Watch Your Diet to Reduce Gout Attacks

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“Dear Pharmacist,

I suffer from gout and would like more information about this
condition. What foods should I avoid, and what foods can help me?”

–L.B., New York City, New York

ANSWER: Even though the pain may be in your big toe, what you
put in your mouth really does matter. People with gout often wake
up with an extremely painful, swollen joint, usually the big toe, but
it could be any joint. You might have a fever, too. Gout occurs most
often in men, and the condition can spread to other joints as the
amounts of uric acid increase in the body. Gout is associated with
kidney stones, too, so getting to a physician is important. Now, if
you wake up in the wee hours with gout, doctors usually recommend
ibuprofen or naproxen to get you through the night because aspirin
only makes it worse.

As far as foods go, meats, especially organs (liver, kidney,
brains) raise uric acid levels, increasing your risk for gouty attacks
and kidney stones. You should also eliminate sugar and caffeine and
go easy on anchovies, shellfish, mackerel, mushrooms and yeast
(baker’s and brewer’s). Another dietary consideration is to make
your body more alkaline, and less acidic by eating more alkaline
foods. Raw vegetables are a quick way to make your body more
alkaline; lots of people juice them. People who go vegetarian make
their body more alkaline naturally, so this is worth a try.

There is some research to show that going alkaline can
reduce arthritic pain. One popular book on the alkaline diet is
“The pH Miracle,” by Dr. Robert and Shelly Redford Young (www. At some point, you should look in your
medicine cabinet.

Some drugs and supplements increase your risk for symptoms
of gout. For example, insulin, levodopa (for Parkinson’s) aspirin,
niacin (found in supplements and in the drug Advicor), excessive
Vitamin A, cyclosporine (calms the immune system) and diuretics
(water pills used for high blood pressure) can all contribute to gout.
Drinking alcohol matters too since your first attack may occur after
excessive intake. Stress, overeating and bumping your toe have also
been reported as factors in gout attacks. Colchicine is the prescription
standard in treating gout and there are anti-inflammatory drugs
your doctor can prescribe.

Quercetin and bromelain are two natural and powerful anti-
inflammatories which can reduce gouty attacks. Another simple
supplement is a plant-based antioxidant, sold by your local health
food store. Juice drinks are a tastier way to get the same type of
antioxidants, which are very helpful at reducing inflammation and
painful attacks. Obviously, if you have gout, life may not feel like a
bowl of cherries but eating them can help tremendously. According
to a popular folk remedy, you should eat a large cupful of cherries
every day, fresh or frozen.