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Can I Really Control My Gout with Diet?

Gout. The word doesn't even sound good. The symptoms aren't any better than the word. More commonly occurring in men, about six out of 1,000 will develop gout, while women generally develop gout at the rate of one out of 1,000. Gout usually occurs in men after the age of 30, and in post-menopausal women. Bringing with it excruciating pain, swelling, redness and stiffness in the joint, it may also cause a low-grade fever. Gout attacks last 3 - 10 days and can become more severe with time. It’s hard to know what to do when the symptoms of gout flare up. What should you do? Medications can help, but have side effects. You’ve heard that gout can be controlled with diet, but is that true? Let’s take a good look at gout, and see if we can answer that question.

What are the signs and symptoms of gout?

Usually developing in the joint of the big toe, gout has also been known to develop in the ankle, knee and other joints as well. The most common symptoms of gout include the following:
Any movement or the slightest touch to the affected area can be excruciatingly painful, even to the point that people who are suffering from a gout attack cannot bear to have a sheet or blanket touch the area. Symptoms develop very quickly, sometimes within just 1 day, and tend to occur one joint at a time. Left untreated, gout can permanently damage the involved joints and cause disability.

What is the cause of gout?

An over abundance of uric acid in the system causes tiny, needle-like crystals to form and congregate in the joints and surrounding tissues causing the pain of gout. Chronic gout can lead to the formation of hard lumps of uric acid that lodge in the joints, develop into kidney stones, and even reduce kidney function. It is not normal for uric acid to overload in the body and form crystals like this. The condition can sometimes be related to a genetically inherited abnormality in the body's ability to process uric acid, which is a by product of broken down purines in the foods (mostly meats) we eat. Gout can also be caused by other non-genetic causes such as:
heavy eating
heavy drinking of alcohol
recent surgery
Other contributory factors include:
weight gain
high blood pressure
abnormal kidney function
certain medications
Some people develop elevated uric acid levels in the blood, but never experience the symptoms of gout.

What are common medications used to treat gout and what are their drawbacks?

NSAIDs -(nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) - for pain and inflammation

o stomach pain, bleeding and ulcers
Colchicine - reduces inflammation and helps to prevent or reduce gout attacks

o cramps, diarrhea and vomiting
Corticosteriods - for inflammation

o decreases the body's immunity, thus making it difficult to fight infections and heal open wounds
Probenecid - increases excretion of uric acid in urine, thus decreasing uric acid blood levels

o possible severe allergic reactions, blood in urine or pain when urinating, hives, nausea, sore gums, headaches, dizziness, or an acute gout attack
ColBenemid - reduces uric acid in blood and inflammation

o see side effects of colchicine and probenecid - ColBenemid is a combination of these drugs
Allopurial prevents production of uric acid

o possible severe allergic reaction, pain or bleeding upon urination, reduction in urination or not urinating at all, fever or sore throat with a blistering skin rash, unusual weakness, jaundice, seizure
Losartan - may help control uric acid levels

o dizziness, blurred vision, fainting, decreased sexual ability, stomach pain, nausea, jaundice, dark urine, muscle pain
Unfortunately, these medications may help with the symptoms of gout, or in lowering uric acid levels in the blood, but they come at a price with all the side effects, ranging from annoying to very severe. Research is showing that there are good possibilities of reducing the effects of gout and gout attacks simply by making lifestyle changes that involve overall health and diet.

Can I control my gout with supplements?

Maybe. There has been research that seems to support using vitamin C as a supplement to help reduce uric levels in the blood. Apparently, taking 500-1000 mg of Vitamin C daily with a small (10-15 mg/day) amount of lithium has been shown to have very positive effects on uric acid levels. Vitamin C should be taken with care, as high dosages can cause too much uric acid to be freed up from the blood, resulting in kidney stones. Be sure to work with your doctor if you are planning to try Vitamin C as additional treatment for your gout. Taking a good multi-vitamin will help your body in more general ways, such as increasing immunity and better all over functioning of your body's systems.

Can I control my gout with supplements?

You can have very good results with reducing or stopping gout attacks by making dietary changes, and that is very good news! Reduction of foods high in purine is the cornerstone of changing your diet to control gout. However, you still need some purine in your diet; so don't try to completely cut it out. Besides reducing your intake of purine rich foods, there are some foods that actually help reduce purines in your blood, such as cherries and celery.

You will also need to avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water. Avoid alcohol and make sure that you are at the correct weight for your height, age and body type. If you have high blood pressure, be certain to follow your health care professional's instructions and take your prescribed medications.

The American Medical Association recommends these foods as a basis for your anti-gout diet:
Eat foods high in complex carbohydrates (whole grain breads, pasta and cereals), low in protein (15% or calories should be from soy or lean meats and poultry), and low in fat (no more than 30% of calories, with only 10% coming from animal sources)
Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables including cherries, blueberries, bananas, celery, tomatoes and leafy greens
Eat foods high in vitamin C
Eat lean meats, poultry and fish
Use tofu as a meat substitute
Foods to avoid:
Fatty meats, fish and poultry
Sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, brains and offal meats
Sardines and anchovies
Using diet as the basis for your gout treatment is a great idea, even if you intend to continue with medication. It has long been known that the foods we eat effect our health greatly and can make amazing differences in the severity and frequency of our illnesses, including gout. Click Here to get more information on an anti-gout diet.
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