Many people love to travel, celebrate and indulge in favorite foods during the winter months. However, overdoing it can have a big impact on your health, especially if you have a chronic condition like gout.
Think gout is uncommon? Think again. Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis and is caused by an accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints. Gout is extremely painful and tied to several other serious health conditions. During the winter months, it’s important to prioritize your health so gout and other conditions are properly managed.
“More than 9 million Americans have gout and the numbers are increasing,” said Dr. N. Lawrence Edwards, a rheumatologist and chairman of the Gout Education Society. “There are many misconceptions about gout, such as it is a condition that results from unhealthy diet. The truth is gout is a hereditary disease, meaning it runs in families.”
There is no cure for gout, but lifestyle changes and some medications can reduce and even eliminate the painful flares and reverse the damage gout has caused to joints and cartilage. Edwards suggests these five ways to manage gout and feel your best:
Visit your doctor every 6 months
Whether it’s the end of the year before health benefits expire or the beginning of the year as new benefits kick in, schedule a routine doctor’s appointment to either confirm a gout diagnosis or ensure a proper treatment plan.
Once a gout diagnosis is confirmed, uric acid levels should be tested every six months, with a goal of keeping levels to 6.0 mg/dL or lower, depending on what the doctor recommends. Most experts agree that lowering uric acid levels is the best way to prevent future gout flares, as well as other health conditions associated with gout, such as kidney stones or kidney disease, diabetes, heart attack, stroke and more.
Take medications as prescribed
Amid travel plans and gatherings with family and friends, be sure to take daily uric acid-lowering medications as prescribed by the doctor. These will help keep gout flares at bay so you can enjoy activities and make positive memories.
Keep in mind, while gout is a lifelong condition, it can be controlled by sticking with a proper treatment plan. Work with your doctor to determine the right medication, dietary guidelines and lifestyle modifications.
Follow a healthy diet
During the winter, it’s common to indulge in extra treats, including purine-rich foods like red meats and alcohol, sweets and other processed foods that have been known to trigger gout flares. While it’s okay to eat these foods in moderation — especially if uric acid levels are under control — sticking to a healthy diet can help stave off a gout flare.
While certain foods have been known to trigger gout flares, there is no regimented “gout diet.” However, some doctors have recommended the Mediterranean diet to help with managing gout or the DASH diet (which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) that focuses on fruits, vegetables and low-fat foods.
As you’re out and about celebrating, keep in mind alcoholic and caffeinated beverages can be dehydrating. What’s more, fruit juices and sodas are high in sugars, so remember to enjoy in moderation.
Your best option is to drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. Water helps the body transport nutrients and waste, regulates body temperature and cushions joints and tissues. Research also suggests that drinking adequate water might guard against kidney stones and constipation.
Keep up with latest news
Stay up to date with the latest in gout research and treatment in order to learn more about how best to manage the disease. GoutEducation.org is an unbiased resource for information and tools to help with gout management.