What are the foods to avoid if you suffer from gout?

An acute form of arthritis, gout is known as the “rich man’s disease” because of its association with an overindulgence in rich food and alcohol. It causes severe pain and swelling in the joints. It most commonly affects the big toe, but may also affect the ankle, hand, wrist, or elbow.

“Lowering your uric acid level through diet can help you to manage gout more effectively. As gout attacks can generally last for up to five days, it’s worth your while to familiarise yourself with – and follow – the proper dietary advice, besides taking any medication that was prescribed to you,” says Dr Tan York Kiat, Senior Consultant, Department of Rheumatology and Immunology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Gout is becoming increasingly common

About 4.1 per cent of people suffer from gout, according to the Singapore Chinese Health Study, which was carried out with 52,322 participants (mean age of 62 years old). The mean age at diagnosis was 55 years.

The disease manifested at a mean age of 44 years, and as early as 16 years, in another local study of 100 gout patients seen in a public hospital.

“Gout appears to be getting more and more common, and there seems to be a worldwide trend towards gout patients getting younger,” says Dr Warren Fong, Consultant, Department of Rheumatology and Immunology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Men are more at risk of gout than women. However, after menopause, women’s risk increases.

What’s worrying is that gout is associated with a host of conditions. In one study, the majority of patients had at least one associated disease. The most common one was high blood pressure, followed by high cholesterol, kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes.

Reduce intake of high-purine foods to prevent gout attacks

Gout occurs when there is a high level of uric acid in the blood. This can cause crystals of uric acid to settle in the joints. As uric acid accumulates with the breakdown of foods containing purine, it’s important to reduce the intake of foods high in purine.

Foods high in purine – restrict your intake

  • Asparagus, cauliflower, mushroom
  • Oatmeal, wheat bran and wheat germ
  • Red meat

Foods highest in purine – abstain completely if possible

Meat extracts

  • Broths, meat stocks and gravies
  • Chicken essence
  • Bak kut teh

Certain fish or shellfish

  • Salmon, herring, mackerel, prawn
  • Anchovies (ikan bilis), sardines, fish roe
  • Cockles, mussels, scallops

Certain fruits and vegetables

  • Spinach, peas
  • Strawberries (& strawberry jam)
  • Durian

Beans and legumes

  • Peanuts, bean cake, moon cake

All internal organs of animals and birds

  • Liver, kidney, brain

If you’re at risk for gout, you should also reduce your consumption of alcoholic beverages.

“It’s also important to drink adequate water to help flush out the uric acid, unless you have some contra-indication,” says Dr Tan York Kiat.

Ref: N18