What are the best ways to manage gout

A man sat crossed legged in the luiving room rubbing the foot of his wife who has arthritis.

Gout can be extremely painful and put your life on hold. It’s caused when you have too much of the body’s natural waste product urate. If you create too much of it, or if your body is not good at getting rid of it, urate can form into tiny crystals in and around joints.

These sharp, hard crystals can then rub against the soft tissue inside a joint, causing pain and swelling. But, with the right medication and a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce the chances of having gout attacks.

Here are some tips to help you manage your condition:

1. Talk to your doctor

Research shows that if you’ve had one attack of gout, you’re likely to have repeat attacks. As well as being very unpleasant, this can cause permanent damage to your joints. There are drugs that can reduce the amount of urate in your body, and they work well for many people. Allopurinol and febuxostat are the two most common drugs to prevent gout attacks. Talk to your doctor about long-term medication to reduce the amount of urate in the body.

2. Stay at a healthy weight for you

If you’re overweight or obese your body will produce more urate than if you were at your natural weight. If you need to lose weight, the best way to do it is gradually with a healthy, low-fat, low-sugar diet and by taking regular exercise. Losing too much weight too soon can cause a gout attack. Read our healthy diet tips here.

3. Avoid foods high in purines

Foods that are high in a substance called purines create high levels of urate when they’re broken down in the body. Avoiding foods high in purines will reduce your chances of gout attacks. Foods high in purines are:

a. red meat and offal – for example beef, kidneys, liver and sweetbreads
b. oily fish – anchovies, fish roes, herring, mackerel, sardines
c. foods rich in yeast extracts – Marmite, Bovril, Vegemite.

4. Only drink alcohol in moderation

Drinking too much alcohol, especially beer and spirits, can increase urate levels and your chances of having a gout attack. Guidelines state that adults shouldn’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week.

5. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water will help to get rid of urate in the body. Aim to drink at least one litre (two pints) of fluid a day. You can include some other fluids besides water in this total, but not alcoholic drinks. Avoid sugary fizzy drinks and fruit juices, as the sugar in these drinks can increase urate levels.

6. Drink a glass of skimmed milk a day

Studies have shown that skimmed milk and low-fat yogurt can reduce the amount of urate in the body and therefore lower risks of gout attacks.