Is Being Overweight a Cause of Gout?
There is not just one cause of gout, that much is obvious, but to somebody that has been recently diagnosed, this question usually comes up. So let's take a look…
But what exactly is gout?
For many people gout is something that attacks them at random, totally out of the blue. There is no warning sign that it’s going to strike and it causes immense pain.
If you have never suffered from gout the pain really is inconceivable
Gout is an arthritic condition. Most of the time when we think of arthritis we think of old people shuffling around with painful hands or knees and so on.
With gout that used to be the case, age played a significant role in gout cases.
But gouty arthritis is affecting more and more younger people these days. I myself had my first gout attack in my early twenties, in my father's generation it was usually people in their late thirties / early forties that got gout.
One of the prime reasons for this cause of gout in younger people is their size. People are generally speaking much bigger than they were fifty years ago. When I had my first gout attack I had (embarrassingly) lost about 10kg of muscle and put on about the same in fat. It's a long story involving a motorbike, a fridge, broken bones and a change in diet.
Being overweight is a big change that has had so much airtime, especially in the last decade, that it's old news. Is it a cause of gout, instinctively the answer is to shout yes, but to answer properly we have to understand gout more fully.
How Does Gout Work?
People experience gout pain because of excessive levels of uric acid in their blood. Uric Acid is basically a product of the breakdown of purines. Purines are found in every cell of your body and in almost every food. The reason for this is that they are one of the basic components of DNA. So it would seem to make sense – the more you eat, the more uric acid there is in your system.
As your body breaks down purines, this uric acid is usually eliminated by your kidneys as they filter your blood tirelessly 24/7 365. However, with gout the uric acid is not filtered out quickly enough and as a result it starts to build up to dangerously high levels.
When it reaches a high enough level uric acid then begins to crystallize and as it does so, the pain begins.
These needle-shaped crystals start to poke at the sensitive soft tissue of the blood vessels and joints. This begins to cause a dull pain which over the course of an hour or so develops into throbbing, shooting, agonizing pain.
It is important to note here that uric acid gets the blame as the cause of gout attacks, but doctors freely admit it's not that straight forward.
People with high uric acid levels don't have gout. People with low uric acid levels do have gout. I'm not saying that this is the norm, but it certainly makes you think.
Is uric acid the cause of gout – not necessarily!
What Does Gout Look Like?
Below is a check list of the signs and symptoms of a typical gout attack:
• A joint starts to ache slightly* even though you can’t remember injuring it
• Over the following hour or two the pain increases slightly
• The joint begins to swell and stiffen
• It becomes quite red and hot to touch
• The pain increases dramatically and the joint becomes impossible to bend.
• The pain continues for several days or weeks
*men usually suffer gout in their feet, women usually suffer in their hands
What Should You Do If You Think You Have Gout?
Go to the hospital and get it diagnosed. Only when you are sure you have gout will you be able to relax and deal with it properly. The doctor will take a blood test, a urine test or a synovial (joint) fluid test.
The results will take a while to come back and in the meantime some pain medication will probably be prescribed.
When the results come back (it can take anything form 3-4 days to over a week!) That is a long time to suffer gout! You will be prescribed gout medicine.
What Can You Do At Home?
While you are waiting for your diagnosis it is essential that you begin to act as if you already have gout. Don't try and figure out the cause of gout for you. Just get treating it.
The reason for this is simple.
If you let gout make itself at home, it is difficult to get it to leave!
Drink More Water
Most of us are chronically dehydrated and rarely drink enough water. This is a true cause of gout and many other modern health problems.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that sodas and coffee count – they don’t!
You should aim to drink a minimum of 2 liters of water a day and this figure changes depending on a variety of factors including body weight, ambient temperature, food intake etc.
The water you drink should be mineral water, NOT chlorinated tap water.
Eat Fresh Fruits & Greens
Fresh fruit and green vegetables are fantastic at boosting your immune system. They make your body’s organs function better and bring in needed nutrients. Poor organ function is another cause of gout. Fresh fruit and veggies also aid your digestive system and get rid of toxins.
For many people that are overweight they eat few fresh vegetables, and instead substitute processed foods that are made of or flavoured with fruit and vegetables.
These are not the same thing!
Eating your vegetables and fruits raw is best and a simple way to do this is to make smoothies. Green smoothies may look more like witches brew, but actually taste delicious!
Stop Eating Meat & Beans
A diet for gout is quite complex, but the two main offenders are meat and beans. These are very high in purines and that means that your uric acid levels will remain high. Regardless of whether uric acid for you is high or low, cutting down on these two protein makers is wise. Your diet is another true cause of gout.
A good test of what you should think of as a food is whether or not your grandmother would have eaten it as a child. These days most of the things we can buy at supermarkets are full of that much sugar or high fructose corn syrup that they are more like candy than food. This is not to mention all the other colorings, flavorings and preservatives that are in packaged food.
These additives make processed foods more like drugs than anything else.
Eat food that you have to make from raw ingredients.
Stay Away From Alcohol
Alcohol is an absolute no-no for gout. When you are having or think you are having a gout attack NEVER drink alcohol. The reason is simple – alcohol dehydrates you. This means that your kidneys are put under more pressure which means they can’t get rid of uric acid efficiently. Alcohol is a cause of gout and a prolonger of it too.
Gout and Being Overweight
Let me get this out first, being overweight DOES NOT mean you will suffer gout.
Likewise being trim, fit or underweight does not mean that you will not suffer from gout either.
There are plenty of thin people that suffer gout, and plenty of fat / heavy people too.
But the point is that if you are overweight:
- your kidneys are already under more strain than they need to be.
- your heart and your liver and other internal organs are too
- most likely you have a sluggish digestive system
- what you eat is staying in your body far too long and
- your body is absorbing the nutrients AND toxins from the food
- you are most likely chronically dehydrated
- you likely eat at the wrong times of day
One of the best remedies for gout in obese people is to lose weight.
By losing weight you make it easier for your kidneys, liver etc. to eliminate uric acid. It is the pressure on these organs that is a cause of gout. There is not so much strain on your joints and you don’t need to drink so much water on a daily basis.
However, if you try to lose weight too quickly you may actually trigger a gout flare up.
Is Dieting a Cause of Gout?
Going on a crash diet to lose weight may not be the wisest decision. I have done this and it is definitely a cause of gout to avoid! The reason crash diets are a cause for gout is all about acid levels. One of the things that many people do to try and lose weight is to simply cut out certain foods and try and eat less.
This is one of the sound pieces of advice from weight loss gurus from the 20th century.
While it does help you lose some weight, in the long run it is no good.
When you cut out food and cut down on calories, your body tries to recruit the missing calories from other sources. It does this by attacking any unused muscle first. When muscle is broken down this produces acid causing waste products. This process can be a cause of gout.
It is for this reason that crash diets, fasting and extreme methods to lose weight are dangerous to the gout sufferer.
Exercising For Gout
The smarter thing to do is to get exercising. By exercising on a regular basis (5 times a week) your body is reminded that the muscle tissue is needed and so instead will then move onto attacking your fat reserves.
Exercising when overweight / obese can be difficult.
It seems like an impossible task to go from fat to fit. But it is extremely possible.
Set alarms on your phone to remind you to do this daily and within 3 weeks you will have formed a habit of walking. You will have dropped a few pounds too!
You can then increase this to thirty minutes or two sessions of twenty minutes twice a day.
If being overweight is a cause of gout for you, getting active will help.
If walking is too easy then you can always jog or join a gym.
Most gyms have some kind of induction program. Trained professionals there will run through your fitness / weight loss goals with you. They'll offer advice and devise a plan of action.
Getting active really is one of the best ways of preventing gout attacks and is something that you can start today and continue with ease.
As you become more active you can also start to adjust your diet. This will remove many of the high fat, high sugar, and highly processed foods and replace them with fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables.
Is Being Overweight a Cause of Gout?
Directly, no. Through sheer numbers of overweight people that don't suffer gout we can't prove this.
Indirectly – Hell Yeah! The added strain on your body from being overweight will add to other strains. Like the emotional, mental and social pressures we all feel. The combination is the cause of gout for many people.
So drop a few pounds and steer yourself to a healthier life!