1) High-purine foods
Purines can raise the uric acid level of the blood and can therefore contribute to a gout flare-up. Food is one of the most influential factors when it comes to gout triggers, eating foods such as organ meats, seafood and high-purine vegetables can all be problematic.
During dehydration, the amount of uric acid in the body increases and the kidney’s ability to get rid of this excess decreases. Diuretics can also be problematic as they block the excretion of uric acid from the kidneys which is why diuretic beverages such as alcohol and caffeine are better avoided in preventing gout flare-ups.
Water serves as a joint lubricant by helping the circulation and production of our synovial fluid which protects the joints and keeps them mobile. Water also helps to dilute uric acid and makes it easier for the kidneys to excrete this acid which means that it is less likely to crystallise in the joints and form a gout attack.
Alcohol decreases the kidney’s ability to filter uric acid which, in turn can result in a build-up and therefore trigger a gout flare-up. Alcohol can also increase the likelihood of dehydration which, as we know, is another common gout trigger. Beer is thought to be the worst alcoholic drink to consume with gout as it is high in purines which, as we know, are bad news for gout!
4) Crash diets and fasting
When you fast the level of ketones in the body increase, these ketones then compete with uric acid for excretion which can then result in a gout attack. As with alcohol, fasting can cause dehydration and thereby lead to a gout flare-up. Similarly, crash diets often don’t provide us with all the important vitamins and nutrients we need. This can result in constipation, dizziness and fatigue and can also cause spikes in your uric acid levels and potentially cause a gout attack.
During and after menopause our oestrogen levels drop which can put menopausal women at greater risk for triggering gout flare-ups. This hormone is responsible for a wide range of functions throughout the body, one of these functions is that it helps the kidneys to excrete uric acid. Oestrogen’s protective function is probably one of the reasons that premenopausal women are less likely to develop gout than men.
Other factors that can contribute to, or worsen, gout
Knowing your own triggers is important, although I’ve listed the main causes not everyone who has gout will experience a flare-up as a result of one or more of these factors. In short, everyone can experience gout differently and react to certain known triggers in different ways. While we’ve looked at a few of the potential triggers for gout there are some other factors that can worsen and increase the likelihood of developing gout:
• Wearing ill-fitting shoes – the combination of poor-fitting shoes and having high uric acid could be enough to contribute to gout. High heels in particular place a great deal of stress of the toes so should be limited if possible.
• Genetics – unfortunately this is one factor that we have no control over but, if you have a family history of gout, then it is more likely that you could develop the condition than someone who doesn’t have such a history.
• Gender – generally men produce more uric acid than women although the levels of uric acid in both men and women are thought to equal out after a woman goes through menopause.
• Excess weight – being overweight puts a large strain on the body making it harder to circulate blood and nutrients and inflammatory conditions more likely to occur. Excess weight means a higher percentage of body tissue which, as a result, means that more uric acid will be produced as a waste product.
• Medication – some prescribed medication such as diuretics, aspirin and immunosuppressant drugs can increase the risk for developing gout. It is important to discuss things through with your doctor if you’re worried that you could be at risk for gout.
Can a herbal remedy help gout?
Nettle has long been used by medicinal herbalists to help reduce the formation of crystalline build-up in the joints. It is often commonly used alongside herbs or herbal teas such as Golden Rod and Knotgrass which help to support the kidneys in removing the excess uric acid from the blood circulation.