Gout develops when high levels of uric acid accumulate in the blood. Uric acid is normally broken down and passed through the kidneys and expelled in urine. For some people, the body produces too much uric acid or the kidneys excrete too little, causing it to build up and form sharp urate crystals in a joint or nearby tissue. These needle-like crystals cause the pain and inflammation associated with gout.

You may not be able to stop a gout flare-up once it starts, but you can get relief with some simple home remedies. Use the following steps to help limit the frequency of attacks and ease symptoms when they do occur.

Avoid High-Purine Foods

Purines are a substance found in the body and in certain foods that break down into uric acid. Approximately one third of the uric acid your body produces comes from what you eat and drink. Avoiding foods that are high in purine can help lessen the frequency or severity of gout attacks.

In 2012, the American College of Rheumatology published guidelines on the treatment of gout. According to those guidelines, the following should be avoided:

  • organ meats, such as liver and kidney
  • foods and drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup

The following foods should be limited:

  • red meats, such as beef, lamb, and pork
  • naturally sweet fruit juices
  • sugar and foods high in sugar
  • table salt and foods high in salt

It also recommended that you avoid drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol elevates uric acid levels and too much can trigger or worsen a gout attack. Heavy drinking has been associated with recurrent and more severe attacks, even in those being treated with allopurinol.

Besides the amount, what kind of alcohol you drink also matters. A recent study found that beer poses the highest risk for triggering a gout attack. Alcohol shouldn’t be consumed during a gout flare-up or by those who have uncontrolled, advanced gout.

Stay Well-Hydrated

Drinking more water can help prevent the formation of urate crystals in the joints. Research shows that increased water intake can significantly reduce the risk of recurrent gout attacks.

Aim to drink eight to 12 glasses of water daily. During a flare-up, aim to drink as many as 16 glasses a day to help “flush out” uric acid.

Keep Your Weight Down

Obesity has been linked to higher levels of uric acid in the body. Being obese makes you four times more likely to develop gout. But losing weight can help lower uric acid levels, making weight control important for those with gout.

Losing weight can also help those who suffer from other conditions besides gout, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Losing weight also lessens the amount of stress on the joints and makes it easier to be active.

Those carrying extra weight should speak to their doctors about ways to lose weight safely. Crash diets have been associated with increased uric acid levels, so certain strict diets could actually worsen gout. Weight loss should be slow and steady and supervised by a medical professional.

Take Extra Care of Your Joints

During a painful flare-up, it’s important to protect your joints. The Arthritis Foundation recommends that you get plenty of rest and stay off your feet. Keep the affected joint elevated on pillows and wrap with an ice pack for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, several times a day to help reduce inflammation. Walking with a cane during a flare-up can also help keep pressure off the joint.

If the feeling of fabric against your toe causes discomfort, cut the toe portion off of a sock and avoid tucking your feet under the sheets when you go to sleep.

Whether it’s making a change in your diet or propping your foot up on a pillow, simple home remedies can help you find relief and start feeling better during a flare-up.

Read Video Transcript »

Video: Gout Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Gout is a condition caused by a build-up of uric acid that can affect a variety of joints, including the feet, ankles and knees. Its trademark pain point is typically the big toe.

Unfortunately, symptoms of gout often come suddenly, producing intense pain that can disrupt your life. These episodes are known as flares, and people often describe the pain as if their joints are on fire. Ignoring the painful symptoms of gout can lead to further problems, such as arthritis and damage to the affected joints. Uric acid crystals can also collect, typically on joint surfaces and are called tophi. These typically affect the hands, feet, wrists, ankles, and ears, and can be sites for painful inflammation during a flare.

Fortunately, people who are diagnosed early and actively treat their condition can live normal, full lives. Gout is diagnosed by measuring the levels of uric acid in the blood, as well as a physical examination of your joints.

Two different types of medications—preventative and anti-inflammatory—have proven to be effective to reduce the painful symptoms of a flare, as well as prevent other complications in the future. Preventative medications, such as selective uric acid re-absorption inhibitors, reduce uric acid buildup in the body, while anti-inflammatory medications work to calm the swelling and inflammation during a flare. These may include common over-the-counter medications, but your doctor may prescribe medication that’s more effective and tailored to at managing the symptoms of gout.

While there is no cure yet, new treatments are being developed to be used in conjunction with existing gout medications. A rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the joints and connective tissue, can help you discover new therapies for your gout.

Diet also plays an important role for gout patients, as certain foods can trigger a flare. Uric acid is created when your body breaks down an organic substance known as purines.

Foods that are especially rich with purines include organ meats, fish, seafood, whole grains, beer, certain vegetables, and sugars. While it may be difficult to adhere to a purine-free diet, avoiding foods high in purines can help keep acid levels down and prevent a painful flare.

Besides flares, gout is also associated with other health conditions, such as kidney disease, heart disease, and vision impairments. Managing gout symptoms also helps prevent these and other harmful health outcomes.

Avoiding foods high in proteins, taking preventative and anti-inflammatory medication, and communicating with your doctor are three very important steps to managing your condition. If you’d like to learn more about treating gout, take a look at the information we have here at Healthline or make an appointment with your doctor.