In previous centuries, it was believed that people developed gout because of the presence of humors. Ancient medicinal practitioners believed that humors, which are fluids that may reflect a person’s well-being, contributed to the pain because they flow downward and deposit into the joints.1
Eventually, the true cause of gout was determined: having high uric acid levels in your blood, known as hyperuricemia. This condition triggers gout because it stems from the body’s failure to properly regulate and control the amount of uric acid in your blood.
Uric acid usually disintegrates in your blood, moves through the kidneys and exits the body, all without causing harm. But when your body makes too much uric acid or doesn’t release an adequate amount of it, the acids remain where they are and eventually form into painful crystals that attack your joints and 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.2
How Do You Get Gout?
There are numerous risk factors that determine your chances of being diagnosed with this disease. An unhealthy diet loaded with the following items is one of the many known gout triggers:3
• High amounts of alcohol: Alcoholic drinks raise your blood uric acid levels, leading to gout attacks.4
• Foods containing high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS): This ingredient, which is present in many processed foods and beverages today, has shown an association 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.5,6
In fact, the inflammation often associated with gout may be linked to high blood sugar levels too, and this is why some people with Type 2 diabetes are prone to gout, and vice versa.7 Fructose also produces toxins and waste products, with uric acid being one of them,8 and is linked to other health problems and chronic diseases.
• Purine-rich foods: A natural substance found in your body’s cells and in food,9 purine is broken down by the body and formed into uric acid.10 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, anchovies, herring,11 mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, beans, lentils, spinach and peas, to name a few.12 If you have gout or are showing signs of this illness, avoid these foods as much as possible.
If You Fall Under Any of These Categories, Watch Out
There are also certain medical and/or lifestyle-related factors that may greatly raise your gout risk:
• Being obese or overweight: Your probability of being affected with gout 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, resulting in increased uric acid production and reduced ability of the kidneys to eliminate this from the body.13 The outcome? Irritation to the already-sensitive nerve endings in your joints.
The inflammation that gout patients experience is also associated with another condition: metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome generally refers to the presence of certain health problems in a patient that may eventually predispose him or her to chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes, gout, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few. The factors in question include:
◦ Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol or good cholesterol
◦ High amounts of triglycerides
◦ High blood pressure levels
◦ High blood sugar levels and/or indications of insulin resistance
◦ Large waist circumference (a sign of excess quantities of detrimental visceral fat around the organs)
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.14,15
• 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 more prone to have gout.16
• Medications: Taking the following medicines can predispose you to the likelihood of a gout diagnosis:
◦ Diuretic medications or “water pills” usually needed for high blood pressure levels17
◦ Low-dose aspirin18
◦ Immunosuppressants (drugs that decrease the strength of your body’s immune system) like cyclosporine (Neoral and Sandimmune) and tacrolimus (Prograf)19
• Genetics: Although it is a minor factor, a child who had one or both parents (or even grandparents) suffer from gout may be diagnosed with the disease in the future.20 Some studies have also discovered that some genes may increase a person’s risk for this disease.21,22
• Gout FAQ