Taking medications as prescribed is currently the best means of treating gout and managing painful symptoms. Diet and lifestyle changes can do some good for those prone to gout, but have not been proven to actually lower uric acid levels in the body, especially those who suffer severe attacks. Medication use in combination with healthier living choices certainly make a difference.
Tips to manage gout effectively include:
- Maintaining medication use as prescribed or recommended by the treating medical doctor: If any adverse reactions or discomforts arise, it is best to consult the doctor as soon as possible. From there either medication or dose changes can be safely administered and problems more effectively managed. It is not advisable to discontinue medication or take any other substances (like supplements) without the express knowledge of a treating doctor.
- Take care of swelling and inflammation: It is best not to place pressure on a joint that is hot and swollen. Support devices when moving about, such as a cane or walker, can help to alleviate pressure and keep much of a person’s weight off of the affected joint. Swelling can also be alleviated by elevating the affected area as much as possible while experiencing the worst of a gout attack. Cold compresses or ice packs can help to reduce swelling and inflammation, as well as alleviate pain.
- Hydration and nourishment: It is best to drink plenty of water, keeping the body well hydrated (dehydration can trigger a gout attack). Studies have shown that up to 8 glasses of water over a 24-hour period can significantly help reduce frequency and or / intensity of gout attacks. Hydration also helps to flush out the system, ridding the body of toxins and crystal build-up. Alternative liquids which can also help are cherry juice and coffee (in moderation), both of which can lower uric acid levels. It is best to avoid consuming sugary beverages. A well balanced, healthier diet (that is low in refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and red meat) can also go a long way. Foodstuff triggers include red meat, organ meat, poultry, shellfish, oily fish and yeast. Alcohol consumption should be limited or avoided altogether (especially beer which contains yeast). Low-fat dairy products (cheese, milk and yoghurt), although are made from animal proteins are low in purines, and can be included in a nutrition plan instead. Beans, asparagus and lentils are low in purines, fruits such as oranges, cherries and tangerines are healthy fibre-filled carbohydrates (also low in purines), and are also good to include in a diet. Foods rich in essential fatty acids, such as tuna and salmon (cold water fish), as well as flaxseed and nuts can help to reduce inflammation in the body. Olive oil is a great fatty acid-rich oil which can be used for cooking purposes or as a salad dressing. Processed carbohydrates (breads and pastas), trans fats, meat products such as gravies and broths, should be limited or avoided altogether.
- Other lifestyle adjustments: Cessation of smoking habits and healthier weight management (through diet and regular exercise) are just as important. If weight loss would be beneficial, it is advisable not to engage in fasting practices or join a programme that encourages rapid loss of excess weight (this can temporarily raise uric acid levels).