Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis where the affected joint is swollen, painful, red, warm, and tender. The pain often begins rapidly, reaching a maximal intensity within 12 hours. In about 50 percent of cases, the joint at the base of the big toe is affected. Gout can also result in kidney stones, tophi, and urate nephropathy.
Gout occurs when the levels of uric acid in the blood is persistently elevated. This can be due to a combination of existing health conditions, diet, and genetic factors. When the uric acid levels are high, uric acid crystallizes and deposits in the tendons, tissues, and joints, resulting in a gout attack. Diagnosis can be achieved by confirming the presence of crystals in the joint fluid. Treatment includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), colchicine, and steroids.
Once the acute attack resolves, future episodes should be prevented through lifestyle changes and medication such as allopurinol and probenecid. Gout is estimated to affect about 1 to 2 percent of the Western population and is becoming increasingly common.
Cause #1: Food
While food is an essential part of life, there are certain foods that increase the risk or likelihood of gout. Meat and seafood have been strongly associated with gout as these are foods that are richest in purines, leading to a high yield of uric acid. Examples include shrimp, dried anchovies, dried mushrooms, organ meat (offal), and seaweed. Potatoes and chicken have also been implicated.
Individuals with a risk of gout are advised to cut back on saturated fats that are most often found in fatty poultry, high-fat dairy products, and red meat. They should focus on consuming lean meat and low-fat dairy. While seafood is generally higher in purines, the overall health benefits of eating fish potentially outweighs the risk of gout. Therefore, moderate portions of fish are still recommended.