For those who suffer from gout, a simple change to the types of foods that you eat can help reduce the frequency and severity of gout attacks. Find out which foods are best avoided or eaten in moderation, and other dietary changes that can help prevent gout.
Uric acid, purines and gout
Gout is a common type of arthritis that causes bouts of joint pain. People with gout have raised levels of uric acid in their blood. An attack of gout occurs when uric acid forms crystals which deposit in the joints, causing pain and inflammation.
Uric acid is a normal waste product that is formed when compounds called purines are broken down in our bodies. Purines are found naturally in the body and also in certain foods. Some foods contain high levels of purines.
The dietary approach to reducing the frequency and severity of gout attacks is two-pronged:
- limit the body’s production of uric acid; and
- increase the elimination of uric acid.
Reduce purine-rich foods
To reduce the amount of uric acid produced by the body, reduce your intake of purine-rich foods. This table shows foods rich in purines which you can avoid or cut down on.
|Foods containing yeast|
|*According to Arthritis Australia, purine-rich vegetables appear less likely to cause gout than shellfish and meat.|
It’s also a good idea to avoid fructose — a type of sugar — as it can raise uric acid levels. Fructose can be found in fruit juices; it's also 50 per cent of table sugar, and in some countries - especially the USA - soft drinks and other foods are sweetened with corn syrup, which is high in fructose.
Drink lots of water
Some substances can affect the level of uric acid in your blood by speeding up or slowing down its elimination from the body.
Drinking plenty of water helps your body flush out uric acid, so if you have gout, aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day.
Alcohol can interfere with uric acid elimination. When you’re having an attack, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether, especially beer. In between attacks, up to two standard drinks of wine per day should not greatly increase the risk of gout.
Other dietary considerations for gout
Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products, as they have been shown to reduce the risk of gout. Vitamin C has also been shown to reduce the risk of gout.
A practical approach to gout
Completely avoiding all purine-rich foods is not necessary and could result in you missing out on important nutrients. Fortunately, newer gout medicines have reduced the need for a strict gout diet, however, cutting down on the amount of purine-rich foods can still help to reduce the number of gout attacks and their severity. Reduce the amount of meat, poultry and seafood in your diet, as animal proteins are high in purines. Try to avoid organ meats, anchovies, herring and mackerel altogether.
Remember, before starting a special gout diet it’s a good idea to get advice from your doctor or a dietitian.
Gout diets and weight loss
Low-purine diets are often low in calories so can also help keep your weight down, further reducing your risk of gout attacks. Gradual weight loss with healthy eating and regular physical activity is the way to go, as crash dieting and rapid weight loss can actually increase uric acid levels and may trigger a gout attack.
Keep taking your gout medicine
While following a gout diet can help limit the severity and number of attacks, it’s unlikely that it will decrease uric acid levels enough to allow people taking gout medicines to stop their treatment.
2. Hainer BL, Matheson E, Wilkes RT. Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of gout. Am Fam Physician. 2014 Dec 15; 90(12): 831-6. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/1215/p831.html