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.
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.