Gout: Get the facts

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Diet & Uric Acid

You may hear suggestions that eating or avoiding certain foods is the "key" to managing gout. But changing your diet alone is not typically enough to get rid of the uric acid buildup in the body. In fact, even the strictest low-purine diet has been shown to reduce uric acid levels by only about 1 mg/dL.

Gout: the Diet Myth

The mistaken belief that diet "causes" gout has been around for centuries. You may have heard gout being described as the "Disease of Kings." This is because kings were thought of as having rich diets, and centuries ago it was believed that gout was caused by what you ate. However, today we know that this just is not true.

Now we know it has a lot more to do with how your body handles uric acid, the underlying cause of gout, than the kinds of foods you eat. In some people (10%), uric acid builds up in the blood because their body produces too much of it. In the rest (90%), the kidneys don't eliminate uric acid efficiently, causing it to build up.

In reality, although certain foods may trigger a gout attack, they aren't the cause of gout. Gout's true cause is high uric acid in the blood. In order to reduce your risk of gout flares over the long term, you'll need to take steps to decrease your uric acid level and keep it low. Reducing uric acid levels to less than 6 mg/dL is the goal for managing gout over the long term. Learn more about long term management of gout.

The Role of High-Purine Foods

The uric acid in your blood comes from purines, substances that are produced by your body and also found in many foods. Most of your uric acid (2/3) is produced naturally by your body, while the rest (1/3) comes from your diet.

There's no denying that important steps like drinking plenty of nonalcoholic beverages (lots of water, less alcohol), exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting high-purine foods are smart choices for people with gout.

Eliminating high-purine foods from your diet may help lower your uric acid level. However, in most cases just changing your diet alone may not be enough to control your high uric acid. Learn more about healthy food choices and lifestyle changes.

Next: Managing Your Gout

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