Dr Koo Oon Thien Kevin
Gout used to be known as a ‘rich man’s disease’ back in the day because it stemmed from having a diet full of food that only the rich could afford. With different types of food made more accessible to all these days, gout can affect more people than you think.
Gout is a type of arthritis that causes sudden pain, swelling and inflammation of the joints with almost half of all cases affecting the big toes. Other places it affects include the fingers, wrists, knees and heels.
In healthy bodies, uric acid (a by-product that comes from the digestion of certain types of food) is easily removed from the body when it passes though the kidneys into urine. However, when the kidneys cannot process uric acid efficiently or if there is too much uric acid in the blood, urate crystals accumulate in the joints which triggers pain, swelling, and inflammation. A gout attack happens when uric levels in the blood are high and the body is unable to break down the acids efficiently. These attacks commonly happen at night and can last between 3 – 10 days.
Food high in purines (containing more than 150 – 200mg of purines per 100 grams) may raise your uric acid levels. These include:
Besides the meats and fish mentioned above, meats such as chicken, beef, pork and lamb should be eaten in moderation as they contain a moderate amount of purines (between 100 – 200mg per 100 grams). Consuming too much of these meats may trigger a gout attack. However, salmon can be eaten in moderation as it contains lower levels of purines compared to other fish.
Low purine food (containing less than 100mg of purines per 100 grams) that are generally safe for those who have gout include:
Eating, drinking and being merry during the many festive seasons of Singapore is inevitable. For those with gout, it may be a little harrowing, dodging food and drinks that will trigger an attack. Here are a few tips to keep in mind so you can stay happy and healthy.
If you are overweight, your doctor/dietitian might advise you to lose some weight because being overweight may lead to insulin resistance, which promotes high uric acid levels. Increasing your frequency of exercise not only helps you lose weight but can also help to keep your uric acid levels low. Making sure that you’re properly hydrated is also important because urinating can help remove excess uric acid from the blood. Take note to drink more water if you’re exercising in order to make up any water loss from sweating. Lastly, limit your intake of alcohol as it’s a common trigger for gout attacks.
Following a gout-friendly diet detailed by a dietitian can help alleviate its symptoms and although it is not a cure, it can slow down the progression of joint damage. There are also medications that can be taken to lower uric acid levels. Speak to an orthopaedic specialist to understand how you can manage your condition.