Adopting healthy self-management strategies that focus on a healthy diet, physical activity, and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, can improve the quality of life of people with gout. Many of these same strategies can help reduce the risk of developing gout in the first place.
Adopting a healthy diet is an important lifestyle factor in managing gout. Avoiding foods that are high in purines such as red and organ meats, some seafoods and alcohol, may help you reduce uric acid levels in your blood and lower your risk of gout attacks.
More recently, experts have started thinking about diet and gout differently. Instead of focusing on individual foods to avoid, many doctors recommend following a healthy diet and weight loss if the person is overweight or obese to reduce gout symptoms.
In general, a healthy diet emphasizes plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. A 2021 study suggests the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) or similar dietary pattern emphasizing plant-based protein lowers uric acid more than similar diets that emphasize either low carbohydrates or unsaturated fats.
Related: The right plant-based diet for you
Some foods may even be beneficial for lowering uric acid. Multiple studies have found lower uric acid levels among people who consume low-fat dairy products. Foods that contain calcium may help lessen gout attacks as well as protect your bones.
Studies have found that vitamin C may lower uric acid levels. People with gout may benefit from adding citrus fruits and other foods rich in vitamin C (such as strawberries and peppers) to their diet. Some evidence suggests that eating cherries or cherry juice can reduce gout attacks and improve pain. These findings are not conclusive, but there's no harm in adding cherries to your diet.
- fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- non-meat proteins such as low-fat dairy products, beans and lentils
- lean meats and poultry
- citrus fruits or foods rich in vitamin C
- cherries or cherry juice
- plenty of water. Drinking enough water can help your kidneys function better and avoid dehydration (dehydration can trigger gout symptoms).
Alcohol and certain foods can raise your risk of gout and trigger gout attacks.
- purine-rich meats (beef, lamb, pork)
- purine-rich seafood (sardines, shellfish)
- naturally sweet fruit juices
- sugar and food and drinks sweetened with sugar.
- too much alcohol (which means no more than two drinks a day for men and no more than one drink a day for women)
- any alcohol during gout attacks
- foods and drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
Remember that just eliminating purine rich foods and alcohol is not enough for most people with gout to prevent attacks. Medications are used to treat an acute attack, and you can take other medications over the long term to prevent further attacks. When it comes to diet, focus on an overall healthy eating pattern, plenty of fluids, moderation of alcohol consumption and losing excess weight.
Related: An anti-inflammatory diet may be good for your joints
Lifestyle changes that focus on physical activity and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can also help to manage gout and keep it at bay if you do not have the condition. For those who do have gout, following your doctor's treatment plan will help keep your condition under control.
- Lose weight. Losing weight if you are obese or overweight may reduce uric acid levels and the risk of gout attacks. Losing weight also reduces pressure on painful joints.
- Get regular physical activity. Physical activity can help reduce pain and disability related to gout. Research suggests that regular low-to moderate-intensity exercise can reduce uric acid levels. Exercise can also reduce the risk for obesity and other health conditions that make you more likely to develop gout. Experts recommend that adults engage in 150 minutes per week or more of moderate physical activity.
- Choose low impact activities. Joint injuries can worsen gout symptoms. Moderate intensity, low impact activities such as walking, swimming, or biking are easier on the joints. These activities have a low risk of injury and do not twist or put too much stress on the joints.
- Follow your doctor'srecommended treatment plan. Make sure to attend your health appointments regularly and follow your doctor's treatment plan. For people with gout, lifestyle changes alone are unlikely to lower uric acid levels enough to completely prevent gout attacks. In most cases, the only way to reduce uric acid levels enough to stop attacks is with medication.
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