By Lisa McDowell
Here is a question we are asked quite a lot. Does The Atkins diet and gout mix? or for that matter does any low carb diet and gout mix?
The problem with the Atkins diet and gout is that the Atkins Diet is based around the theory that a low carbohydrate, high protein intake allows the body to burn fat more easily. Great for losing weight, not so good for gout sufferers – Let me explain!
One contributory factor to gout is being overweight and ‘losing the extra pounds’ is usually one of the first suggestions that a doctor will make. As gout is such a painful condition most sufferers are looking for a weight loss program that will take the pounds off quickly without leaving them feeling deprived. This is where diets such as Atkins fit the bill. However, there is a problem…
Your body develops gout when it is not processing uric acid effectively, because of either hereditary reasons, or an increase in production of uric acid through increased intake of purine rich food, or above normal rates of cell degeneration.
Uric acid is a natural waste product that the body produces. Uric acid is dissolved in the blood stream and is eliminated via urine. If there is elevated levels of uric acid in the bloodstream due to the body being unable to process and eliminate uric acid effectively, Hyperuricemia can develop.
Although, not dangerous in itself, hyperuricemia has the side effect of depositing excess uric acid, which then crystallizes, into the spaces between joints and the soft connective tissue which links the joints. The crystals are sharp, jagged needles that cause intense pain, swelling, redness and heat in the joint.
Excess uric acid can result from a number of factors such as: not drinking enough water to keep the levels dilute, drinking too much alcohol and eating a diet high in purine-rich foods.
Purine is found mainly in protein dense foods, and predominantly animal protein foods. However, these protein rich foods tend to form the backbone of the Atkins diet and other low carb diets.
The rationale for adopting a high-protein Atkins diet, and other similar ‘low-carb’ diets is to burn of fat quickly by cutting back on carbohydrates. The theory is that carbohydrates turn to sugar and the body will target sugars first when looking for fuel to burn. As you remove or heavily restrict carbohydrates in your diet, the body has no choice but the burn the reserves of fat.
This then gives the result of quick weight loss. However, this process of burning up fat produces lactic acid as a by-product, which then has to be processed by the kidneys before elimination; keeping uric acid levels in the blood stream higher and the likelihood of a gout attacks is subsequently increased.
Another risk of following a low carb diets, if you’re predisposed to gout, is they can lead to a build up ketones in the blood stream, another compound which can push uric acid levels higher.
So, gout sufferers are usually better to follow a gout-friendly diet rather than a low-carb diet. Although the weight loss may be slower, your chances of suffering another gout attack is very reduced dramatically.
There is the option of adopting a tailored low carb diet that takes into account your gout risk, combined with other treatments to increases the expulsion of uric acid from the body.
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