How to Avoid Foods that Aggravate Gout


Gout, a form of inflammatory arthritis, occurs when uric acid, a waste product produced by the body, forms crystals in the soft tissues and joints. These crystal deposits cause swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints. In most cases, crystals initially form in the big toe. They might also affect the wrists, elbows, fingers, ankles, and knees.

There are many causes of gout, including genetics, diet, weight, medications, and other health conditions. While diet modifications alone cannot treat gout, avoiding certain foods can help prevent worsening symptoms.

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Step 1

Understand the role of purines.

Purines are natural substances found in our body’s cells, as they provide part of the chemical structure of genes in plants and animals. Consequently, purines are also found in most foods.

When dead cells are recycled, the purines in the cells are broken down to form uric acid. Uric acid is also formed as a result of digesting purines in foods. It’s normal to have a certain amount of uric acid in the body, but high levels of uric acid can lead to certain health conditions, including gout. Some high-protein foods contain concentrated amounts of purines, which can raise levels of uric acid and aggravate the effects of gout.

High protein foods.
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Step 2

Avoid high-purine fish, seafood, and meats.

The foods highest in purines, which are most likely to raise levels of uric acid, are animal proteins. Many types of fish and seafood, such as herring, mackerel, sardines, and scallops are high in purines. Organ meats, including liver, kidneys, brains, and sweetbreads, and game meats also contain high levels of purines. Because varying amounts of purines are found in all meat, fish, and poultry, doctors sometimes recommend that people suffering from gout limit animal protein to 5 to 6 ounces per day.

People suffering from gout should also avoid alcohol, which contains high levels of purines.

Person with a plate of 3 fish about to cut the fish.
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Step 3

Consume moderate amounts of high-purine vegetables.

Though some vegetable and plant foods contain higher levels of protein, it is not evident that these foods increase uric acid in the body. Moderate consumption of high-purine plant foods, including dried peas and beans, asparagus, spinach, and mushrooms, has not been shown to aggravate gout.

Asparagus in fan shape.
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Step 4

Increase intake of beneficial foods.

Studies show that for unknown reasons, intake of low-fat dairy products might lower uric acid levels in the body. Vitamin C also might contribute to lower uric acid levels. People with gout should also drink plenty of water, which helps to remove uric acid from the body and helps the kidneys function properly.

Pitcher of water pouring into a glass.
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