Are You Avoiding These Common Gout Triggers?

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Are You Avoiding These Common Gout Triggers?

When gout attacks, it seems to happen all at once. However, it is likely that gout has been stirring in your body for some time as your uric acid levels slowly climbed. Although some of the risk factors for gout — including genetics and age — are out of your control, many can be avoided or limited to prevent painful flares. Knowing gout’s triggers will help you keep it at bay.


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Dehydration

If you’re prone to high levels of uric acid, strive to remain properly hydrated by drinking the optimal amount of water based on your activity level. When you’re dehydrated, uric acid builds up in the blood that cannot be diluted and efficiently released through the kidneys. Dehydration also slows metabolism to the point of weight gain, which can cause or exacerbate gout.


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Soft drinks

Fructose, whether added as a sweetener to sodas or naturally occurring in drinks like orange juice, can increase uric acid levels and the likelihood of a gout attack. Limit soft drinks to no more than one 12-ounce serving per day, and also beware of added fructose (including high-fructose corn syrup) as a sweetener in snacks, baked goods, ice cream, breakfast cereals and other foods.


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Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages, including beer, hard liquor, and wine, are high in purine, a chemical compound in food. Because purine turns into uric acid when digested, having too much purine in your body can lead to excess uric acid that may be too much for your kidneys to properly manage. Research has shown a direct correlation between gout and alcohol, particularly beer. In fact, men who drink just one beer a day increase their gout risk by 1.5 times.


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Excessive body fat

Being overweight, especially if you carry that extra weight in your belly, is often linked to gout because excessive fat leads to insulin resistance which makes your body less efficient at removing uric acid. Getting more sleep can help you lose weight, as can a gout friendly exercise plan.


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Crash diets and fasting

Doing a crash diet or fasting may be tempting if you need to lose weight to manage gout, but think twice about taking this approach. Ketones in your body increase when you fast or detox, and they compete with uric acid for excretion, which reduces the amount of uric acid that is leaving your body. Try the DASH diet, which has been shown to reduce uric acid levels.


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What’s on your plate

Foods that are high in purine can raise your uric acid levels and trigger a flare. These include seafood like scallops, trout, haddock, codfish, mussels, herring, sardines, and anchovies; meats like bacon, veal, venison, turkey; and organ meats such as liver. Food with moderate purine levels beef, chicken, duck, pork, ham, shellfish, crab, lobster, oysters, and shrimp. Here’s what to eat to help lower your uric acid levels.


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Stress

When you are stressed out, your body loses pantothenic acid. This acid is important because it aids the body in removing uric acid, and when levels of pantothenic acid are low, uric acid is high, which leads to gout. It’s hard to avoid stress, whether caused by work, relationships, or any other factor, but when that stress is long-term, it can be a trigger for gout.


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Poorly fitting shoes

Even the wrong pair of shoes that rubs the wrong way can trigger a painful flare. Make sure the toe area or toe box of your sneakers, work shoes, and dress shoes is wide enough to accomodate your feet without awkward pinching or rubbing. You'll be especially glad if a gout attack does occur, as you may not be able to tolerate anything coming into contact with your toes.


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Medication

Managing other medical conditions and taking the medications that treat them can lead to gout. These conditions include high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and kidney disease. Unfortunately, some of the medications that treat these illnesses also lead to gout. Diuretics that treat high blood pressure or heart disease; drugs like aspirin that contain salicylate; vitamin B3 and nicotinic acid; immune suppressing drugs; and drugs that treat Parkinson’s disease may increase the level of uric acid in your blood or block your kidneys from excreting uric acid.


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Get to know what triggers you

Each time your gout attacks, take note in a journal, app, or calendar about what you ate and drank and what was happening in your life (for example, a sports injury, too much rich dessert over the holidays, or high levels of stress). Keeping track will help you and your doctor learn the nuances of your personal triggers to help you avoid future flares.