Gout is no holiday

GLENN ELLIS | 12/1/2018, 1:59 p.m.
The holiday season comes with little indulgences. But when you have gout, you must be smart to make sure those ...
The feel of an unidentified man with gout in his big joint of the big toe on his right foot, causing pain, inflamation and swelling in his foot. Stock photo

Strategies for Well-Being

The holiday season comes with little indulgences. But when you have gout, you must be smart to make sure those little indulgences do not turn into big flare-ups.

If the joint of your big toe is hot, swollen, red and it’s unbearable to allow anything to touch it, there’s a chance you could have gout.

Gout is a common form of arthritis that usually affects one joint at a time – often the big toe joint – and is very painful. Men and obese adults are more likely to have gout. There are times when symptoms get worse, known as flares, and times when there are no symptoms, known as remission. Repeated bouts of gout can lead to gouty arthritis, a worsening form of arthritis. There is no cure for gout, but you can effectively treat and manage the condition with medication and self-management strategies.

Gout flares start suddenly and can last days or weeks, followed by long periods of time – weeks, months or years – without symptoms before another flare begins. Gout usually occurs in only one joint at a time. Along with the big toe, joints that are commonly affected are the lesser toe joints, the ankle and the knee.

Without question, the top question I get from patients this time of year is: What can I drink?

I get it. The holidays are a social season. But I also must point out that, no matter the time of year, alcohol can raise the uric acid levels in your body and lead to gout attacks. That’s why I tend to advise people not to drink at all, especially if they are newly diagnosed or starting new medications to control gout.

That said, if you’re going to have a drink at that holiday party or family dinner, make it red wine. Beer and liquor are much more likely to trigger a flare-up than red wine.

The holiday season is full of sweets. Realistically, people are going to indulge a bit, but when you do, choose items that don’t contain high-fructose corn syrup.

Why? High-fructose corn syrup raises uric acid levels in your body, too. When you are making homemade desserts, or even glazes for savory items, check closely for ingredients that include high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup and fructose. Read the label of any pre-packaged foods. High-fructose corn syrup is in more items than you might think.

If you are eating food prepared by others, ask about the ingredients if you are comfortable doing so. If not, just be mindful of the risks and limit your intake. And by all means, avoid drinking sodas, which are usually full of high-fructose corn syrup.

Don’t reach for the saltshaker. If you have gout, you don’t need any more sodium than what is already in cooked food. The salt itself may not be an issue, but loading up on sodium can lead to dehydration, and dehydration can increase uric acid in your body.

In addition to not adding salt, limit your consumption of foods you know are high in sodium. Depending on how it’s prepared, the turkey – go light on any gravy – may be a better option for you than the ham, for instance. Ham is likely higher in purines, as well.