How to Manage Gout Flare-Ups

The official physician guidelines to prevent gout was released as recently as 2012. For the 8.3 million Americans who have suffered with gout over the last two decades, it was a long time coming.

Gout occurs when uric acid builds up in the joints and causes crystals to form. These crystals cause severe pain and inflammation. In addition, those suffering from an intense attack also often suffer from flu-like symptoms, including fevers and muscle aches. Unfortunately, these flare-ups often begin without warning.

Doctors now know that most gout flare-ups happen when uric acid levels go above 6.0 milligrams. The question still being addressed is how to keep these uric acid levels low. If you suffer from gout, or have a family member who does, then understanding what causes the uric acid to build is the key to managing symptoms. It is now known that a combination of factors, including diet, weight and medications taken can set off a flare-up. Use the following tips to adjust your lifestyle and help prevent gout flare-ups.

Gout: It is Not All About Your Diet

The prevailing wisdom in the past was that diet was the sole contributor to a gout flare-up. Now, scientists know that while diet is still a large component of a gout attack, it is not the only trigger. Aside from diet, genetics also play a part in whether an individual produces an overabundance of uric acid. Others who suffer from gout may have low kidney functions. In these cases, the kidney is not able to keep up with the production of uric acid.

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Patients on high blood pressure medications, which act as diuretics, can also experience a gout flare-up. Overall, researchers have discovered that only 10 percent of the uric acid contributing to attacks comes from foods ingested. That does not mean you should not watch what you eat if you suffer from gout, but it does mean there are additional factors to consider.

Foods to Limit If You Have Gout

Certain foods contribute to the production of uric acid. In particular, the foods gout patients should avoid are those producing a chemical called a purine. This is because purine eventually breaks down to form the uric acid that causes the inflammation. To reduce your risk of developing gout or having a gout flare-up, reduce your intake of the following:

  • Red meat
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Cauliflower
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • High fat meals
  • Certain types of seafood, such as herring, anchovies, mackerel, sardines, scallops
  • Alcohol, especially beer

Switching to an overall healthier diet is suggested, including whole grains, and vegetables that are not high in purine. Limiting processed foods in your diet is also recommended.

What can I eat if I have gout?

Everyone’s body chemistry is different, so while some gout sufferers may be able to drink beer without ill effect, another patient may have a flare-up after just one glass. Taking note of what you ate prior to a flare-up can help you determine what you should avoid in the future. In general, the good kind of protein most gout patients can eat successfully include:

  • Low-fat dairy.
  • Soy and other plant proteins.
  • Eggs.
  • Chicken.
  • Pork.

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Additionally, there are a few foods that help to reduce uric acid buildups in the system. If you find yourself ingesting some of the foods known to create a higher level of uric acid, make sure to counter it with some of the following:

  • Coffee
  • Cherries
  • Vitamin C

Too Much or Too Little Weight Can Cause a Flare-up

Gout patients’ bodies do not take well to sudden changes in weight, whether gain or loss. Therefore, following fad diets where you lose weight quickly is often a sure way to create a flare-up. This can also include regular fasting, skipping meals or exercising excessively. Likewise, gaining weight and carrying around excess pounds causes the body’s systems to work twice as hard to maintain a chemical balance.

Medication Can Cause Flare-ups

Certain medications you may be on can also bring on a flare-up. If you are following a healthy diet and still experiencing flare-ups, the culprit could be prescription medications you are currently taking. The following are known to trigger gout symptoms in some people:

  • Salicylate, also known as aspirin
  • Cyclosporine
  • Diuretics for high blood pressure
  • Levodopa for Parkinson’s disease

How to Minimize the Pain of a Flare-up

When you feel a gout attack building, there are steps you take to minimize the pain and the duration of the flare-up. If your doctor has prescribed medication, take that first. However, after this there are several additional actions that can ease the pain. For example, you can ice down the painful area by wrapping it in an ice pack and applying for no more than 30 minutes at a time, several times a day. Treating a gout attack within the first 24 hours can reduce the pain significantly, researchers have found, so it is important not to wait if you can help it.

Secondly, help your body to flush itself of the uric acid by taking in additional fluids. This will also keep your body from producing kidney stones, which is also a possibility for long-term gout sufferers. Doctors suggest a good amount is between eight to 16 cups of water. Avoid all alcoholic drinks during your flare-up as well, as it will slow down the excretion of uric acid.

Another option is to elevate your foot, and leave it uncovered when you go to bed at night. You may also have to cut the toe out of your socks, so your toe is not suffering when you wear shoes. Lastly, keep in mind that stress can elevate additional hormones and lead to more acid production. It is important to take the time to do activities that calm you down and offer you less stress during these periods.

Gout Medications to Take

After your first visit to the doctor, you will both watch the condition to see how often the attacks happen. If they occur more than three times a year, you will likely receive a medication. The medication for gout helps to reduce the uric acid levels, as well as the pain and inflammation during flare-ups. Gout sufferers who have only one attack every few years can usually handle the pain of the outbreak with an over-the-counter pain reliever. Once this ceases to help, it is time to go to the doctor and receive a prescription for lowering uric acid levels.

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