Gout can cause unbearable pain that can begin suddenly, at any time, even in the middle of the night.
If you’ve experienced a gout attack, you understand the agony and discomfort associated with this form of inflammatory arthritis.
Thankfully, there are lifestyle changes you can make to prevent gout attacks from recurring.
We have 8 tips for preventing gout that you can begin to implement in your own life to reduce the chance of suffering another painful gout attack.
Let’s have a look at the condition and the changes you can make.
What is Gout?
Gout is a condition where the body reacts to an excess build-up of uric acid—also known as hyperuricemia—and crystal deposits form around the joints. This causes inflammation and swelling around the joint, as well as pain which can range from mild to severe.
It’s also a common form of inflammatory arthritis that can affect anyone, although men are more prone to experiencing a gout flare. However, women who are postmenopausal will be more likely to experience gout as well.
What are Symptoms of Gout?
Gout happens suddenly and most often occurs in the joint of one of the big toes.
The pain can vary from mild to severe, and it can even wake you up in the middle of the night. The affected joint is often very tender and even the weight of a sheet or a light breeze can be unbearable.
The area around the joint will be swollen and the skin around the joint will be red. Sometimes the skin may even look shiny around the affected joint. The joint will also be warm to the touch or feel as though the joint is “on fire”.
The pain and tenderness of the joint and the area around the affected joint are most often at their worst within the first 12 to 24 hours of the gout attack. The joint may feel stiff and difficult to move.
While gout most often occurs in the joint of one of the big toes, it can also affect other joints in the body, such as ankles, elbows, knees, wrists, and fingers.
It usually affects one joint at a time, but you can experience recurrent gout attacks where different joints may be affected.
If left untreated, gout attacks can become more frequent and can cause long-term damage to cartilage and the bone.
Can You Predict a Gout Attack?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict when a gout attack may occur. With that being said, there are steps that you can take to try and prevent a gout attack.
By making some changes to your lifestyle, you can limit the long-term damage to your joints and cartilage and spare yourself from pain.
Tips for Preventing a Gout Attack
1. Limit Alcohol and Foods High in Purines
Food and alcohol that are high in purines can trigger a gout attack, as the body’s digestion process will convert the purines to uric acid as a waste product.
This increases the uric acid levels in the body and your kidneys can’t efficiently remove the excess uric acid.
The following foods and drinks are high in purines, which can increase uric acid:
- Red meat—both beef and lamb
- Venison, such as deer
- Gravies made from either red meat or venison
- Organ meats like liver
- Processed foods
- Seafood and shellfish like lobster, shrimp, anchovies, mussels, and sardines
- High-fat foods such as dairy products and bacon
- Refined carbohydrates
- All types of alcohol, like liquor, wine, and beer
While sugary beverages aren’t high in purines, research has shown that they increase the risk of gout flares because they raise the levels of uric acid in the body.
As your body starts to break down the sugary beverage or food, uric acid is produced and this increases purine metabolism.
Fructose—which is found in sweeteners—can start to create uric acid within a few minutes of being consumed. When we look at sugary beverages such as Pepsi, Mountain Dew or Coca-cola—to mention a few—the amount of fructose in the drink can vary from 50 to 60 percent.
2. Add Some Healthier Foods
Adding healthier foods to your diet that have a lower purine content—less than 100 mg of purines per 3.5 ounces—can help you lower the levels of uric acid in the body.
You can have the following, even if you’ve had a gout attack:
- Cherries—studies show that cherries can reduce inflammation and lower uric acid levels
- All types of fruit and vegetables
- Tofu, beans, lentils, soy, and other plant proteins
- Whole grains, such as oats, barley, or brown rice
- Low-fat dairy products, like yogurt, skim milk, and cheese
- Moderate consumption of tea, green tea, coffee—studies show it can lower uric acid levels
- Plant-based oils and fats, such as flax, coconut, or olive oil
3. Reduce Stress in Your Life
Stress can trigger a gout attack, due to the way in which the body responds to the levels of stress hormones that are released into the bloodstream. This then reduces the amount of pantothenic acid in the body, which is needed as it helps the body to remove uric acid.
While we can’t always reduce the amount of stress or get away from the stress in our lives, we can take steps to better manage it.
Try journaling, guided meditations, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or find a creative outlet like an adult coloring book. Choose an activity that works for you and helps to calm your mind.
4. Exercise Frequently
Exercise has a number of health benefits, which include reducing stress levels. By changing the intensity of your workouts, your body will be better able to lower the uric acid levels in the body.
One of the risk factors for a gout attack is being overweight or obese. Research has also shown that body fat carries and produces more uric acid in the body than muscle does.
By exercising regularly, you can shed excess weight or maintain a healthy weight, which can help prevent gout. Just make sure to check with your doctor and wear the correct shoes for gout.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Research has shown that individuals who have sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are at a higher risk of gout attacks.
Change your sleep routine so that your quality of sleep improves and make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep; this allows your body’s cells to regenerate, growth hormones to be released and the body to heal itself.
Getting good quality sleep will also help to strengthen the digestive system, which can help with purine metabolism.
When getting sufficient sleep, you’ll find that your immune system is boosted, stress levels are reduced, energy levels increase and you’ll find it easier to focus on the day’s tasks ahead.
6. Try Certain Herbal Supplements
Before you try any herbal and dietary supplements, it’s advisable to talk with your doctor, especially if you’re on other medication. Once you’ve confirmed with your doctor, then you can look at adding natural herbal supplements to your diet.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to add spices to your cooking. For example, this can be adding turmeric to your meal, which has anti-inflammatory properties, or taking turmeric capsules if you don’t want to cook with herbs and spices.
Ginger is good for aiding the digestive process, reducing serum uric acid levels, has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce the pain of gout.
Lemon is rich in Vitamin C and contains citric acid which helps the body to get rid of uric acid. Add some lemon juice to their tea or water for a flavor boost as well as a vitamin boost.
Pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain, which is also known to reduce inflammation and it can reduce uric acid levels in the body.
Bromelain can stimulate blood circulation and reduce the pain that’s associated with gout. You can get bromelain capsules, tablets, and powders.
7. Drink More Fluids
Staying hydrated and drinking water can help flush uric acid out of the body. You should have at least eight glasses of fluid a day—you should urinate every two to three hours—with at least half of what you’re drinking being water.
You can also drink cherry juice and a glass of skim milk to help reduce the levels of uric acid in the body.
Tea and coffee can add to your overall water consumption, but keep in mind that they are only recommended in moderate doses for the management of gout.
8. Take Prescription Gout Medication
Currently, there’s no cure for gout. But depending on the frequency and severity of your gout attacks, your doctor may prescribe gout medication.
These are used to either reduce the amount of uric acid that’s produced in the body or to increase the removal of uric acid through urine.
For the short-term management of gout, your doctor may recommend corticosteroids to relieve the pain and inflammation. Use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as indomethacin or celecoxib, as these will also help to relieve joint stiffness, swelling and alleviate pain.
If you have frequent gout attacks, then the doctor may prescribe one of the following medications for the long-term treatment of gout: Zyloprim, febuxostat, allopurinol, or lopurin.
These medications are used to reduce uric acid levels in the blood or increase the excretion of uric acid or block the enzyme that converts purines into uric acid.
Your doctor may only prescribe these medications after a blood test has confirmed that the uric acid levels are high or that they have hyperuricemia. These medications can reduce the number of gout attacks, as well as lessening the severity of the attack.