About 3% of Americans have gout, an inflammatory type of arthritis that causes significant pain, stiffness, and swelling in one or more joints. Unlike osteoarthritis caused by joint wear and tear, gout happens when uric acid crystals build up inside your joint and interfere with normal joint function.
Uric acid is a natural acid that forms when common chemical compounds called purines break down. Purines are found in lots of foods in varying amounts. Usually, excess uric acid is eliminated in your urine and feces. But sometimes, it builds up — and that’s when gout happens.
At his practice in Houston, Texas, Joshua D. Harris, MD, helps patients eliminate painful gout symptoms with medical treatments combined with lifestyle changes, including significant changes to their diet. In this post, he reviews some common foods that should be avoided if you have gout or are at risk of developing it.
Red meats and organ meats
Beef and lamb both contain high levels of purine, so it’s crucial to avoid or limit these foods. Although not strictly “red” meat, you should also lower your consumption of pork and pork products.
Liver, kidneys, and other organ meats tend to have higher concentrations of purines. That also includes foods made from these organs, like liverwurst or kidney pie. You should also avoid glandular meats, like sweetbreads (pancreas) and game meats.
Seafood and shellfish
Lobster, sardines, shrimp, anchovies, scallops, and herring may be touted as healthier than other kinds of protein, and while seafood can be healthy, it’s also chock full of purines. Limiting these foods or eliminating them from your diet entirely can help reduce your symptoms.
Until recently, doctors recommended avoiding grain-based liquors, like beer and whiskeys. But more recently, research suggests that if you have gout, you’re better off avoiding alcohol — even wine. That’s because symptoms tend to be triggered by the ethanol in alcohol, not by the products used in fermentation.
Many sugary foods increase uric acid levels, especially products that contain corn syrup or other types of fructose (a plant-derived sugar). That includes beverages like sodas, energy drinks, and plenty of fruit juices. Fructose and other sugars are found in abundance in many foods (even bread and ketchup), so read those labels carefully when grocery shopping.
Brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast, and premade yeast supplements can increase uric acid levels and trigger gout symptoms. Avoid these products to help prevent flare-ups.
Processed foods are rampant in American diets and Western diets in general. Cookies, crackers, packaged baked goods, and processed foods like bacon and sausage increase the risks of lots of health problems, including gout. Avoiding these foods is a good idea whether you have gout or not.
Any list of “forbidden” foods can leave you feeling like there’s nothing “good” left to eat. Of course, that’s not true. There are plenty of delicious foods that are perfectly fine for people with gout, including:
- Low-fat dairy
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Peanut butter and other nuts
The internet is an excellent resource for shopping lists and recipes that rely on low-purine foods. Just be sure any recipes or lists you use come from reputable sources.
Don’t ignore gout symptoms
Gout often accompanies other medical problems, like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and kidney disease. These associations are so common, gout is often viewed as a “sentinel” disease, a medical condition that serves as a sort of early-warning system for other medical problems. Having joint pain or swelling evaluated early is critical for determining if you have gout and if you might be at risk for one of these other medical problems.
If you have gout symptoms, don’t ignore them. Instead, call 713-441-8393 or book an appointment online with Dr. Joshua Harris today and learn how he can help.