Beer is a dietary item commonly associated with gout. (Tomasz Sienicki/Wikimedia Commons)

Column: The effects of diet on gout

Healthy Bites/Serena Caner

One challenge of being a health professional is that there is often a discrepancy between what we say and what people hear.

This was demonstrated by my father’s re-telling of his first visit with a dietitian.

My father had gout, a painful type of inflammatory arthritis that is caused by the build-up of uric acid in the joints.

Uric acid is produced from purines, compounds that result from the natural death of cells..

Certain foods are higher in purines and are known to exacerbate gout, thus his visit to a dietitian.

The information he gleaned was very pleasing to him.

“So dad, what did you learn from the dietitian?”

A big grin crossed his face, “I can’t eat any more lentils!”

My dad, a large carnivore, occasionally eats lentils when my mom forces him to.

“What else did she say?”

“Oh, I don’t remember.”

Related: Eating like an Olympian

Now, being a dietitian myself, I am familiar with the recommendations of gout.

Purine-rich foods can contribute to increased uric acid levels.

Foods highest in purines include: Sardines, anchovies and herrings, kidneys, liver and sweetbreads, yeast, alcohol and beer.

Foods with moderate amounts of purines include: Shellfish and other seafood, red meat, poultry, broths, beans, spinach, oatmeal, wheat germ, and bran. And, as my father will tell you, lentils are also a source of purines.

What my dad failed to hear are the other risks of getting gout including being overweight, taking certain medications such as diuretics (water tablets used to treat heart disease or high blood pressure). Drinking alcohol can also trigger flare-ups as alcohol limits the clearance of uric acid by the kidneys, added to the fact that beer is a significant source of purines. Dehydration caused by alcohol can also limit uric acid clearing, and staying hydrated is important.

If you are overweight, on diuretics, drink alcohol and suffering from gout, you could choose to address one of those things or, you could stop eating lentils!!!

Serena Caner is a registersted dietician at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.


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