In previous centuries, it was believed that people had gout because of viscous humours. According to ancient Western physiology, humours are 1 out of the 4 body fluids that define the features and temperament of a person. According to long-held beliefs, these fluids “seep from the blood” and deposit into the joints where they cause extreme pain.
The Dangers of Having High Uric Acid Levels
Eventually, the true cause of gout was determined: having high levels of uric acid in your blood, known as hyperuricemia. Gout happens because of a breakdown in the metabolic process that should regulate the amount of uric acid in your blood.
Uric acid usually dissolves in your blood and moves through the kidneys without causing harm. But when your body makes too much uric acid or does not release an adequate amount of it in your urine, uric acid builds up and leads to the creation of painful needle-like crystals in your joints and in the surrounding tissues.
To deal with these situations, pay close attention to your uric acid levels, because if you let these rise, your risk of gout attacks or flare-ups increases as well.
Risk Factors That Could Predispose You to Gout
There are numerous risk factors that determine your chances of being diagnosed with this disease. Known gout triggers include: These include:
• An unhealthy diet loaded with:
◦ High amounts of alcohol: alcoholic drinks raise your blood uric acid levels, leading to gout attacks.
◦ Food containing high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS): This ingredient, which is present in many processed foods and beverages today, has shown links to gout. Excess fructose in your system prevents the excretion of uric acid, resulting in a buildup inside the body and elevated levels of this fluid. In fact, the inflammation often associated with gout is connected to high blood sugar.
Fructose also produces toxins and waste products (uric acid is one of them) when it’s metabolized by the liver, and is linked to other health problems and chronic diseases.
◦ Purine-rich food: A natural substance found in your body’s cells and in food,1 purine is broken down by the body and formed into uric acid. As mentioned above, too much uric acid leads to higher blood levels and joint pain and damages.
Examples of purine-rich foods include organ and red meats, shellfish,2 anchovies, herring, mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, kidney beans, lentils, spinach, and peas, to name a few.3 If you have gout or are showing signs of this illness, avoid these foods or eat them in moderation.
• Being obese or overweight: Your probability of being affected with gout4 grows if you’re obese or overweight. Gout attacks or flare-ups can be exacerbated by certain factors, and excess body weight plays a role in this. The outcome? An irritation to the already-sensitive nerve endings.
The inflammation that gout patients experience is also associated with another condition: metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome occurs when your body’s metabolism does not function properly, resulting in various biochemical and physiological abnormalities.5 Obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism are common hallmarks of this disorder.
A key factor in the onset of metabolic syndrome is having high uric acid levels in the blood, so it is not surprising that medical data and case series studies have shown that gout patients had a high prevalence of metabolic syndrome.6
• Existing medical problems: People who have diabetes, heart disease, and/or high cholesterol and high blood pressure levels and who underwent gastric bypass surgery are at a higher risk of this illness.7
• Medications: Taking these types of medication can predispose you to the likelihood of a gout diagnosis:
◦ Diuretic medications or “water pills” usually needed for high blood pressure levels8
◦ Low-dose aspirin9
◦ Immunosuppressants (drugs that decrease the strength of your body’s immune system)10 like cyclosporine (Neoral and Sandimmune) and tacrolimus (Prograf)11
• Genetics: Although it is a minor factor, a child who had one or both parents suffer from gout may be diagnosed with the disease in the future.