Gout: what it is and how it can affect you

What is your body telling you about gout?

Gout is a common and intensely painful arthritic condition affects the joints, most commonly the big toe. It is caused by a build‐up of small uric acid crystals which form in and around the affected joint causing pain, inflammation and swelling. Uric acid is a normal waste product which forms when our bodies break down purines, a chemical found in certain foods such as red meat and fish.1 In healthy people, the body will rid itself of excess uric acid through the kidneys and into the urine. However this does not happen fast enough in people with gout.2

Are you listening to the signs and symptoms of gout?

Gout is usually experienced as an acute attack, which means that symptoms will develop suddenly and disappear after one or two weeks. With gout, the affected joint will become very red, swollen and extremely painful and is often intensely sore to touch.2 It becomes so tender in fact, that people with gout cannot even bear the weight of a bed sheet! Besides the big toe, other commonly affected joints include the ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers and elbows.1 The time between gout attacks could be a matter of months or even years. If gout is not managed well, however, the time between attacks may get shorter, attacks may be more severe and may cause significant damage to the joint.2

Who is more exposed to gout?

The two most common groups of people affected by gout include:2

  • Men between the ages of 40 and 50.
  • Older people taking diuretics (medication that helps the body get rid of excess water).

There are some key lifestyle factors that may trigger a gout attack in those who are prone to this condition. These include:

  • Consuming too much alcohol (particularly beer).3
  • Consuming a diet high in purines such as meat, sweet breads, offal, shellfish and fructose.3
  • Being overweight or overeating.2
  • Dehydration.2
  • ‘Crash’ dieting or fasting.2

In addition, a person’s gender, genetic makeup and hormonal changes may cause the body to produce too much uric acid or prevent it from being properly broken down, resulting in gout.1

How can I help my body recover from gout?

To help manage your gout in the long term and reduce the risk of attacks, you’re likely to benefit from healthy changes to your lifestyle.

  • Cut down on alcohol consumption and avoid binge drinking.2
  • Exercise regularly.3
  • Keep well‐hydrated and drink plenty of water – at least 1.5L daily. Keeping your fluids up will help dilute uric acid in your blood and urine and help reduce gout symptoms and prevent future gout attacks from occurring.1
  • If you are overweight, gradual weight loss may help lower uric acid levels and reduce the likelihood of an attack.4 Avoid crash dieting or fasting though which can trigger gout attacks.2
  • Cut down on purine rich foods such as:4
    • Red meat and offal (liver, kidneys and heart).
    • Seafood including shellfish, scallops, mussels, herring, mackerel, sardines and anchovies.
    • Foods containing yeast such as vegemite and beer.
    • Fructose from soft drinks or fruit juice.
  • A celery seed supplement. Celery seed has an anti‐inflammatory and mild diuretic action and may provide relief from gout symptoms.
  • If you are in the midst of a gout attack in your big toe, limit the amount of walking and create a bed cradle to keep the sheets off your foot during the night.2

Who should I speak to for more advice?

Talk to your Healthcare practitioner if you experience your first gout attack, or your attacks are regular, persistent or painful. For more information on lifestyle and dietary modifications, see a Dietician, Nutritionist or Naturopath. You could also phone our friendly Naturopathic health line for more information or to find out what gout remedies may be suitable for your needs.