided if you have gout.

5. Sugary drinks: Sugary drinks such as soda and fruit juice can also trigger gout attacks by increasing uric acid levels in the blood.

2. What causes gout?

There are many things that can cause gout or make it worse. Here are some of the most common:

-Eating foods high in purines. Purines are found in some foods, including steak, organ meats, and fatty fish. They’re also found in certain types of seafood, such as anchovies, sardines, and mussels. When you eat purine-rich foods, your body breaks them down into uric acid.

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-Being overweight. Excess weight puts extra pressure on your joints and makes it harder for your body to get rid of uric acid.

-Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol slows down the removal of uric acid from your body.

-Having certain medical conditions. Kidney disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes can make gout worse by causing your body to have too much uric acid or making it harder for your body to get rid of uric acid.

3. What are the symptoms of gout?

3. What are the symptoms of gout?
The most common symptom of gout is a sudden and severe attack of pain, swelling, redness and tenderness in one or more joints. An attack of gout can occur suddenly, often at night, and is usually most intense within 12 to 24 hours after it begins. The joint at the base of the big toe is affected in about half of all cases. Other joints commonly affected by gout include the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers.

During an attack of gout, you may also experience:
-limited range of motion in the affected joint
-intense joint pain that comes in waves
-swelling and warmth in the affected area
-red or purplish skin around the affected joint

4. What are the risk factors for gout?

There are many possible causes of gout, but the most common one is the build-up of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a waste product that is produced when the body breaks down purines — which are found in high amounts in certain foods, such as liver, shellfish and anchovies.

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Certain medical conditions can also lead to gout, including kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Gout is also more common in men than women and tends to run in families.

Flare-ups can be triggered by injury or surgery, sudden changes in temperature, illness or stress.

5. How is gout diagnosed?

A diagnosis of gout can usually be made based on the signs and symptoms. However, sometimes a sample of the fluid from an inflamed joint is examined under a microscope for crystals. This procedure, called a Joint Fluid Analysis, can confirm the diagnosis of gout.

During a flare-up, your doctor may also order blood tests to check for uric acid levels and to rule out other causes of your symptoms (such as infection).

6. How is gout treated?

There is no cure for gout, but it can be controlled with medication and lifestyle changes. The overall goal of treatment is to reduce the amount of uric acid in your body, either by lowering production or increasing excretion. This can help prevent gout attacks and relieve the symptoms of gout.

Lifestyle changes that can improve gout include:
-Weight loss (if you are obese)
-Avoiding foods that are high in purines (see below)
-Limiting alcohol consumption
-Reducing stress

Your doctor may also prescribe medication to treat gout, including:
-Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs can help reduce swelling and pain during a gout attack. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen (Aleve). Taking low doses of colchicine along with an NSAID may help to relieve pain during a gout attack.
-Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are powerful drugs that can be taken orally or injected directly into an affected joint to reduce inflammation quickly.
-Probenecid: Probenecid works by helping your body get rid of uric acid. It is often used in combination with allopurinol.
-Allopurinol (Zyloprim): Allopurinol reduces uric acid production and is usually prescribed for long-term treatment of gout or prevention of frequent flare-ups.

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7. What are the complications of gout?

Gout can cause permanent joint damage. Joints affected by gout develop small lumps of uric acid crystals called tophi. Tophi are not usually painful, but they can be unsightly. Gout can also lead to kidney stones.

8. How can gout be prevented?

There is no one answer to how gout can be prevented since the underlying cause—higher than normal levels of uric acid in the bloodstream—can be due to a variety of things. But there are some general steps that can be taken to help lower the risk of a gout attack, or reduce the severity and frequency of flare-ups.

1. Limit your intake of foods high in purines.
2. Maintain a healthy weight.
3. Exercise regularly.
4. Limit your alcohol consumption.
5. Limit your intake of sugary drinks and foods.
6. Talk to your doctor about medications that can help prevent gout attacks, such as allopurinol (Zyloprim) or febuxostat (Uloric).

9. What are the long-term outlook for people with gout?

The long-term outlook for people with gout is generally good. However, if left untreated, gout can lead to serious complications, such as joint damage, kidney damage, and tophi (lumps of uric acid crystals that form under the skin).

10. Where can I find more information about gout?

The Arthritis Foundation provides a wealth of information about gout, including:

-What is gout?
-What causes gout?
-Who is at risk for gout?
-What are the symptoms of gout?
-How is gout diagnosed?
-How is gout treated?
-What can I do to prevent gout flares?
-Where can I find more information about gout?

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