Gout is a type of painful arthritis that can affect one or more joints, but typically occurs in the feet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 8 million people in the United States have gout, making it one of the most common forms of inflammatory arthritis. It’s traditionally treated with anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers.
Attacks are caused when uric acid crystallizes and builds up in the joints. Uric acid, which serves as an antioxidant and protects the lining of our blood vessels, is created during the breakdown of an organic substance found in foods called purines.
While genetics play a role in whether or not you develop gout, lifestyle changes can help prevent pain. Being mindful of what you eat and avoiding foods high in purines can help ward off symptoms.
Organ meats, including liver, sweetbreads, kidneys, brains, tongue, and tripe, have the highest levels of purines. All organ meats should be completely avoided, and all other meats should be limited to 4 ounces per day.
These meats should be eaten in moderation:
Other animal-based foods, such as gravy, bouillon, and chicken soup, are also high in purines.
Fish and seafood are also common sources of purines. The worst offenders for people with gout are scallops, sardines, herring, anchovies, and mackerel.
Other fish moderately high in purines include:
Seafood such as oysters, lobster, crab, and shrimp should be consumed in small amounts because they contain high levels of purines.
Even though it may be contrary to what you’ve heard, whole grains, including whole wheat breads and cereals, have higher purine content than refined grains. Wheat germ, bran, and oatmeal are all high in purines. Try not to eat more than two servings per week.
To limit your purine intake, choose refined grain bread (white bread), pasta, and white rice. However, it is not a good idea to eat a lot of these foods, as they are not beneficial to your overall health.
Sugars are low in purines, but a diet high in refined sugars is linked to other conditions that may worsen gout symptoms, such as obesity and diabetes. Avoid soda and other products sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, because it can increase uric acid.
If you need to get your sweet on, choose fresh fruits. While some have high amounts of natural sugar, they also contain other vital nutrients that your body needs.
Beer contains purines, and brewer’s yeast is particularly high in purine content. Studies have shown that drinking beer during a gout attack can significantly increase the intensity of symptoms.
While other alcoholic beverages may not contain very many purines, they can increase purine production in the body. This, in turn, leads to higher uric acid levels. Excessive alcohol use (more than two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women) can increase your risk of a gout attack.
Some vegetables are rich in purines and should be limited to no more than two servings, or 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked, per week. They include: