In the middle ages, gout was known as the disease of the wealthy. Nowadays, it is one of the most common metabolism illnesses among adults that is associated with nutrition. Gout results from excessively high uric acid levels in the blood. There are two types of gout, primary gout, which is congenital and secondary gout, which is an acquired disease. Primary gout is the result of a metabolism problem associated with insufficient removal of waste by the kidneys. In the case of the second form, the gout is caused by illnesses such as tumours, anaemia and diabetes with kidney function problems. Nutrition-related causes include total fasting and the increased consumption of meat and alcohol.
But what causes excessive uric acid in the blood?
Organic compounds called Purines are changed into uric acid by the metabolic activity of the body. Uric acid is then eliminated from the body through the kidneys. If this function is disrupted, as in the case of primary gout, the uric acid will remain in the body. This means that the uric acid level in the blood will increase. We also absorb uric acid from our food, particularly from animal products.
How does uric acid cause gout?
Increased uric acid levels usually remain unnoticed for many years due to the lack of symptoms. Ultimately however, permanently increased uric acid levels will result in gout. These increased levels cause the formation of uric acid crystals. These crystals tend to gather in the large toe, in bursae, tendon sheaths, and ear cartilage or in the kidneys as stones. Acute gout attacks typically involve the sudden onset of severe pain, accompanied by extreme redness and swelling in these areas. There is no reason to get to this stage if countermeasures can be taken at the right time, and symptoms can be avoided with a balanced diet.
How to diagnose gout?
Uric acid levels can be determined through a blood test. Men are much more frequently affected by raised values and gout than women. However, the risk for women also increases at the beginning of the menopause period, as the protective effect of oestrogen will no longer be provided. During a longer fasting period or in the case of extreme diets, the increased breakdown of body cells can increase uric acid levels. And the opposite is also true: if you eat too much meat and drink excessive amounts of alcohol, the levels will increase.
|Men||3.5 to 7.0 mg/dl|
|Women||2.5 to 5.7 mg/dl|
What is the treatment?
If uric acid levels are too high, the first preferred treatment is a change of eating habits. If uric acid levels remain high over a long period of time and the change of diet makes no positive difference, medication will need to be used. This will either reduce the production of uric acid in the body or increase the elimination of uric acid through the kidneys. In the case of acute gout attacks, anti-inflammatory pain medication combined with cold compresses can provide significant relief in just a few hours. Discuss the treatment with your doctor and ensure that you have your levels checked on a regular basis.
Tips for increased uric acid levels and gout
- Watch your weight. Try to lose weight slowly.
- Eat fresh fruit, vegetables, whole wheat products and some pulses (high in purine) every day.
- Enjoy low-fat milk and dairy products daily.
- Keep an eye on the purine content of food. Avoid offal, shellfish and crustaceans and tinned fish such as sardines in oil.
- Eat no more than 100g of meat, sausages, fish and poultry a day.
- Drink alcohol only occasionally, as it affects the elimination of uric acid.
- Eat low-fat food. The consumption of high-fat foods encourages weight gain.
- Drink at least two litres of low-calorie fluids a day. Recommended fluids are water, tea and fruit juice.
To help with practical diet planning, it can help to gain advice from a qualified dietician. They will be able to clarify any questions you have and healthily and effectively reduce your values.