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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : I have gout. What should I be eating – or not eating – to get rid of it?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. is associate physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He has been a practicing rheumatologist for over 20 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is an active teacher in the Internal Medicine Residency Program, serving as the Robinson Firm Chief. He is also a teacher in the Rheumatology Fellowship Program.

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June 23, 2011
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A:

Gout is a condition in which crystals of uric acid (a normal waste product in the body) deposit in joints. This causes sudden attacks of arthritis. These crystals can also deposit in the kidney to cause kidney stones. Risk factors for gout include having a family history of the condition, certain medications and kidney disease.

Unfortunately, it’s rarely possible to change your diet enough to get rid of gout.

It’s true that certain foods contribute to increased levels of uric acid in the body. Examples include:

  • Anchovies
  • Organ meats (such as kidneys, liver, brains and sweetbreads)
  • Dried beans and peas
  • Game meats (deer, elk, bear)
  • Certain fish and seafood (such as herring, mackerel, sardines and scallops)
  • Mushrooms

Recent research has shown that eating and drinking a lot of certain foods (such as alcohol, meat and seafood) are associated with an increased risk of developing gout. Coffee and dairy products appear to lower the risk.

However, changes in your diet can only do so much. If you notice that certain foods tend to trigger your gout, by all means, avoid them. But don’t expect diet to solve the problem.

There are several options (including taking medicine) to treat gout attacks and other options to prevent gout. Talk to your doctor about your options, including ways your diet can help.

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