Gout and Sugar

Most adults and children in America eat too much sugar, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The leading source of added sugar in the American diet is sugar-sweetened beverages. Consuming too much sugar can lead to the following health problems:

  • Weight gain
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease

But did you know that it can lead to painful gout as well?

What Is Gout?

Gout is a common form of painful inflammatory arthritis that usually occurs in only one joint at a time, often the big toe joint, but it can also occur in lesser toe joints, ankle or knee. If you have gout, you will likely have the following symptoms:

  • Intense pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Heat

Flares start suddenly and can last for days and weeks followed by long periods of remission—weeks, months or even years without symptoms.

What Is the Main Cause of Gout?

People with too much uric acid in the body can develop hyperuricemia, which causes gout. The uric acid crystallizes and can build up in the joints, fluids and tissues within the body. Hyperuricemia does not always cause gout and may not need medication without gout symptoms.

The following may likely increase your risk of developing gout:

  • Being male (for women, the risk increases after menopause)
  • Being obese
  • Having underlying health conditions, such as congestive heart failure, hypertension, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, diabetes or poor kidney function
  • Using medications, such as diuretics
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating or drinking food and beverages high in purines and fructose

What Is the Link between Gout and Sugar?

Chemical purines are released when the body breaks down fructose found in foods and beverages, such as processed foods, sodas and alcohol. This process produces uric acid, which forms into painful crystals.

Studies show that drinking two or more sugary sodas a day raises the risk for gout by 85 percent among men—the chances of developing gout double in people with obesity.

What Foods Cause Gout?

For some people, gout is caused by eating foods high in sugars and purines, such as the following:

  • Processed foods
  • Red meat
  • Organ meat
  • Seafood like anchovies, sardines, mussels, scallops, trout and tuna
  • Alcohol, especially beer
  • Sugary drinks, such as regular sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters and sweetened coffee and tea beverages
  • Desserts and sweet snacks, such as cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, ice cream, frozen dairy desserts, doughnuts, sweet rolls and pastries
  • Fruit juice and certain types of fruits

What Is the Best Way to Get Rid of Gout?

A rheumatologist can only diagnose gout during a flare and when X-rays and laboratory tests find uric acid crystals in the affected joint. Medication and self-management strategies can effectively treat and manage gout once diagnosed. Your treatment plan may include the following recommendations:

  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, steroids and the anti-inflammatory drug colchicine to manage the pain of a flare.
  • Choose a healthy diet and lifestyle, including losing weight, limiting alcohol intake and avoiding purine-rich food to help prevent future flares.
  • Prevent tophi and kidney stones for people with frequent acute flares or chronic gout with preventive therapy. Tophi are hard, uric acid deposits under the skin. Drugs like allopurinol, febuxostat and pegloticase can help lower uric acid levels.

The CDC recommends the following nonmedical self-management strategies for people with arthritis and gout:

  • Join a self-management education class to understand arthritis and improve your quality of life.
  • Engage in moderate physical activity at least 150 minutes per week to help reduce pain, improve mood and the ability to move. Choose activities that have a low impact on joints, such as walking, bicycling and swimming.
  • Set regular appointments with your doctor and follow your recommended treatment plan.
  • Lose weight to reduce pressure on joints.

If you are experiencing symptoms of gout, seek medical attention to confirm a diagnosis. Please do not delay care.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Arthritis Foundation

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