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photo of a person's foot with redness at their big toe joint

4 ways to reduce your risk of gout attacks

Gout is one of the most common forms of inflammatory arthritis. It occurs when the body produces too much uric acid, which attacks the joints. The most commonly affected joint is in the big toe, though the condition can also affect the knees, ankles and wrists. It’s more common in men than in women.

“Gout can significantly affect your quality of life,” says Siraj Abdullah, D.O., a Piedmont family and sports medicine physician. “It can make it difficult to walk and put on your socks and shoes, and can make every day activities painful.”

Repeated gout attacks and untreated gout can cause joint deformities and decreased range of motion because of the constant inflammation, he adds. That’s why preventing flare-ups is crucial. Here are Dr. Abdullah’s tips to reduce your risk of a gout attack.

1. Cut back on foods that increase the risk of gout

Dr. Abdullah says the following foods can increase your risk of a gout attack:

  • Red meat, including beef, pork and lamb

  • Organ and glandular meats, including sweetbreads, liver and kidney

  • Shellfish, such as lobster and shrimp

  • Certain types of fish, including tuna, anchovies and sardines

  • Sugary foods, like cookies, cake, candies, granola bars, sweetened cereals and other processed snacks

While you don’t necessarily have to eliminate these foods from your diet, cutting back can be helpful if you’re prone to gout attacks. And they’re best to avoid if you currently have a gout flare-up.

Instead, focus your diet on anti-inflammatory foods like:

  • Lean protein, including chicken, turkey, salmon, eggs and beans

  • Healthy fats, like avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds

  • Vegetables

  • Fruit

  • Whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice and oatmeal

2. Limit alcohol and sweetened beverages

Alcohol is another major trigger for gout attacks. Moderate daily alcohol consumption is considered to be two servings or less for men and one drink or less for women.

“If you consistently exceed these numbers, I recommend talking to your physician about the best way to cut back on drinking,” says Dr. Abdullah.

Sweetened beverages like soda, fruit juice and sweet tea can also trigger a gout attack.

“I’ve even had patients who are triggered by diet soda,” he says. “I recommend increasing your water intake and decreasing other beverages.”

3. Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese

“If you’re overweight or obese, weight loss will help decrease your risk of gout attacks,” says Dr. Abdullah. “Even losing five to 10 pounds can help lower your risk.”

He recommends eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly to help with weight loss and decrease inflammation in the body.

4. Talk to your doctor about how to prevent gout attacks

“Some people are more prone to gout because of their genetics or family history,” says Dr. Abdullah. “Others have more uric acid in their bodies. These individuals may still have gout attacks even if they do everything right.”

If you have more than two gout attacks a year, ask your physician about medications to prevent flare-ups. Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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