Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that’s different to other types of arthritis because it causes sudden and intense joint pain, often at night. The joint most afflicted tends to be the big toe, but any joint is susceptible.

Men are three times as likely as women to develop gout, although post-menopausal women are also at risk. People diagnosed with gout usually have their first attack after the age of 40.

Because the pain caused by arthritis is so severe and debilitating, those with gout should do all they can to minimise their risk of an attack. Here are a few simple lifestyle habits that will help your joints stay gout free.

Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Stress can have a cascading effect throughout your entire body so you should do all you can to reduce stress. In addition to making you feel anxious, stress can impact your skin’s appearance, raise your blood pressure, and can even trigger a gout attack.

One way to reduce stress is to practise mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is a method of keeping yourself at the moment rather than worrying about things that have already happened or may happen. This is done by maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and your surrounding environment.

When you practice mindfulness, you accept your thoughts and feelings without judging them. You simply allow yourself to feel the way you do without trying to avoid it or feel bad about yourself. To do this, take notice of your thoughts, your body, and your surroundings.

Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism and meditation, but you don’t need to be spiritual to practise mindfulness. It does take practice so don’t worry if you struggle to stay in the moment the first few times you try it out. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes a rewarding and enjoyable experience. You’ll become more self-aware, feel less stressed, and have more control over your emotions and how you react to situations.

Stay Hydrated
Your body needs to be properly hydrated to function at its best. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can improve your overall health and the appearance of your skin, not to mention keep attacks of gout at bay.

Water dilutes the uric acid in your system so the more water you drink, the more uric acid will be broken down. This reduces the risk of uric acid building up and crystallising.

Experts recommend at least 8 glasses of non-alcoholic beverages per day. If you’re at risk of gout, plain water is the best beverage you can drink. During an attack, increase your water intake to help flush the uric acid from your system.

Eat a Diet Low in Purines
Purines are a common chemical compound that can either be made naturally by your body or are absorbed through the foods you eat. When your digestive system breaks down the purines you eat, it creates another substance called uric acid. When you have too much uric acid build up in your body, it can crystallise and cause several health problems including gout.

If you frequently suffer from gout or are at risk of gout, you should eat a diet low in purines. Foods and drinks high in purines include processed meats, red meat, sugary soft drinks, organ meats like liver and kidney, and alcohol (especially beer and vodka). Many types of seafood are also high in purines like anchovies, sardines, herring, and shrimp.

There are plenty of low-purine foods you can eat instead if you have gout. Low-fat dairy products like skim milk and yoghurt, fresh fruit and veg, rice, pasta, and potatoes are low in purines. Nuts, grains, and peanut butter are other foods that won’t contribute to excessive uric acid.

Manage your blood pressure
People with high blood pressure are at a higher risk of several diseases and health conditions, including gout. Your blood pressure is the force that your blood pumps through your body and pushes against your artery walls. The longer you have high blood pressure, the narrower and weaker your arteries will become. This makes it harder for your kidneys to eliminate toxins like uric acid.

Some people with high blood pressure take a type of medication called diuretics or water pills. These can help with high blood pressure because they help rid your body of sodium, a substance that can increase blood pressure.

As beneficial as diuretics are for high blood pressure, they can make someone more likely to have a gout flareup. This is because water pills reduce how much uric acid is processed out of your body through your urine, making gout more likely.

Treating Gout

Since the symptoms of gout start suddenly and severely, you’ll want to do all you can to relieve your symptoms ASAP. The first step you should take is to elevate the joint to reduce pressure and to help with circulation. Applying ice to the affected area will also help to reduce pain, swelling, and redness.

Many people with gout take gout relief medications to get relief. The most common type of pain relief for gout is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs. Some people, especially those who have infrequent attacks, can treat their gout pain with over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen.

Others may need stronger NSAIDs to stop their severe gout pain. Prescription NSAIDs like Naproxen are very effective in reducing the symptoms of gout.

Another frequently used medication for gout is Colchicine tablets, a prescription anti-inflammatory medication that can be used to treat flare-ups of gout and, in some cases, can be used to prevent the likelihood of a flare-up. Colchicine works by reducing the amount of uric acid in your blood.

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