LiveSmart: Got Gout? Lifestyle Changes can Provide Relief

Man sitting on a deck holds his feet in pain

Hippocrates called gout “the disease of kings.” And Benjamin Franklin in his essay, Dialogue Between Franklin and the Gout, protested that the disease unjustly classified him as a “glutton and a tippler.”

Among the 8.3 million Americans who currently suffer from gout, most would object to being labeled a “king,” a “glutton” or a “tippler.” But there is no question that lifestyle has some effect on gout.

Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs nine times more frequently in men than in women, with a median age of 60 for initial onset. It’s commonly associated with a painful, throbbing big toe that awakens sufferers in the night.

The disease can affect young persons and women as well (the latter, usually after menopause). And, although the big toe is the site about 75 percent of the time, the redness, pain and swelling can occur in joints of the feet, ankles, knees, hands or wrists.

The underlying cause of gout is an excess of uric acid, a waste product, in the blood stream. This can occur either because the body produces too much or the kidneys excrete too little. Uric acid is produced when the body breaks down purines, found in red meat, organ meats, shrimp, anchovies, herring, asparagus and mushrooms.

Beer and, to a lesser degree, liquor have also been found to increase uric acid levels and the risk of gout. Even more powerful is the increased risk in persons consuming soft drinks sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

It was Franklin’s lifestyle-rich eating and lack of activity that likely resulted in what is known today as metabolic syndrome – abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. Metabolic syndrome is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes and for coronary heart disease, and both of these diseases have been linked to high uric acid levels and gout.

So, if gout wakes you up at night, as it did Benjamin Franklin, the time is right to have a conversation with your health care provider. Some simple lifestyle changes can combat this very treatable disease, while also helping you realize overall better health.

St. Peter’s Health Partners Medical Associates has more than 665 physicians and advanced practitioners, in more than 100 practice locations throughout the Capital Region. We work with our patients and their loved ones to provide high-quality, compassionate care and advanced treatment options in a supportive, healing environment.

We know the right care begins with the right doctor. For many, that means working closely with a trusted primary care doctor, someone who can offer basic care, focusing on wellness and prevention. For others, it means consulting a specialist for a specific problem or concern. To find a health care professional to meet your needs, visit and click “Find a Doctor.”

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