Rheumatologists treat conditions that affect joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments as well as autoimmune diseases. Arthritis is the general term for conditions that causes pain and swelling in the joints. Gout, a type of arthritis caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, can be successfully managed by diet and medication. A gout-friendly diet can also prevent future attacks.
What Causes Gout?
Purines are molecules found in the DNA of plant and animal cells. Some purines are produced in our cells and some come from the foods we eat. Purines produce uric acid as a byproduct when they are metabolized.
Under normal circumstances, uric acid is removed from the bloodstream in the kidneys and exits the body in urine. Uric acid builds up in the body if it is not being properly removed by the kidneys. Sometimes there is excess uric acid in the blood when a person consumes too many foods or beverages that are high in purines. Taking diuretics, such as water pills, can also result in an increase in uric acid in the blood.
What Foods are High in Purines?
Red meat, shellfish, and alcohol— especially beer— are the most common contributors to uric acid overload. Fructose also causes a rise in uric acid, especially when it comes in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Some plant-based foods are also high in purines, such as soybeans, spinach, and shitake mushrooms.
However, not all purine-rich foods raise uric acid levels. Plant-based purines from vegetables and legumes have not been shown to increase uric acid in the blood like animal-based purines do. Gout patients do not need to avoid produce that contains a high or moderate amount of purines.
Symptoms of Gout
As the concentration of uric acid in the blood rises, solid urate particles form crystals in and around joints. The presence of these crystals causes inflammation of the joint and the tissue surrounding the joint. The pain and swelling associated with this inflammation can result in discomfort and reduced mobility for people suffering from a gout attack. Attacks can last for days or weeks, with swelling, redness, and stiffness in the affected joints. The big toes, ankles, wrists, fingers, and elbows are the most common joints afflicted by uric acid crystallization.
Traditionally, gout patients were instructed to give up red meat, shellfish, and alcohol. Current evidence shows that limiting or eliminating purine-rich foods and beverages alone will not prevent gout attacks. Additional dietary and lifestyle modifications such as eating more produce and achieving a healthier weight may prove to be more successful in treating gout.
Eating low-fat dairy foods and fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C such as oranges, grapefruit, strawberries and peppers, can help to decrease the level of uric acid in the body. Leaner proteins such as poultry, white fish, beans, legumes and nuts are better choices for keeping uric acid in check as well as maintain healthy body weight. Patients should also limit or avoid fructose-sweetened beverages like soda and processed foods that are high in fructose.
For more information on gout and arthritis, contact companies like Sarasota Arthritis Center.