Gout is often mistaken for bunions because of the similiarity of their symptoms: pain and tenderness in the joint at the base of the big toe. In fact, gout is actually a form of arthritis. Affecting anyone at any time, especially women after menopause, gout can be described as “my toe is on fire.”
The joint will appear hot, red, swollen and super sensitive to the slightest touch – even laying a sheet across the area can be unbearable. Typically occurring at night and without warning, gout can affect the big toe as well as the feet, ankles, knees, hands and wrists. Severe in the first 12 to 24 hours, it eventually fades within a few days with pain lessening over weeks. If left untreated, gout can lead to joint damage.
Gout is formed from high levels of uric acid in the blood that forms urate crystals. These crystals then collect in the joints, causing the intense pain. Certain foods contain purines that the body breaks down into uric acid. This is a completely normal process, which involves the purines moving through the blood stream and kidneys, and then being excreted in the urine. However, the body can produce excess amounts of uric acid or the kidneys can fail in processing the right amount, leading to crystals in the joints.
How to Treat Gout
So what should you do if you are experiencing gout? First, look to your diet and lifestyle. According to the American Dietetic Association, symptoms of gout can be reduced or prevented by drinking eight to 16 cups of fluid daily – mostly water, avoiding alcohol and limiting protein intake of meat, fish and poultry to four to six ounces a day. Second, consult with your doctor since a variety of medications are available to alleviate the inflammation and pain as well as block uric acid production and assist with removal. If left untreated, gout can lead to Tophi – crystals under the skin – as well as kidney stones. Therefore, it is important not to ignore your symptoms.
Foods to Avoid
After being diagnosed with gout, you should avoid foods with high purine levels. These include animal proteins such as organ meats, herring, mackerel, anchovies, beef, lamb, pork, tuna, lobster, shrimp and scallops. Obesity is linked to gout; therefore, scaling back on saturated fats will help the body eradicate uric acid. Adding other sources of proteins, such as beans and legumes, can be a great alternative to animal proteins. Avoid foods with high-fructose corn syrup as this substance increases uric acid. You may also want to consider low-fat dairy products as well as complex carbohydrates.
Products to Embrace
Some alternative approaches to dealing with gout have included adding coffee, vitamin C and cherries to your diet, since some studies have shown these three ingredients lower uric acid levels.