Diet may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of gout – provided you have the right information…

Gout is one of the oldest diseases in recorded medical history. It is an inherited disorder where the metabolism of purines (a breakdown product of protein metabolism) is impaired. Diet may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of gout.

Symptoms and Signs

Gout usually occurs in people from 35 years of age onwards and is characterised by arthritic pain, which is usually localised in a sudden attack which starts in the toes/big toe and progresses up the leg to the knees. As the disease advances, symptoms occur more frequently and are more prolonged.

Unaccustomed exercise or injury to the foot may encourage an episode of gout; however attacks have also been associated with excessive eating, drinking and exercise.

What happens in the body of someone that suffers from Gout?

In individuals with this inherited condition, uric acid may accumulate in the blood as a result of the abnormal purine metabolism. The uric acid in the blood may crystallize (as a result of the concentration of uric acid) in the fluid surrounding joints and tissue in the body. The uric acid crystals or uric acid salts may cause physical destruction of joint tissue (imagine sand in a hinge) and this may lead to chronic arthritis.

The purines, which are part of the metabolism of all human beings, may come from foods we eat or it may be the result of normal metabolism.

The main source of purines is not foods like tomato, as many people believe, but high protein foods and specific foods that contain high levels of purines. Purines from food contribute about 15 % of the total pool of purines in the body and many individuals may respond well to dietary changes to lower purines from food.

To prevent and treat gout, it is important to look at both reducing purines from food as well as minimizing the formation of uric acid in the body. This is achieved when one is able to avoid foods that contain higher levels of purines, large portions of meat and other animal products and irregular eating. It is also important to avoid sudden strenuous exercise. and to always drink enough water.

Nutritional treatment and prevention of gout

There are three main factors that need to be considered when treating gout. These may be in addition to the medication prescribed for the treatment of severe gout.

• Dietary intake of purines
• Fluid intake
• Physical activity.

The following may result in gout symptoms:

• Sudden uncontrolled weight loss
• Overeating (going to a wedding, a party or eating nothing all day and then a big meal at night)
• Too much alcohol
• Fatty foods
• Infrequent meals
• Strenuous activity that one is not accustomed to
• Medication such as diuretics (thiazide diuretics)

For more information on adjusting your diet and important changes in lifestyle that may be useful to prevent and treat gout,please subscribe to our website and download the nutrition advice pertaining to GOUT in the HEALTH TOOLS sections.

Gout – nutrition steps to help prevent this condition