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Soft Drinks Trigger Gout Attacks; Coffee Prevents Them
For folks who suffer from gout, prevention of flare-ups often means steering clear of certain foods and beverages, including red meat, seafood and alcohol. The results of a new study published in the British Medical Journal suggest that individuals with gout should cross another item off the menu: sugar-sweetened soft drinks.
In a 12-year study of more than 46,000 men, researchers noted the risk of gout was 85 percent higher among males who consumed two or more servings of sugar-sweetened sodas per month, compared to those who consumed less than one monthly serving.
Gout is a particularly painful type of arthritis that often initially strikes a single joint. In many cases, the joint of the big toe is singled out.
The first attack usually occurs overnight and without warning. Individuals with the condition may awaken to excruciating pain and find the affected joint red, hot, and swollen.
Although it may strike unexpectedly, it's likely that the gout attack had been mounting for some time. The condition occurs when a chemical known as uric acid begins to accumulate in the bloodstream.
Uric acid is a normal by-product of human metabolism. Most healthy individuals are able to excrete excess uric acid in the urine so it doesn't accumulate in the bloodstream. Folks who suffer from gout aren't so fortunate: Their bodies tend to either make too much uric acid, or have trouble excreting it.
When uric acid accumulates, it can cause a number of problems throughout the body. In the skin, it can form unsightly lumps called tophi. In the kidneys, it can lead to the formation of kidney stones.
Uric acid also tends to accumulate in joints, especially those in the foot, where it forms long, needle-like crystals. These prickly crystals trigger a violent inflammatory reaction, as well as excruciating pain.
Men have a greater chance of developing gout than women (although menopause increases their risk). The condition is practically unheard of in children and adolescents.
More than a century ago, gout was believed to be a fitting punishment for rich or royal men who lived a leisurely life of excess. Modern research has revealed that while excessive consumption of alcohol and rich foods can trigger attacks, most people with gout inherit the tendency from their parents.
For those unfortunate enough to be affected, the initial attack typically resolves in a few days to a few weeks.
If you've experienced gout, a few simple strategies can help prevent future flare-ups. Drinking plenty of water is a good place to start.
Gout-producing uric acid is more likely to crystallize in the joints if you're dehydrated. An adequate intake of water, on the other hand, helps flush excess uric acid into the urine.
Drinking alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of gout. One study found that men who drank the equivalent of four or five drinks daily were 2.5 times more likely to develop the condition that those who abstained. Even men who consumed just a single drink each day had a 30 percent greater risk.
While beer and liquor serve as triggers, coffee consumption seems to have a protective effect, as it helps reduce uric acid levels. Research suggests that the risk of developing gout is roughly 40 percent lower for men who drink four to five cups a day, and nearly 60 percent lower for men who drink six cups daily.
Spiking your coffee with milk may further reduce the chances of a flare-up. The results of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that drinking more than two glasses of milk daily is associated with a 50 percent reduction in risk.
Gout is a serious condition that warrants medical attention. Without proper treatment, repeated attacks can lead to permanent joint damage and disability.
Even worse, the disorder may herald the onset of other serious illnesses, including heart disease. In 2006, University of Pittsburgh researchers announced their findings that gout is a significant risk factor for heart attacks.
The good news is proper treatment not only makes life more comfortable, it also helps prevent some of the condition's more dangerous consequences. A trip to your doctor's office can help you stop gout, before it stops you.
Rallie McAllister is a board-certified family physician, speaker and the author of several books, including "Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom's Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim." Her website is www.rallieonhealth.com. To find out more about Rallie McAllister, M.D., and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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