Strategies for Reducing Gout Pain
Gout is a complicated form of arthritis, and its chief symptom is abrupt, intense attacks of pain which are usually localized to the feet, often at the joint that connects your big toe to the rest of your foot. Pain is often worst at night, and many patients report being suddenly awakened by throbbing, burning pain of extreme intensity.
While these symptoms are certainly very uncomfortable, the good news is that gout is highly controllable. This is because clinicians have accurately identified its cause as high levels of uric acid in the blood, and there are easily implemented strategies you can use to reduce your body’s production of uric acid. Once you use these techniques, your gout symptoms will likely diminish in both frequency and severity.
Understanding the Root Cause of Gout Pain
As mentioned, high levels of uric acid are the primary cause of gout symptoms. Uric acid is a substance produced when your body metabolizes substances known as purines, which are found in many different types of food. Normally, your body eliminates uric acid from your bloodstream, but some people cannot get rid of it as easily as others. When uric acid lingers in your body, it turns into a substance known as urate crystals. The action of gravity draws these crystals to the lower regions of your body, which is the reason gout almost always presents in the feet and toes.
The key to controlling gout is to reduce your body’s production of uric acid by limiting your purine intake. Changing your diet is the primary way to slow down uric acid production, but there are also medications you can take to inhibit it.
The Gout Diet
If you suffer from gout, your doctor is almost certain to put you on what many people refer to as the “gout diet.” The fundamentals of the gout diet include:
- Watch your meat intake. Many types of meat are high in purine, including red meat, organ meat, fatty fish, shrimp, scallops and lobster. All meat and poultry products contain purine, but the aforementioned foods have the highest concentrations of it. In general, limit your meat intake to about 4 to 6 ounces (113 to 170 grams) per day, and get more of your protein from alternate sources, such as dairy, nuts, and legumes.
- Reduce fat consumption. High-fat foods impede your body’s ability to get rid of uric acid on its own. Thus, strictly limit your intake of fried foods, and be especially wary of dietary sources of saturated fat. Choose low-fat or no-fat alternatives whenever possible.
- Avoid fructose. Fructose is the only form of sugar known to contribute to the production of uric acid, so read product labels carefully and avoid foods that contain it. In particular, watch out for high-fructose corn syrup, and eliminate soda and artificially sweetened juices. If you want to keep drinking juice, choose 100 percent natural juices, as these appear not to contribute to uric acid production.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates. Get the lion’s share of your carbs from whole grains, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables. Cut out white bread, and skip dessert more option. Cake and candy are two sweet foods you should be very careful with.
In addition to following these eating guidelines, you should also make sure you stay well-hydrated and limit or eliminate your consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Supplement Your Gout Diet with Medication
While your diet should be the primary focus of your gout pain control strategy, you can also use medications to relieve pain and inhibit uric acid productions. Your doctor may prescribe drugs such as:
- Painkillers. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly prescribed type of painkiller for gout. Your doctor may also recommend corticosteroids and/or a drug known as colchicine, which is given to people who cannot take NSAIDs for health reasons.
- Xanthine oxidase inhibitors. Simply put, these drugs reduce the amount of uric acid your body produces. Thus, when you inevitably eat foods containing purine, your body won’t release as much uric acid during the metabolic process and your pain won’t flare up as frequently or as intensively.
- Drugs which facilitate the removal of uric acid. A drug known as probenecid gives your kidneys a boost as they work to remove uric acid from your bloodstream. However, research studies show that this drug can cause significant side effects, including stomach discomfort, skin rashes and an increased risk for kidney stones.
Because of the possibility of side effects, you should aim to reduce your consumption of purine to the greatest possible degree. This will make you less reliant on medications, which in turn will boost your overall health.