Your big toe has been hurting lately, but you can’t remember stubbing it. It hurts so bad and feels warm, so you make an appointment to see the doctor. Your doctor runs some tests and tells you that it is gout. When you ask your doctor what that is, your doctor explains that it is excess uric acid in your bloodstream that crystallizes in your joints. At this point, you are proabably wondering how you contracted it and if there is anything you can do about it.
How Did I Get Gout?
Gout is a form of arthritis which occurs when your body cannot excrete enough uric acid through your kidneys, or your body produces more uric acid that it can’t eliminate it fast enough. You cannot catch gout from someone nor can you give it to someone. Risk factors for getting gout include age, diet, sex (men tend to get it), obesity, and genetics.
How Doctors Treat Gout
If you have gout attacks, known as gout flare-ups, your doctor may prescribe several types of medications to treat gout. These include NSAIDS, medications that deal with gout flare-ups, medications that prevent gout flare-ups, and steroids if you have problems with the other medications. Your doctor may also recommend diet and lifestyle changes.
Diet Changes to Reduce Gout Flare-Ups
Part of what causes the build-up of uric acid in your bloodstream is the excess amount of purines in the foods you eat. Purines are a natural substance that your body converts into uric acid for excretion. Purines are found in red meat, seafood, and foods and drinks sweetened with fructose or fruit sugar. Diets that reduce or eliminate those foods will help reduce the purines and reduce the risk of another gout flare up.
Alcohol is high in purines which can bring on a gout attack. Beer is especially high in purines, but all alcoholic beverages are as well. Instead of drinking alcoholic beverages, drink plenty of water because dehydration can bring about flare ups. During social gatherings, be sure to avoid fruit drinks too, as those are high in purines.
It’s important to exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Exercising can reduce your risk of flare-ups along with a sensible diet that excludes those foods that are high in purines and fats. You should exercise when you are feeling well and not when you are having a gout flare-up. Be sure to drink plenty of water because dehydration can contribute to these flare-ups.
If you’re a coffee lover and have gout, you’ll be pleased to know that studies have shown that coffee, bother caffeinated and decaffeinated, reduce uric acid in the bloodstream. The studies have not determined why this is happening, but it does appear that coffee is good at preventing flare-ups.
Icing During a Gout Attack
If you have a mild flare-up, you may be able to use ice to treat the area if it isn’t too painful. Talk with your doctor about icing the areas to see if your doctor believes this is a good idea for your condition. Ice it for no more than 30 minutes at a time and be sure to wrap it in a towel to avoid possible damage to the skin. You can do this several times a day or per your doctor’s orders.
Resting Your Affected Joint
When you are dealing with a flare up, it’s best to rest it elevated and on a pillow or something soft. You probably won’t feel like doing much with it anyway, but knowing that it is actually helpful to rest, it will make you less inclined to push through the pain.
One thing that can reduce the uric acid in your blood is losing weight if you are obese. Obesity produces more uric acid and that can contribute to gout. Exercising, eating right, and maintaining a healthy weight will help reduce your flare-ups. Talk to your doctor or medical professional on what diets they recommend to get the weight off.
Dehydration is a major factor in gout. If you do not drink a lot of water, the uric acid isn’t flushed from your kidneys as quickly and it gives it a chance to build up as crystals in your joints. By ensuring that you stay hydrated, you will not only feel better, but you will also help your kidneys remove the uric acid from your bloodstream.