4 Ways to Control Your Gout This Holiday Season

Don’t let little indulgences turn into big flare-ups

By: Scott Burg, DO

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The holiday season comes with little indulgences. But when you have gout, you must be smart to make sure those little indulgences do not turn into big flare-ups.

The basic guidelines you observe year-round — including avoiding organ meat and limiting purine-rich foods such as shellfish and red meat — still apply, of course. But there are also some specific steps you can take during this season to make sure holiday merriment doesn’t lead to painful gout attacks.

1. Watch what you drink

Without question, alcohol raises the top question I get from patients this time of year: “What can I drink?”

I get it. The holidays are a social season. But I also must point out that, no matter the time of year, alcohol can raise the uric acid levels in your body and lead to gout attacks. That’s why I tend to advise people not to drink at all, especially if they are newly diagnosed or starting new medications to control gout.

That said, if you’re going to have a drink at that holiday party or family dinner, make it red wine. Beer and liquor are much more likely to trigger a flare-up than red wine.

2. Cut out the corn syrup

The holiday season is full of sweets. Realistically, people are going to indulge a bit — but when you do, choose items that don’t contain high-fructose corn syrup.

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“If you’re going to have a drink at that holiday party or family dinner, make it red wine. Beer and liquor are much more likely to trigger a flare-up than red wine.”

Scott Burg, DO

Department of Rheumatologic and Immunologic Disease

Why? Because high-fructose corn syrup raises uric acid levels in your body, too. When you are making homemade desserts, or even glazes for savory items, check closely for ingredients that include high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup and fructose. Read the label of any pre-packaged foods, too; high-fructose corn syrup is in more items than you might think.

If you are eating food prepared by others, ask about the ingredients if you are comfortable doing so. If not, just be mindful of the risks and limit your intake. And by all means, avoid drinking sodas, which are usually full of high-fructose corn syrup.

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3. Don’t add salt

Don’t reach for the salt shaker; if you have gout, you don’t need any more sodium than what is already in cooked food. The salt itself may not be an issue, but loading up on sodium can lead to dehydration, and dehydration can increase uric acid in your body.

In addition to not adding salt, limit your consumption of foods you know are high in sodium. Depending on how it’s prepared, the turkey (go light on any gravy) may be a better option for you than the ham, for instance. The ham is likely higher in purines, as well.

And keep drinking water — more than you normally would, at least eight 8-ounce glasses per day — to keep yourself thoroughly hydrated. It’s amazing what a difference simply drinking enough water can make.

4. Get your medications in order

Picture this: It’s Christmas day, and your diet over the past week has not been ideal. You reach for the medicine cabinet but realize you are out of your allopurinol. Your doctor may be hard to contact, and pharmacy hours will be limited, so this situation is not ideal.

Avoid it by making sure you fill any prescriptions you may need — whether they are ongoing or “just in case” medications — before the holidays are in full swing. It’s better to have what you may need and not need it than to need it and not have it.

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