By Dr. Farah Akram.
Gout is a painful joint condition resulting from the collection and deposition of uric acid crystals in joints. Uric acid is a waste product from digestion of purine-rich food (type of protein).
Gout usually starts off with pain and swelling of the big toes of feet, but can occur in other joints as well. It can easily be diagnosed by measuring the levels of uric acid in the blood and/or by X-rays of involved joints. Unlike osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, gout can be controlled and cured by changes in lifestyle alone or in conjunction with medicines. Here is a list of things to do and avoid in gout.
NOTE: If you have symptoms of joint pain, please check with a doctor (instead of google) for a definitive diagnosis.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help reduce uric acid levels and increase the rate of healing. Stretching, swimming and low-paced aerobic exercises are recommended to improve joint mobility as well as strengthening muscles.
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep: In this busy life, sleep is often neglected. Lack of sleep in the long run can reduce immunity, increase inflammatory processes and therefore put the body at risk for acute and painful gout attacks.
- Meditate and de-stress: Stress has definitely been linked with increase in uric acid levels and occurrence of gout. There are different theories as to how it happens – one is that stress reduces Vitamin B5 levels in the body and this B5 plays vital role in uric acid elimination. The second theory is that stress leads to unnecessary eating (mostly processed foods) which in turn increases uric acid levels.
- Add certain foods to your diet to reduce gout. There are certain foods that have been shown to reduce uric acid in the body. There include:
- Cherries and berries
- Nettle (taken in form of tea)
- Potassium-rich foods like bananas, avocado, apricots, coconut water
- Water: lots and lots of it
- Comply with your doctor’s advice: If you are given medicines for your gout, do take them as advised along with lifestyle modifications to beat gout once and for all. Blood tests for uric acid should also be followed up, so that you don’t need to take drugs for longer than the required time.
- Eat foods that contain high levels of purines: (More purines=more uric acid). These include:
- Red meat (beef and lamb)
- Shellfish and other seafood
- Peas and spinach
- Allow sudden fluctuations in weight: Sudden weight gain or crash dietin have been known to trigger gout. Watch your weight and use sensible methods to control it.
- Get dehydrated: Dehydration leads to increased concentration of uric acid. Dehydration also affects immunity as well as inflammation. Therefore, one of the easiest and cheapest ways to reduce uric acid levels is to drink a lot of water.
- Overuse pain medications. Panadol and aspirin are greatly over-used these days, which can increase chances of gout attack. Excessive use of pain medications for minor symptoms might mask the pain and stiffness of gout, thereby delaying proper treatment. There is evidence that aspirin increases uric acid levels in the body. If you are taking aspirin on doctor’s orders, it would be wise with him to discuss possibility of gout.
- Ignore joint pain and stiffness. Gout can start off as minor pain and stiffness in joints before flourishing into an extremely painful gout attack. Therefore persisting pain or stiffness would require doctor’s attention.
Dr Farah Akram. May Allah guide us to all that is good and right. Ameen.