Does the weight of a blanket against your toe cause pain? If so, you may be one of the 8.3 million Americans who suffer from gout. Originally known as the king’s disease, this condition is a type of arthritis that can affect anyone 一 whether you’re royalty or not.
Unlike other forms of arthritis, gout is exacerbated when uric acid levels in your blood rise. This can cause the acid to crystallize in your joints, and while it can happen in any joint, your big toe is the most often impacted. Gout flare-ups cause severe pain, inflammation, and a decrease in your range of motion.
Even though gout is a chronic condition, there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of uric acid in your blood and, consequently, prevent flare-ups. That’s why our team of specialists here at Manhattan Podiatry Associates, PC, in Midtown and Downtown Manhattan, created this guide to highlight the five top tips for preventing gout flare-ups.
1. Consider limiting your beer consumption
Alcohol is a big risk factor for gout flare-ups because it's rich in purines. Your body breaks down purines into uric acid, so the more alcohol you consume, the more purines (and then more uric acid) your body produces. Studies show that alcohol is the second most common trigger for a gout attack.
While all alcohol can increase your risk of a gout attack, beer is particularly troublesome. Not only does beer contain purines, but it also contains brewer’s yeast 一 two known gout triggers.
2. Modify your diet
In addition to beer and other alcohol, there are many types of drinks and food that can trigger a gout attack. The following foods can increase your risk of a flare-up by increasing the uric acid levels in your blood:
- Red meat, especially organ meat
- Sugary drinks, including orange juice or soda
Combining items from this list 一 a bacon cheeseburger and a soda 一 increases your risk of a gout flare-up even more.
3. Focus on low purine food
While some foods increase uric acid production, some foods work to reduce uric acid. Bananas, tart cherries, and celery are just three examples of low purine foods that make great snacks if you have gout. Bananas are low purine foods that are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, including vitamin C. Studies show that higher vitamin C consumption is linked to a decrease in gout attacks.
Tart cherries contain anthocyanin, a pigment known for its antioxidant effects, including reducing gout pain and inflammation. Celery also helps to reduce uric acid levels.
Other low purine foods include eggs, soup (without meat broth), skim milk, low-fat cheese, bread, pasta, and fruit.
4. Stay hydrated
Dehydration increases your risk of a gout attack because your body struggles to flush out the uric acid crystals when you’re not properly hydrated.
According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, adult men need about 15.5 cups of fluid, and women need about 11.5 cups of fluid daily. About 20% of those fluids come from food like soup. That’s why most guidelines encourage you to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day since you already get some fluid from food.
In addition to water, other gout-friendly beverages include milk, tart cherry juice, and tea. Green tea and nettle leaf tea contain many anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce pain and inflammation.
5. Stay active
Regular exercise supports healthy joint function. Low-impact exercises 一 cycling, swimming, yoga, walking, and elliptical machines 一 help reduce joint pain and stiffness. Not only does exercise support healthy joints, but it can help you maintain a healthy weight (which also helps support healthy joint function).
Experts agree that 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week is ideal, and you can split this time into chunks. You could exercise 30 minutes five days a week, or you could even split that into two 15-minute walks each day.
Gout flare-up? We can help!
Despite your best efforts, it’s still possible to experience a gout flare-up. The first priority is to reduce your pain and inflammation. You can do this at home by icing and elevating your toe and taking anti-inflammatory medication.
In addition to at-home treatments, our team also helps you manage gout with oral or injectable corticosteroids as well as uric acid-reducing medications.
If you need help managing gout, call our location closest to you to schedule an appointment. Alternatively, you can book an appointment anytime with our online scheduling tool.