Gout is a very painful condition which affects the joints. Most commonly it affects the big toe, but it can affect other joints too. The joint is often excruciatingly pain, looks red, feels hot and is tender to the touch. If you have a joint like this, always get it checked out by the doctor. If the doctor tells you that you have gout, then follow the advice on the rest of this page.
Gout is a result of too much of a chemical in your body called uric acid. When your body makes too much uric acid, they start forming tiny little crystals in your joints (imagine little salt crystals) – hopefully, you know understand why this would make the joint extremely painful. Crystals have sharp edges and joints like to be smooth! In some people, gout only happens every now and then. But in others, it may be too frequent to be bearable. In this latter instance, the doctor may put you on medication to lower your uric acid levels (and we call this Urate Lowering Therapy or ULT for short).
HOWEVER, the good news is that there are other ways of either getting your Uric Acid levels down or stop them from going too high. Read on….
How can I stop my gout from flaring up?
- Reduce alcohol intake.
- Moderate alcohol consumption has cardiovascular benefits, but beer and spirits significantly increase gout risk. Red wine, on the other hand, appears not to increase gout risk.
- Avoid purine rich foods.
- Purine is a natural substance found in many foods. The problem is that when you body digests it, it produces a byproduct called Uric Acid – yes, that same chemical which crystallises in your joints to trigger off Gout. So, cut down on purine rich foods.
- Examples of purine rich foods includes: red meat (like beef, pork and lamb), liver, kidneys, seafood, fructose and sugar sweetened drinks.
- Try and go for a Mediterranean Diet
- Yes, we’ve all heard of the Mediterranean diet, but what exactly is it? Basically, people who live in the Mediterranean are less likely to get things like gout, heart disease, strokes and other conditions. This is because of their diet which is high in complex carbohydrates and vegetables.
- There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. You’re body can’t use carbohydrates as they are, it has to digest them and break them down into sugar molecules which can then be used as energy for you daily activities (or converted to fat if you eat too much or are lazy! 🙂 ). Simple carbohydrates only contain one or two types of sugar molecules and therefore are easy to break down. Complex carbohydrates often have many types of sugar molecules are are more difficult for the body to break down. This greater difficulty of being broken down by your body is what makes complex carbohydrates much better for your health than simple ones. Because it takes longer to break down, complex carbohydrates provide a gradual steady stream of sugar molecules (and thus energy) throughout the day. Simple carbohydrates release the sugar too quickly, and these sudden spikes in blood sugar are not good for your body at all.
- Simple carbohydrates are things like chocolate, cakes, donuts, fudge, candy (sweets), biscuits, ice-cream, jam, fruit juice, dried fruit, coca cola and other sugary drinks.
- Complex carbohydrate foods are basically those in wholegrain form such as wholegrain breads, oats, muesli and brown rice. Complex carbs are broken down into glucose more slowly than simple carbohydrates and thus provide a gradual steady stream of energy throughout the day. Natural carbs are also a better choice when losing weight on the GI diet plan.
- So, eat a lot of complex carbohydrates – potatoes, spinach, cauliflower, parsnips, lentils, cabbage, wholemeal flour, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, brown rice, beans and so on. Consume vegetable protein, nuts, and legumes. Nuts and legumes are good sources of non-uricemic protein; legumes and vegetables (even those high in purines) are not associated with gout risk. Get the idea?
- What about fruit then?
- Most fruit (like apples, oranges and pears) contain simple carbohydrates too – but they are the exception to the rule! We would encourage you to eat them as there’s not much in them (calorie wise) and they are so good for you in so many other ways. But don’t fall into the trap of getting your ‘five a day’ in by drinking fruit juice – no matter how real the packaging says it is. Eating the real fruit is WAY MORE BETTER than drinking fruit juice. The fruit juice will cause too quick a surge in your sugar levels which (like we said) is not good for you.
- What about dairy food?
- Drink skim milk or consume other low-fat dairy products. Dairy consumption is inversely associated with gout risk.
- Avoid cheese.
- Keep well hydrated
- Drink some water. If you don’t have enough fluid in your body, then the uric acid will crystallise out – exactly the same way salt or sugar crystals form when all the water dries up.
- You should drink about 5 little bottles of water a day (those 500ml ones).
- (Beware, too much water isn’t good for you either, so don’t over do it)
- Be careful of sugar-sweetened drinks/pop
- Limit intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Fructose in these beverages might increase uric acid levels and gout risk.
- Although real fruit also contain fructose, it is usually present at lower levels and most have health benefits that justify their consumption.
- Eat some Urate Lowering Foods
- Yes, there are foods which actually lower your urate levels and should therefore help with your Gout.
- Examples include blueberries, strawberries, fresh cherries and other red-blue berries. It’s mostly the ‘berry’ containing foods.
- Even coffee can lower your urate levels – but don’t drink too much as too much coffee can keep you awake and one can become addicted to coffee.
- If you like coffee, stick to no more than 3 cups a day.
- Exercise daily and lose some weight
- Increased fatty tissue is associated with increased uric acid levels and gout risk.
- So – get that fat off!
Other things that MAY help… but we can’t guarantee it
There is some evidence from research for the following, but it is not still clearly established.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble antioxidant vitamin in humans, which has been shown in laboratory tests to exert a uric acid-lowering effect by inhibiting the enzyme xanthine oxidase.
Although it appears that cherries may reduce the frequency of gout attacks, the mechanism for this action clearly does not depend solely on lowering blood uric acid levels.
Coffee contains both caffeine and polyphenolic antioxidants that may have independent roles in the reduction of gout risk.
- Folic Acid
A small case-controlled study of 92 gout patients and 92 gout-free controls demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in the risk of gout amongst persons who consumed over 51.5 mcg/day of folate from food sources (a 70% reduction compared to those who consumed less than this value) (Lyu 2003).
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A LIST OF COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES
This is not an exhaustive comprehensive list. You’ll find a bigger list by simply plugging in the words ‘examples of complex carbohydrates’ into a search engine like Google.
- Whole Barley
- Turnip Greens
- Buckwheat bread
- Water Cress
- Oat bran bread
- Oat bran cereal
- Wild rice
- Brown rice
- Multi-grain bread
- Pinto beans
- Navy beans
- Garbanzo beans
- Kidney beans
- Whole meal bread
- Split peas
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WHY COMPLEX CARBS ARE SO GOOD FOR YOU
Here’s Why You Need Complex Carbs:
Carbs provide the body with energy immediately. That’s their purpose by nature and depriving yourself of them will leave you tired and fatigued all day long. I suggest eating them earlier in the day when you need most of your energy in the form of some whole grains, which take all day long to burn through your system. These carbohydrates from whole grains release slowly into the blood stream so you never suffer a “crash” like you do with caffeine or sugar. This means you’ll have energy all day long and won’t have to deal with the afternoon slump.
Since carbs contain fibre, they help aid digestion and assist in regularity. This is one benefit of eating whole food sources of carbs such as whole grains, beans, legumes, vegetables, and fruits instead of opting for processed foods.
Carbohydrates provide you with energy so they’re important for an optimal metabolism. Without energetic calories (which is essentially what carbs are), your metabolism will suffer quickly. Most people assume that because a low-carb diet can lead to weight loss that it will improve their metabolism, but this is actually the opposite from being true. While you might lose some weight without carbs, your metabolism will actually suffer and slow down the longer you prolong the diet. Again, eating whole food sources of carbs is the best way to optimize your energy, weight, and metabolism.
Certain carbs like oatmeal, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, bananas, and brown rice contains large amounts of trytophan, which relax the body and help put you to sleep. Oatmeal even helps your body produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep. Eating some complex carbs at night before bed can help you sleep more soundly through the night and fall asleep faster.
- Filling Fibre
Fibre doesn’t just regulate your digestion – it also keeps you full a really long time. While the daily recommended amount is only 25-30 grams of fibre, most plant-based meals provide much more which means you’ll stay fuller longer. For a super-filling meal, aim for 10-15 grams of fibrefrom your foods and try not to eat meals that contain less than five grams of fibre for optimal satisfaction. All whole food sources of carbohydrates are excellent sources of fibre. Fibre also slows down your blood sugar so you don’t get hungry quite as quickly and it keeps your sugar levels steady all day long.
- Brain Function
Your body also uses carbohydrates for optimal brain function. Foods such as vegetables, oats, quinoa, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruit all contain an array of carbs that aid in mental focus and a healthy mood. Without carbs you may become foggy-headed, feel light-headed, have a hard time concentrating, feel sad or depressed, or just not feel like yourself. You may also have a harder time retaining information. Don’t deprive your brain of carbs- it needs them!
- Nervous System Function
While sugar makes you jittery and anxious, complex carbs help provide a grounding effect to the body and reduce nervousness and anxiety. It’s the reason you often feel less stressed after having ayummy bowl of oatmeal, a simple banana, or a dish made with sweet potatoes. Carbs provide your body with exactly what they need all the way down to your nervous system. They help your body produce a number of enzymatic reactions and bring balance in just about every way possible.
What to Avoid:
The types of carbs you’ll want to avoid are all refined grains and quick sources of sugar such as: enriched flour, products made “with whole grains” (which indicates they’re not 100 percent whole grain), evaporated cane juice, cane syrup, cane sugar, sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, and even “healthy sugars” like tapioca syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, coconut syrup, and maple syrup. Your body processes these very quickly and they can alter your blood sugar in a negative way. Avoid buying breads, rolls, cereals, and other processed foods that contain refined grains or sugars like those mentioned above. You’re much better off eating whole grains, using stevia or fruit to sweeten your foods, and missing most processed options altogether.
Celebrate carbs and learn to love them – they’re sure to love you right back!