Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that occurs when too much uric acid builds up in your blood. You may feel sudden, intense pain in your big toe, and in severe, chronic cases, you may have visible lumps around your joints.

Doctors know that your diet has a lot to do with your risk for gout. Avoiding gout-causing foods that are high in purines can help reduce flare-ups of this condition.

If you’re in the habit of eating oatmeal as part of your morning routine, you might wonder if it helps or hurts your risks for a gout attack. Keep reading to find out the answer.

Oatmeal is a high-fiber food that’s a good base for adding healthy options like fruits, nuts, and honey. However, when it comes to gout, it’s a breakfast food you should limit to a few days a week.

Oatmeal has moderate amounts of purines

Oatmeal has about 50 to 150 milligrams of purines per 100 grams of the food. This puts oatmeal right in the middle of the range of milligrams for purine-containing foods.

While it’s not as high in purines as organ meats, scallops, or some fish, it’s still high enough to increase your risk of gout when eaten in excess.

Limit servings to 2 times per week

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recommends limiting your servings of oatmeal to 2 times per week if you have gout or are at higher risk for gout due to a family history of the condition.

However, don’t eliminate oatmeal altogether, as it has other health benefits. Its fiber content helps to promote feelings of fullness and regular bowel movements. According to the Mayo Clinic, it may even reduce risks for high blood pressure.

Gout occurs when excess uric acid crystals form in the body. An estimated 4 percent of American adults have gout, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Diet can increase a person’s risk for gout because some foods contain purines. These are compounds the body breaks down into uric acid, and excess uric acid can lead to gout.

High purine foods can lead to excess uric acid

Certain foods and drinks in a person’s diet can either reduce uric acid or increase it. Some of the most common foods and beverages that increase uric acid are:

  • red meat
  • alcohol
  • soda
  • shellfish

Moderate purine-containing foods can be eaten in moderation

However, there are other foods that are moderate in purines that you may want to cut back on slightly if you have gout.

If you’ve had gout before, you may never have another gout attack again. However, an estimated 60 percent of people who’ve had gout once will have it again.

As a result, your doctor will likely recommend avoiding high-purine foods and limiting medium-purine foods to try and keep gout from returning.

Medications can also reduce uric acid

Diet isn’t the only solution to reducing the likelihood that gout will return. Doctors can also prescribe medications to help reduce the amount of uric acid in the body.

Medications can be used as a preventive measure to decrease production or to increase excretion of uric acid. Commonly used medications are allopurinol (Zyloprim, Lopurin) and probenecid (Benemid, Probalan).

Colchicine (Colcrys, Mitigare) is a medication typically used to decrease the pain during acute gout attacks. It can also be used along with preventive medications to decrease gout attacks.

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Fortunately, most gout-friendly foods are healthy ones that are good for your regular diet. Examples of low-purine foods include:

  • cheese
  • coffee
  • eggs
  • fruits
  • green vegetables
  • low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt or milk
  • nuts
  • peanut butter

If you do eat oatmeal regularly, it’s a good idea to balance it with foods you know are low in purines. This includes a glass of low-fat milk and fruits that can add flavor and nutrients.

Drinking plenty of water on a daily basis can also help to reduce the risks for gout attacks. The extra water can help to flush uric acid from your system.

Some foods are very high in purines and may contribute to high uric acid levels in the body. Examples of these include:

  • alcohol, especially beer and liquor
  • fructose-containing foods and drinks
  • lobster
  • organ meats, such as kidney, liver, foie gras, or sweetbreads
  • scallops
  • small fish, such as anchovies or Thai fish sauce
  • sugar-sweetened soft drinks, such as fruit juices or sodas
  • wild game, such as pheasant, rabbit, or venison

If you do like to eat these foods, you should eat them in very small amounts. They should be the exception in your diet, not the rule.

Purine-rich foods increase your risk for gout attacks

Consuming high-purine foods doesn’t usually take long to cause gout attacks.

According to a 2012 study published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, high purine intake over the course of 2 days increases the risks for recurrent gout attacks by up to 5 times. This is compared to a person who eats a low-purine diet.

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Oatmeal isn’t the best food if you have gout, but it certainly isn’t the worst. If you have a history of gout, consider limiting it to a couple of times a week.

Following a low-purine diet may help you reduce your risk for recurring gout attacks. If you still have gout flare-ups, talk to your doctor about other solutions, such as medications.