What To Do When You Have Gout

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Thu Sep 14 2023.

Feet and shoes.

Gout is one of the most common forms of arthritis, affecting up to 9.2 million Americans. Anyone can develop gout, but it’s particularly common in men and people aged 65 and older. 

A gout diagnosis can be scary, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. There are plenty of things you can do to relieve uncomfortable symptoms and prevent flares. In this article, we highlight some of the things you can do to make gout more manageable. 

What is Gout?

“Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs when there’s a build-up of too much uric acid in the body,” explains Mary-Ellen Sabat, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and ACE-certified trainer. “Uric acid is a normal waste product that forms when the body breaks down substances called purines, which are found in certain foods. When uric acid levels become too high, it can crystalize and deposit in joints, often causing sudden and severe pain, swelling, and redness. Gout most commonly affects the big toe, but it can also affect other joints.”

What You’ll Need

Managing gout doesn’t require any special equipment. You might need to take prescription medication, depending on the severity of your condition. But other than that, all you need is a good attitude and a willingness to avoid certain triggers, like red meat and alcohol. 

Steps For What To Do When You Have Gout

Step 1: Visit Your Doctor to Assess the Condition

Gout doesn’t cause constant joint pain like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Instead, it comes and goes, triggering symptoms during flares. Since gout affects everyone differently, it’s crucial to identify your specific triggers. 

A doctor or arthritis specialist (rheumatologist) can determine the levels of uric acid in your blood and make personalized treatment recommendations.

Step 2: Eat a Healthy Diet

One of the easiest ways to keep your gout in check is by eating well.  

“A balanced diet low in purine-rich foods, like red meat, organ meats, and certain seafood, can help prevent flare-ups,” Sabat explains. “Avoid or limit these high-purine foods and focus on consuming more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.”

More specifically, try to consume foods and beverages high in vitamin C. Research suggests that vitamin C-rich foods, like cherries, citrus, and cruciferous vegetables help reduce uric acid in the blood, lowering the frequency of gout flares

Carewell Tip

No one with gout should participate in a low-calorie or “crash” diet. Doing so can cause your uric acid levels to spike, increasing your risk of a painful gout attack. 

Step 3: Stay Hydrated

We all know that it’s important to drink the recommended amount of eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. But that’s particularly true if you have gout. 

Water helps lubricate your joints, reducing inflammation. It also helps your kidneys flush uric acid out with other waste, so it doesn’t form crystals inside your joints. Aim to drink enough water so that you have to urinate every two or three hours.  

Step 4: Maintain a Healthy Weight

Losing weight takes pressure off your joints and makes it easier to move your body. It can also reduce the amount of uric acid in your blood. Studies have shown that people with gout who lose weight also experience reduced uric acid production

Since being overweight is one of the main risk factors for developing gout, it makes a lot of sense to try and maintain a healthy weight. 

Step 5: Limit Alcohol Intake

There’s nothing wrong with drinking alcohol occasionally, but if you have two or more glasses per day, it’s important to cut back. Beer, in particular, contains high levels of purines. Excessive consumption can quickly increase your uric acid levels and trigger a gout attack. 

Try replacing alcohol with another “fun” beverage. For example, sparkling water or sugar-free soda can provide some flavor and bubbles without more serious side effects. 

Step 6: Take Your Medication as Prescribed

Mild gout often improves with healthy lifestyle changes, like drinking more water and avoiding red meat. But if you experience two or more flares a year, medication might be necessary. That’s especially true if you have frequent gout attacks or other health problems, like kidney disease. The right medication can relieve symptoms and prevent joint damage from worsening.

“Doctors recommend medication based on the severity and frequency of your gout attacks,” Sabat explains. “Medications can help lower uric acid levels and prevent flare-ups. Follow your doctor’s recommendations and attend regular check-ups to monitor your condition.”

Step 7: Make Exercise a Part of Your Routine

Moving your body is good for your heart, brain, and digestive health. But it can also help keep gout at bay. One study found that gout patients who exercised regularly had fewer gout flares. These patients also had greater pain tolerance and higher levels of C-reactive protein, which increases with inflammation. 

Additionally, exercise increases the production of endorphins (feel-good chemicals) and helps your body eliminate uric acid more efficiently. 

Step 8: Take Steps to Minimize Stress

Daily life is stressful, but if you regularly feel wound up, it can exacerbate your gout symptoms. Emotional and physical stress increases uric acid levels, making gout attacks more likely.

You can’t prevent stress entirely, but there are things you can do to keep it in check, including yoga, breath work, and meditation. 

What To Do When You Have Gout - Takeaways

Gout is certainly not fun to deal with, but it doesn’t have to determine the course of your life.

“While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent all gout flares, you can significantly reduce their frequency by following a healthy lifestyle,” Sabat says. “Take prescribed medications if needed and avoid triggers like excessive alcohol and high-purine foods. Keeping a consistent routine of hydration, exercise, and a balanced diet can help minimize symptoms and ensure you feel your best.”

What To Do When You Have Gout - Commonly Asked Questions

1) How often should I visit the doctor if I have gout?

It depends on the severity of your symptoms and general health.

“Initially, you might need more frequent visits to manage your condition effectively,” Sabat explains. “As your gout becomes more stable, your doctor will guide you on the appropriate frequency of visits. Regular checkups help monitor your uric acid levels, assess your overall health, and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.”

2) Will gout improve on its own?

No. “Gout management requires a proactive approach,” says Sabat. “Educate yourself about your condition, communicate openly with your healthcare provider, and make sustainable changes to your lifestyle.” 

Gout affects everyone differently, so what works for you might not work for someone else. With proper care and attention, you can lead an active and fulfilling life while avoiding gout attacks. 

3) What can I do if I experience a gout attack at night?

Many people with gout experience attacks in the middle of the night. There’s no surefire cure, but you may be able to relieve symptoms by elevating the affected joint. For example, if your symptoms occur in your big toe, rest your foot on a pillow or bunched-up blanket. This can reduce swelling and help you get back to sleep.

Need Help Managing a Gout Diagnosis?

Our Care Specialists are here to help! We regularly assist family caregivers and gout patients. Whether you need help choosing an over-the-counter nsaid like ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory medication, or if you have questions about an anti-inflammatory diet, we’re standing by. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to support@carewell.com today.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.