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Understanding Gout — an article on the Smart Living Network
May 31, 2009 at 10:15 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Understanding Gout


What is Gout?

Gout is a form of arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. It is considered to be one of the most painful types of arthritis. Uric acid is the byproduct of the body's breakdown of purines, found in most foods, though particularly in meats and meat products. It is also produced naturally by your body. Some people with gout naturally overproduce uric acid. In most cases, the kidneys can filter excess uric acid out, but in people with gout, this is not the case.

Risk Factors

Several factors can put a person at higher risk of developing gout:

  • Genetics. If someone in your family has gout, you are more likely to develop it yourself.
  • Age. Gout is more common in those of middle age or older.
  • Gender. Men are more likely to develop gout than women because they have naturally higher levels of uric acid. However, women's uric acid levels rise after menopause, putting them at almost as much risk as men after this point.
  • Overweight. People who are overweight often produce excess uric acid.
  • Drinking alcohol . Alcohol can elevate uric acid production.
  • Eating foods rich in purines . Since purines are broken down into uric acid, eating many of these foods can make it difficult for your body to deal with all that uric acid, and over time, this can lead to gout.
  • Certain diseases and disorders. Several disorders that affect the body's filtration, circulatory, or immune systems can put a person at increased risk of gout. These include kidney damage, lead poisoning, hypertension, hypothyroidism, some types of cancer, and hemoglobin disorders.

Symptoms of Gout

Gout usually begins with intense pain in the joints of the big toe . Other joints, particularly the instep, heel, ankle, knee, wrist, finger, and elbow can also be affected, usually in an ascending order. Attacks of gout usually begin at night and involve pain, swelling, inflammation, and sometimes fever. Some people never have more than one gout attack in their lives, whereas others experience periods of remission followed by longer and longer attacks.


Doctors will usually use one of two tests to diagnose gout. The most reliable is a tissue sample taken from the fluid of the affected joint. The doctor will examine this sample for uric acid crystals. Doctors can also look for uric acid crystals in the blood, but the results of this test can be misleading. Some people have elevated uric acid levels in their blood without having gout, whereas some people with gout will not have high circulating levels of uric acid.

Treating Your Gout Naturally through Diet and Exercise

Treating your gout is important since it can long-term, result in damage to the kidneys and kidney stones, as well as joint destruction. Discuss your treatment options with your doctor. You can also treat gout naturally at home by changing your diet and exercising. Since uric acid is formed when the body breaks down purines, it makes sense to stay away from foods rich in purines. Purines are found in almost all foods, but not in the same concentration. Organ meats such as brain and kidneys are especially bad, along with certain types of fish. People with gout should get most of their protein from low fat dairy and poultry, and overall, protein should only comprise about fifteen percent of their diet. For many people with gout, losing weight is very beneficial. However, it is important to find a healthy diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables that will allow you to loose weight gradually, since a precipitous drop in weight can cause uric acid levels to skyrocket. Drinking coffee, taking moderate amounts of vitamin C, and eating plenty of dark colored fruits has been shown to reduce uric acid levels.


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