Gout is by far one of the most frequently recorded illnesses in modern history. The condition arises due to an inherited abnormality in uric acid levels. Purines are a part of the food components commonly ingested. They break down to form uric acid.
However, if there is an abnormality in the body's ability to handle this breakdown, excess secretion of uric acid results in painful arthritis, the development of kidney stones, kidney failure due to blockage of the kidney tubules with uric acid and the onslaught of hyperuricemia or elevated blood uric acid levels. Gout is a medical term that refers to a uric acid overload and the deposit of uric acid crystals and/or lumps in and around body joints and tissues.
Gout is characterized by rapid joint inflammation. There are a number of trigger factors held responsible for the precipitated uric acid crystal deposition in the synovial fluid and lining. The condition is characterized by a painful swelling in the joints. Shellfish and alcohol are known to be the two biggest ingested triggers of the condition.
The increased uric acid levels result in larger deposits of monosodium urate crystals around joints that attract white blood cells. Gout is associated with physical conditions such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes; all conditions that are also associated with excessive consumption of alcohol.
Link between Gout and Alcohol
The link between alcohol and gout has been known to humans for ages, through anecdotal evidence. Researchers believe beer consumption leads to gout because of its high purine content. Through the process of digestion, the purine compound breaks down to form uric acid. Normally, uric acid leaves the body through urine. But if the kidneys are unable to process all the uric acid, levels in the blood become too high. The uric acid may then form crystal deposits in the joints. These deposits are the cause of gout.
Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the USA conducted a study by keep track of 47,150 men between the ages of 40 to 75, over a period of 12 years. They monitored their drinking habits and how many grams of alcohol they consumed per day. Initially none of the men had gout, but by the end of year 12. 730 confirmed incident cases of gout were detected among those men.
This research made one thing clear that men who did not drink alcohol, increased the risk of developing gout with increase in the amount of alcohol that the person was consuming. The research also found that beer among all alcohol posed the highest risk to developing gout, followed by spirits, while wine posed the lowest risk.
Another point to note here is the difference in behavior between wine drinking and beer drinking. Generally, wine is accompanied with healthy foods like fruits, salads or a full meal. While beer is usually accompanied with fatty and salty snacks like chips and peanuts. This results in increased production and reduced excretion of uric acid, and is sure to trigger gout attacks.
Gout Diet and Treatment
Dietary accompaniments, usually indulged alongside alcohol consumption, like protein-rich red meats and shellfish trigger the onset of gout. All types of alcoholic beverages should be avoided to keep gout at bay. Foods high in purine content that needs to be avoided, especially alongside alcohol consumption, include:
- Organ meats like brain, liver, and kidney.
- Preserved fish like herring and mackerel.
- Shellfish like anchovies, mussels and scallops.
- Meats like bacon, turkey and veal.
The development of gout arthritis needs to be addressed immediately. It is important to bring the symptoms to the attention of a rheumatologist and adhere to the dietary restrictions within the generated diet plan. The treatment options available to address the onslaught of gout include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Cold compresses.
- Lifestyle changes with rigid dietary restrictions and a complete cessation of alcohol consumption.
- Gradual weight loss.
Gout demands some important lifestyle changes that once incorporated, usher in relief from the painful condition. Alcohol consumption, especially beer, needs to be ruled out completely.