By the way, doctor: How do I avoid gout-aggravating foods?

Q. I have gout. I've read that foods high in purine can aggravate the condition. What is purine, and how can I reduce it in my diet?

A. Gout is a condition that develops in some people who sustain high blood levels of urate (also called uric acid). Urate forms crystals that can settle in the body's tissues. When deposited in and around joints, urate crystals cause the sudden attacks of pain, redness, and tenderness in joints that are characteristic of gouty arthritis.

Uric acid forms when the body breaks down purine, a substance that is produced in the body and also found in certain foods. Doctors used to recommend that people with gout avoid dietary purines, but now we have drug treatments that are much more effective at reducing urate in the blood. But some people can't tolerate gout medications, and for others, avoiding dietary purine may reduce the severity of gout attacks.

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