I was diagnosed with gout in 2011 after going to the doctor with what we both thought was a broken toe. When the x-rays came back showing no broken bones, a blood sample confirmed a gout diagnosis. Pharmaceutical treatment is a problem for me since I have an ulcer and NSAID’s are not compatible with that condition. I also don’t like to take medication if I can avoid it. Ultimately, my doctor and I decided to try and control my gout via diet and exercise. A few years later, I’m trouble free. Here’s what I’ve learned about the condition and how to manage it.
Information about gout is bewildering
There’s a dizzying amount of contradictory information about gout and how to treat it. What you need to know is simple: gout is caused by the incomplete metabolizing of purine proteins, particularly from animal sources. This in turn leads to a build-up of needle-like uric acid crystals in the blood that collect in the joints, causing inflammation. If untreated, this can cause permanent joint damage. A few simple lifestyle changes, however, can prevent gout from rearing its ugly head.
It’s all about diet
The first change I made after being diagnosed with gout was to switch to a vegetarian diet. While there are vegetable sources of purines, they seem to be less likely to result in gout flair-ups than their animal counterparts. Further, recent research has shown that sugar — particularly high fructose corn syrup (HFC) – contributes to or causes attacks. As an ice-cream junkie, this was a hard hit for me. Some foods, like dark cherries and cherry juice, seem to reduce uric acid in the blood naturally – to me this is better alternative to medications with questionable side effects (including a temporary increase in attacks!). Since changing my diet, eliminating HFC, and watching my sugar intake, I haven’t had a single flair-up.
Trim the fat
Your physical condition is also likely to determine whether or not you have flair-ups. The heavier you are, the more uric acid crystals your body produces. Fortunately for me, I enjoy running and other exercises, and despite cautions that intense exercise can lead to attacks, I’ve never had a problem. I will tell you that sitting on the couch will ensure you get gout attacks regularly. Get out and move.
Gout is manageable
Managing gout means making lifestyle changes. For me, it’s meant shifting away from meat, never drinking more than four beers in a week, and avoiding anything with high fructose corn syrup in it. The crazy thing is, these are all healthy choices. Exercise, moderation, and avoidance of triggers will not only prevent gout attacks in the future, but will impart other health benefits as well.