Gout is a particular type of arthritis that targets the joints and tissues around the large toe and foot. Attacks of gout can happen sporadically, but they usually occur soon after waking up or during the night.
It occurs when uric acid, a normal waste product, builds up in the blood and forms crystals in the joints and/or kidneys.
Uric acid normally dissolves in the blood, processes through the kidney, and leaves the body in the urine. If the body makes extra uric acid, or if the kidneys cannot clear enough of it, then uric acid levels in the blood will become too high, a condition known as hyperuricemia.
High uric acid levels known as hyperuricemia increase the risk of gout, kidney disease, and early death. Uric acid is the product of the purine breakdown. Purines are found in many of the foods that make part of our daily meals like red meat and even alcohol. When purines are broken down and turned into uric acid, they travel through the bloodstream into the kidneys where they are expelled from the body through urination. When there is an excess amount of uric acid that remains in the body, it can build up in other parts most commonly around the joints of the big toe, where gout can be found.
Gout and kidney stones
Excessive amounts of uric acid can contribute to kidney stones. Kidney stones are described as being one of the most painful experiences a person can encounter some even report it’s more painful than childbirth! Although kidney stones can often be passed or removed, in some cases they can damage the kidneys by causing an obstruction, which prevents the kidneys from filtering out waste, or by scarring the kidneys due to rough edges on the stones. All scenarios can contribute to chronic kidney disease or, even worse, kidney failure.
Gout prevention tips
- Prevention of gout and kidney disease begins with lifestyle changes. To lower the risk of gout, one must consume less purines in their diet
- Foods to avoid or eliminate include organ meats, liver, kidney, sweetbread, brains, bacon, beef, pork, lamb, any meat in large quantities, mackerel, and beer. Instead, consume a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with low-fat dairy products. Limiting sugary foods and beverages, especially those that contain fructose, can also help lower your risk of gout.
- Maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure levels, along with exercising regularly can help further reduce your risk as well.
- Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day (8 cups) to help reduce the risk for stone formation.
- Follow the medication regimen prescribed by your doctor.
Some people with gout do not have high uric acid levels, so it is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle no matter the level. Do not smoke, follow a well-balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise.