Gout is a type of arthritis that can affect anyone, but that’s not how it was once known. Historically, gout was known as a “disease of the rich” because people who developed gout tended to follow a diet high in fats and sugars — ingredients no one but the wealthy could afford.
Today, gout affects people from all walks of life. In fact, about 4% of Americans have gout, a number that’s grown significantly over the past few decades. Like other types of arthritis, gout can affect any joint, but in many people, the feet and ankles develop painful gout symptoms.
At Performance Foot & Ankle Specialists, LLC, Joel S Segalman, FACFAS, FACFAO, and Stephen Lazaroff, DPM, FACFAS, offer expert treatment for gout in Newtown and Waterbury, Connecticut, including educating patients about important dietary changes that can help. Here, we review foods you should avoid to reduce pain and stiffness in your joints.
Unlike osteoarthritis — the most common type — from wear and tear inside your joints, gout arthritis develops when sharp uric acid crystals form and collect inside your joints. These crystals interfere with normal joint movement, causing pain, stiffness, and inflammation.
Uric acid is a natural occurring acid that forms as a byproduct of digesting foods that contain chemical substances called purines. Excess uric acid usually is eliminated through urine and feces. But if you consume a lot of purine-rich foods, uric acid builds up in your bloodstream, eventually clumping together to form hard crystals that collect in your joints.
Many foods that cause gout are also associated with other medical problems, like high cholesterol, obesity, and kidney disease. In fact, for some people, gout serves as an early warning signal for these and similar medical problems that may require additional treatment.
Since foods rich in purines can trigger gout symptoms, limiting or avoiding the foods listed below could reduce painful symptoms and possibly prevent gout in the first place.
Red meats such as beef and organ meats, including liver and kidneys, contain very high levels of purines, and so do gland meats (like sweetbreads) and game meats. You should also limit or avoid foods made from these meats, like kidney pie or liverwurst.
Seafood can definitely be part of a healthy diet, but for people prone to gout, the key is to either avoid seafood or consume these products in moderation. Some of the most purine-rich seafoods include tuna, sardines, herring, and anchovies. Shellfish, including lobster, shrimp, and scallops, are high in purines, too.
Foods high in sugars can trigger gout symptoms — especially foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup. This common sweetener is found in prepackaged sweets, sodas, energy drinks, and condiments like ketchup. Read food labels and select products that don’t have this ingredient, and lower your sugar intake in general to help prevent painful gout flare-ups.
Drinking alcohol significantly increases your risk of developing gout, and if you have the condition, it can make your symptoms worse. Beer is especially problematic because it contains high levels of purines.
Fats and sugars (especially high-fructose corn syrup) abound in processed foods, including ice cream, candy, and even some bread products. Again, reading food labels is very important, along with sticking to a diet rich in fresh foods, whole grains, and lead or plant-based proteins.
Changing your diet plays a major role in relieving painful gout symptoms, but for people with moderate to severe gout symptoms, medical treatment can be helpful. Depending on your symptoms, our team may recommend a treatment plan consisting of physical therapy, daily at-home exercises, oral medicines, and joint injections designed to reduce inflammation at the source.
If you have painful, swollen, or tender joints, don’t ignore them. You can book an appointment online or over the phone today with the team at Performance Foot & Ankle Specialists to learn how we can help.