The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

When Food Works Against You: Is Your Diet Giving You Gout?

Posted by on Tuesday, February 11th, 2014


Gout is defined as “one of the most painful forms of arthritis” a person can suffer. This condition flares up when the body’s supply of uric acid builds up, causing sharp crystalline structures to form in the joints. It can affect the big toe, ankle, heel, instep, knees, wrists, elbows, or fingers – causing the area to turn red and stiff. The pain is so sharp it can wake a person from a sound sleep! Unfortunately, gout is not usually a one-time occurrence. One study found that the average number of gout attacks per patient was eight per year! These attacks typically lasted about three days at a time, but some cases of gout have been known to stretch on for weeks or even months.

big toe pain
Gout inflammation is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the joints.
Image Source:

What Causes Gout?

“The silver lining is that we do have some degree of control over gout prevention,” says Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, a board-certified podiatrist with The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City. He explains that certain conditions make a person more susceptible to gout – such as being male, obese, taking diuretics, and possessing three different gene mutations. “A gout attack occurs when the body has trouble breaking down purines, which are not only found in all your tissues but also in many foods that we can limit or avoid.” A study published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology found that about 12 percent of gout cases are directly related to diet.

foods that cause gout
Try to avoid these foods that contribute to gout flares.
Image Source:

Gout-Causing Foods to Avoid (And Substitutions!)  

–          Organ meats like liver, kidney, and sweetbreads are about the worst items a gout patient can eat.

–          Scallops and salmon should be cut back to 4 to 6 ounces daily at most, and eliminated during an attack.

–          Herring, tuna, and anchovy should be off the menu for gout sufferers. Shrimp, lobster, eel, and crab are better.

–          Aim for white instead of red meat. Every once in a while, beef or pork can be eaten – but not lamb.

–          Avoid turkey and goose. Instead, eat chicken or duck. Leg meat is preferable to chicken breasts with skin.

–          Surprisingly, some veggies are bad for gout sufferers: avoid asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, and mushrooms.

–          Avoid high-fructose corn syrup, sweetened beverages, diet sodas, and most fruit drinks. Try tart cherry juice!

–          Just two beers, glasses of wine, or mixed drinks have been found to increase uric acid levels by as much as 200% — not to mention making it more difficult for the body to clear out toxins and free radicals. Chronic gout sufferers are advised to limit or abstain from all alcohol.

cherry gout
Instead, try these foods to limit gout — cherries, especially!
Image Source:

Best Foods to Protect from Gout

–          Eating a healthy diet can help protect people from the crippling pain of gout.

–          Low-fat dairy, complex carbohydrates, citrus fruits, and vegetables (other than those previously listed) are all great foods to add to a healthy, balanced diet.

–          Twelve to sixteen cups of fluid (like water, non-sweetened juice, tea, and coffee) a day will keep the blood flowing and purines flushed out of the system.

–          Cherries are a gout patient’s best friend! A study of 600 gout sufferers found that those who ate half a cup of cherries or consumed cherry extract each day had a 35 percent lower risk of gout attacks. Those who ate three servings of cherries in two days had a 50 percent reduced risk. Also, consuming tart cherry juice for a month has been found to naturally lower uric acid levels in the body.

In addition to these dietary recommendations, prescription medication is also available to relieve the acute symptoms and prevent frequent recurrences. Diclofenac, indomethacin, conchicin, and allopurinol are all drugs that can take the edge off the worst flare-ups. “When combined with a healthy lifestyle, patients can be free from the terror that another attack is just around the corner,” says Dr. Geldwert.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.