GOUT – a condition which people commonly associate with a rich diet – is a disorder which causes painful attacks of arthritis in the joints of the foot, knee, ankle, hand and wrist and especially the big toe.
It results from an excess of uric acid in the blood and tissues of the body, which if present for long enough, can form into needle-like crystals which can inflame your joints and cause severe pain and swelling.
Most people with gout have high levels of uric acid in their body because it hasn’t been efficiently removed by the kidneys and washed out in the urine.
Although acute attacks of gout are very dramatic, the inflammation goes down fairly quickly.
The attacks don’t cause long-term joint damage, but a build up of rate crystal can damage cartilage and bone leading to long-term arthritis.
The condition can be treated with medicines including non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which reduce inflammation and clochicine – made from the crocus plant.
The substance is not a painkiller but it can also reduce inflammation.
While lifestyle reasons are not the main reason why people get gout, Arthritis Research UK said there are number of change people can make to their diet and lifestyle to help ease attacks.
It said the most useful things people can do are:
If you need to lose weight, experts argue it can be the most effective dietary treatment for gout because it can reduce the urate levels in the body. The larger someone’s body is, the more urate is produced.
However, someone who has a healthy lifestyle and also takes prescribed medication will give themselves the best chance of lowering urate levels and this will reduce the likelihood of having attacks of gout.
Arthritis UK said: “We don’t recommend Atkins-type weight loss diets for people who are prone to gout.
“These diets include a lot of meat and are therefore high in animal proteins, which are high in purines and which break down to produce urate.”
Drinking plenty of water may reduce your risk of an attack and of urate forming crystals in joint tissues.
If you have kidney stones, you may need as much as 3.5 litres – six pints – a day.
Even if you don’t have kidney stones, the charity said people should aim for at least one litre – two pints – of fluid a day.
Drinking too much alcohol, especially beer and spirits, can increase your urate levels, however research has shown a moderate intake of wine doesn’t increase the risk.
Experts said drinking a glass of skimmed milk can reduce the risk of a gout attack.
People with gout should avoid food high in purines, which include red meat and offal – such as beef, kidneys and liver, oily fish and foods rich in yeast extracts.
Vitamin C helps the kidneys to get rid of more urate, so a diet rich in vitamin C may be helpful.