Chefs and Gout

If it seems like gout hits Chefs at an abnormally high rate, it’s because it does! Our jobs and lifestyles make us the perfect candidates for this debilitating condition. If you work long hours on your feet, eat a diet high in protein and fat, consume a lot of sugar, and drink alcohol- you could be on your way. 

How many Chefs do you know who have problems with gout in their feet or other joints? I know dozens. Once you have it, it's hard to get it to go away entirely, but it is manageable. It is the kind of condition that comes on without warning and definitely requires you to take time off to sit down and rest. Do you have time for that? If not, you better learn what it is and how to keep yourself healthy!

WTF is gout? Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate in your joint, causing the inflammation and intense pain of a gout attack. Urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood.

Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines — substances that are found naturally in your body.
Purines are also found in certain foods, such as steak, organ meats and seafood. Other foods also promote higher levels of uric acid, such as alcoholic beverages, especially beer, and drinks sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose).
Normally, uric acid dissolves in your blood and passes through your kidneys into your urine. But sometimes either your body produces too much uric acid or your kidneys excrete too little uric acid. When this happens, uric acid can build up, forming sharp, needle like urate crystals in a joint or surrounding tissue that cause pain, inflammation and swelling.

The signs and symptoms of gout almost always occur suddenly, and often at night. They include:

  • Intense joint pain. Gout usually affects the large joint of your big toe, but it can occur in any joint. Other commonly affected joints include the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers. The pain is likely to be most severe within the first four to 12 hours after it begins.

  • Lingering discomfort. After the most severe pain subsides, some joint discomfort may last from a few days to a few weeks. Later attacks are likely to last longer and affect more joints.

  • Inflammation and redness. The affected joint or joints become swollen, tender, warm and red.

  • Limited range of motion. As gout progresses, you may not be able to move your joints normally.

You're more likely to develop gout if you have high levels of uric acid in your body. Factors that increase the uric acid level in your body include:

  • Diet. Eating a diet rich in meat and seafood and drinking beverages sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose) increase levels of uric acid, which increase your risk of gout. Alcohol consumption, especially of beer, also increases the risk of gout.

  • Obesity. If you're overweight, your body produces more uric acid and your kidneys have a more difficult time eliminating uric acid.

  • Medical conditions. Certain diseases and conditions increase your risk of gout. These include untreated high blood pressure and chronic conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart and kidney diseases.

  • Age and sex. Gout occurs more often in men, primarily because women tend to have lower uric acid levels. After menopause, however, women's uric acid levels approach those of men. Men are also more likely to develop gout earlier — usually between the ages of 30 and 50 — whereas women generally develop signs and symptoms after menopause.

Experiencing a flare up of gout can be a wake up call but you don’t have to wait until it’s too late. If you would like to find out how you can make changes to your diet and lifestyle that will reduce your chances of getting benched by gout, i’m here to help.

Laura Mcwilliams