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Food for Gout Sufferers

By Lindsay Boyers

Approximately 8.3 million Americans have gout -- a type of painful arthritis caused by uric acid crystal deposits in the joints and soft tissues, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Gout usually affects the joints of the big toe, but the ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers and elbows may also be affected. Part of the treatment for gout focuses on preventing attacks by reducing the amount of uric acid in the body through a low-purine diet.

The Role of Uric Acid

Uric acid is a waste product created when your body breaks down purines -- substances found in animal proteins. Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood and travels to the kidneys, where it is eliminated from your body through your urine. If the kidneys do not properly eliminate uric acid or there is a high production of uric acid, it can lead to high levels of uric acid in the blood -- a condition referred to as hyperuricemia. If the excess uric acid in the blood forms crystals, it can lead to gout. Because uric acid is formed as a byproduct of the breakdown of purines, many experts recommend those with gout limit the amount of purine in their diet.

What to Skip

An average daily diet contains approximately 600 to 1,000 milligrams of purines, according to health care provider Litholink. A low-purine diet restricts purine intake to between 100 and 150 milligrams per day. High-purine foods, which contain between 100 and 1,000 milligrams of purine per 3-ounce serving, include anchovies, bacon, codfish, herring, haddock, mussels, sardines, scallops, shrimp, veal, venison and organ meats. Broths, bouillons and gravies are also usually high in purines. Medium-purine foods are allowed only when gout is under control, when you may eat one serving per day. Medium-purine foods include beef, lamb, pork, mushrooms, oats, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower, whole grains and any fish or shellfish not on the high-purine list.

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What to Eat

Most of your diet should consist of low-purine foods, including refined breads and grains, low-fat milk and cheese, nuts, peanut butter, low-fat cream soups, rice, potatoes, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, plain yogurt, grapes and bean sprouts. Eggs are also considered low-purine foods, but you should limit your egg consumption to three or four per week.

What to Drink

Staying properly hydrated helps the kidneys flush excess uric acid out of the bloodstream. Drink 64 to 128 ounces of fluids each day. At least half of this fluid should be water. Avoid alcohol, especially beer, as well as beverages that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, such as soda, sweet tea and sweetened coffee drinks.

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