Gout diet: Reducing purines may improve symptoms

I have gout, and my doctor says I should avoid purines. What foods contain purines?


Gout is a form of arthritis that’s characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, redness and tenderness in joints. The cause of gout is a high blood level of uric acid (hyperuricemia). Uric acid is a waste product formed from the breakdown of purines — substances which are found naturally in your body as well as in certain foods.

Treatment of gout used to include severe dietary restrictions. But newer medications to treat gout have reduced the need for such restrictions. Still, some dietary modifications may reduce the severity of gout attacks. They may also be useful for people who have problems with gout medications.

Foods that are high in purines include:

  • Organ meats, such as liver, brain, kidney and sweetbreads
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Dried beans and peas

Smaller amounts of purines are found in all meats, fish and poultry. For this reason, limit animal protein in your diet to no more than 5 to 6 ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish a day. Some additional dietary considerations include:

  • Avoid alcohol or drink it in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol increases the risk of hyperuricemia because it interferes with the removal of uric acid from the body. If you’re having a gout attack, avoid alcohol completely.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids can help remove uric acid from the body.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts more stress on your joints and increases the risk of hyperuricemia and gout.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight. But avoid fasting or rapid-weight-loss diets because they can increase uric acid levels in the blood. Also, avoid low-carbohydrate diets that are high in protein and fat, which can increase hyperuricemia.
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