Foods to avoid if you have gout
Gout is a common form of arthritis, or an extremely painful inflammation of the joints caused by a buildup of needle-sharp uric-acid crystals. An attack or "flare" can last for days or months, with the big toe being the most common target.
Like other forms of arthritis, the risk for gout increases as we get older: Men and obese people are at greater risk, as are post-menopausal women. Similarly, pre-existing conditions like diabetes (which affects an estimated 25% of Americans over the age of 60) and kidney disease (which affects about 1 in 5 men aged 65 and older and 1 in 4 women aged 65 and older) also increase the risk of gout.
If you're prone to gout, the foods you eat — and don't eat — play a key role in keeping your joints pain-free. Here are eight foods to avoid.
Cut back on seafood and meat during a flare-up, says Lona Sandon, PhD, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
These animal foods are rich in purines, which your body breaks down into uric acid. You have a little more freedom in your food choices when your gout is at bay, but it's still a good idea to keep meat and seafood intake to a minimum — 4 to 6 ounces daily at most.
Scallops and salmon are okay for an occasional indulgence.
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Whereas some types of seafood can be eaten once in a while, others — like herring, tuna, and anchovies — should be off the menu for those who have gout.
On the other hand, shrimp, lobster, eel, and crab are relatively safe, says Scott Zashin, MD, a rheumatologist and clinical professor of medicine at UT Southwestern.
Drinking beer is a double-whammy for gout-prone folks, Dr. Zashin says. Not only does it increase your uric-acid level, beer also makes it more difficult for your body to clear this substance from your system.
Turkey and goose are higher in purines than other types of food, so it's best to avoid them. And gout-prone people should also keep their intake of wild game to a minimum.
Chicken and duck are the safest choices, according to Dr. Zashin. However, leg meat is a better choice than a chicken breast with skin.
When it comes to purine content, white meat is generally better than red — still, it's okay to eat some types of red meat once in a while.
You're a bit better off if your occasional indulgence is beef or pork rather than turkey or lamb, says Dr. Zashin. And lamb chops are a better choice than leg meat.
Avoid beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, such as non-diet sodas or "fruit" drinks. Downing these drinks isn't just an easy way to pack on pounds; the sweeteners will stimulate the body to produce more uric acid.
Organ meats, such as liver, kidneys, and sweetbreads, are a major no-no, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Asparagus, spinach, and mushrooms are higher in purines than other vegetables — and at one time, experts thought people with gout should avoid them. Now, that thinking is changing: If you like these foods, there's no reason to avoid them completely, says Sandon.
"Certainly you wouldn't want to go wild with these high-purine vegetables, but they don't seem to be an issue like the meats are," she adds.
Plus, veggie-rich diets actually help you clear purines from the body, according to Sandon, and the body seems to have an easier time excreting purines from vegetable sources.
Feel like you're left with nothing to eat? Not true, experts say.
There are actually several types of foods that may help protect you against gout. These include low-fat dairy foods, whole grains, coffee, and fruits, especially citrus fruits. You should also be sure to get 12 to 16 cups of fluid daily.
You don't necessarily have to drink only water (although it shouldn't be beer!)—you can choose non-sweetened juice, tea, and coffee too.
"Any kind of fluid that keeps that blood flowing and urine flowing" is a good choice, says Sandon.
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