What is a DASH diet?
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (or DASH diet) is a type of diet that is recommended to help lower high blood pressure (or hypertension). It is high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and low-fat dairy, and low in sodium, saturated fats, red and processed meats, salt, and sugary drinks. It is known to lower blood pressure and is recommended for the prevention of heart disease.
Interestingly, research has now indicated that a DASH diet may also be beneficial for reducing the risk of developing gout. Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that develops as a result of too much uric acid in the blood. This acid forms crystallisations in the joints and symptoms can cause severe pain, swelling and tenderness in the joint. The joints that are most often affected are the big toe, the feet, ankles, knees, wrists and elbows.
Can a DASH diet lower my risk of developing gout?
Traditionally gout diets are low in purines – nitrogen-containing compounds that are metabolised into uric acid in the body. However, according to recent research, a DASH diet is also thought to reduce uric acid levels in the blood, as well as being known for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and kidney stones.1
The study involved analysing dietary data from a whopping 44,000 men aged between 40 and 75 years old over a period of 26 years. The men were asked to complete a survey about their diet and health status every 4 years. Then, the researchers rated the men's diets on the basis of how closely their dietary habits followed DASH or a more common Western diet high in red meat, processed foods, and complex carbohydrates.
Throughout the experiment 1,731 of the men were diagnosed with gout. The researchers concluded that men whose diets were more similar to DASH had a reduced risk for gout than those with a more Western diet who were more likely to develop the condition.
Despite the promising results, this experiment does have a few drawbacks and future trials are required to confirm the relationship. In addition, the study did not include women or a wide enough variety in ethnic differences to prove entirely conclusive results over racial or socioeconomic groups.
That being said, those who took part in the experiment reported that the DASH diet is enjoyable and something they were willing to follow, and is perhaps a healthy and easier alternative to the low-purine diet. The DASH diet is low in purines and high in vitamin C and low-fat dairy, both of which have been found in studies to be helpful in reducing uric acid in the body.2
What else can help with gout?
Diet is largely the main way to help prevent and reduce gout flare-ups and will have a direct link to your symptoms. Check out our gout diet page for more information on what you should eat and what you should avoid.
There are other lifestyle measures and natural remedies that can help with gout too:
• If you suffer from a flare-up, raising and resting the affected joint can help to ease the pain and inflammation. You may wish to apply a cold compress until the symptoms subside
• Keeping hydrated and drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help to dilute and flush your system of excess uric acid, ideally you should aim to drink around 8 glasses of water daily
• Herbal remedies can also be of service, Atrosan is particularly useful for helping to relieve pain and inflammation.