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An old person suffering from gout with alcohol and medicines on the table in front of him
Alcohol and Health

Will Alcohol Make My Gout Symptoms Worse?

Published:
October 29, 2023
·
9 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
October 29, 2023
·
9 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
October 29, 2023
·
9 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
October 29, 2023
·
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
October 29, 2023
·
9 min read

You're enjoying a pleasant stroll in the park or savoring a delightful dinner, when suddenly — zing! — that familiar, dreaded sharp pain strikes your big toe. If you've ever had gout, you know precisely what we’re talking about. That pesky joint ache can derail your plans faster than a downpour at a picnic.

Did that after-work drink with colleagues or that casual beer at the BBQ have anything to do with that flare-up? Could alcohol be a contributing factor? Is there a connection between gout and alcohol? Let's dive into the science and discover if alcohol really makes gout symptoms worse.

A Tale of Toes and More

Gout is more than just a toe thing — it's a type of inflammatory arthritis affecting the joints that occurs when uric acid levels in the blood get too high, causing sharp uric acid crystals to form in the joints.

These crystals can cause severe and sudden joint pain — usually in the big toe, though the knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers can also be affected. Here's a breakdown of what's happening when gout strikes:

  • Uric acid buildup. Uric acid is a substance that the body produces when it breaks down purines, which are found in some foods and drinks. Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood, is filtered out by the kidneys, and exits the body in urine. However, sometimes the body produces too much uric acid or the kidneys don't eliminate enough of it, leading to an overload.
  • Crystal formation. When there's too much uric acid in the blood, it can form sharp, needle-like crystals in a joint. Those sharp points on the crystals hurt!
  • Inflammation and pain. The uric acid crystals can cause the joint to become inflamed. This inflammation leads to the symptoms of gout: intense pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected area. The pain can be so excruciating that even the weight of a bedsheet can be unbearable.
  • Flare-ups and chronic gout. Gout attacks — flare-ups — come on suddenly and can last for days or weeks. If gout is not managed properly, it can become chronic, leading to continuous discomfort and joint damage over time.
  • Risk factors. Several factors increase the risk of gout, including genetics, obesity, certain medical conditions such as hypertension, and diets high in purine-rich foods like red meat and seafood. Medications such as diuretics can also play a role.
  • Diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis typically involves a physical examination, blood tests to measure uric acid levels, and sometimes joint fluid tests to detect uric acid crystals. Treatment usually includes medications to reduce pain and inflammation and lifestyle changes to manage uric acid levels.

Alcohol's Connection to Gout

You might be wondering how alcohol fits into this picture. Here's the scoop:

  • Increased uric acid. Alcohol can increase uric acid levels in the blood. Fermented drinks such as beer are particularly rich in purines, compounds that break down into uric acid. More uric acid can lead to more crystals and more pain.o uric acid. More uric acid can lead to more crystals and more pain.
  • Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic. It makes you urinate more, which can lead to dehydration. Less water in the body can concentrate uric acid, making crystal formation easier.
  • Medication mishaps. Sometimes, alcohol can interfere with gout medications, making them less effective.
Diagram about alcohol’s connection to Gout

Not All Drinks Are Created Equal

It's not just about alcohol, however — the type of alcohol matters as well. Beer is often more problematic than wine or spirits because of its higher purine content. Hard liquors like whiskey can also have a higher impact on uric acid levels.

The quantity of alcohol consumed also plays a role. A glass here or there may not be as harmful as frequent or excessive drinking.

Steps To Banish Flare-ups

Now that we've discussed the relationship between gout and alcohol, here are some ways to steer clear of the problem:

  • Stay healthy. Maintain a balanced diet, avoid foods high in purines, and exercise regularly. Healthy bodies are the key to happy feet.
  • Hydrate. Drink plenty of water, especially if you have consumed alcohol. Staying hydrated helps dilute and eliminate uric acid. Aim for 8-10 glasses a day, and add a slice of lemon for zest!
  • Choose your drinks wisely. If you choose to have an alcoholic beverage, opt for wine over beer or hard liquor. And remember that moderation is key.
  • Purine patrol. Get to know the purine content in foods. Opt for lower-purine options such as whole grains, most fruits and vegetables, and lean protein sources like poultry and tofu.
  • Mind your medications. Consult with your healthcare provider about your alcohol intake and any medications you're taking for gout. They can guide you best.
  • Embrace alternatives. Discover non-alcoholic beverages that tickle your taste buds. There's a world of sparkling waters, herbal teas, and mocktails waiting to be explored.
  • Footwear finesse. Comfort is key when it comes to gout. Choose shoes that provide solid support and enough room to wiggle those toes. It might be time to pamper your feet with a new pair!
  • Embrace the cold. If a flare-up occurs, try applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the affected joint for about 20 minutes. It might ease the inflammation and provide some relief.
  • Explore relaxation techniques. Stress can be a gout trigger for some. Consider relaxation exercises, meditation, or hobbies that calm your mind. Your joints might just thank you!

Summing Up

Understanding the relationship between alcohol and gout gives you the power to make informed choices. Your feet don't have to hurt — give your gout the care and attention it deserves, and you'll be back to dancing through life in no time!

You're enjoying a pleasant stroll in the park or savoring a delightful dinner, when suddenly — zing! — that familiar, dreaded sharp pain strikes your big toe. If you've ever had gout, you know precisely what we’re talking about. That pesky joint ache can derail your plans faster than a downpour at a picnic.

Did that after-work drink with colleagues or that casual beer at the BBQ have anything to do with that flare-up? Could alcohol be a contributing factor? Is there a connection between gout and alcohol? Let's dive into the science and discover if alcohol really makes gout symptoms worse.

A Tale of Toes and More

Gout is more than just a toe thing — it's a type of inflammatory arthritis affecting the joints that occurs when uric acid levels in the blood get too high, causing sharp uric acid crystals to form in the joints.

These crystals can cause severe and sudden joint pain — usually in the big toe, though the knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers can also be affected. Here's a breakdown of what's happening when gout strikes:

  • Uric acid buildup. Uric acid is a substance that the body produces when it breaks down purines, which are found in some foods and drinks. Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood, is filtered out by the kidneys, and exits the body in urine. However, sometimes the body produces too much uric acid or the kidneys don't eliminate enough of it, leading to an overload.
  • Crystal formation. When there's too much uric acid in the blood, it can form sharp, needle-like crystals in a joint. Those sharp points on the crystals hurt!
  • Inflammation and pain. The uric acid crystals can cause the joint to become inflamed. This inflammation leads to the symptoms of gout: intense pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected area. The pain can be so excruciating that even the weight of a bedsheet can be unbearable.
  • Flare-ups and chronic gout. Gout attacks — flare-ups — come on suddenly and can last for days or weeks. If gout is not managed properly, it can become chronic, leading to continuous discomfort and joint damage over time.
  • Risk factors. Several factors increase the risk of gout, including genetics, obesity, certain medical conditions such as hypertension, and diets high in purine-rich foods like red meat and seafood. Medications such as diuretics can also play a role.
  • Diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis typically involves a physical examination, blood tests to measure uric acid levels, and sometimes joint fluid tests to detect uric acid crystals. Treatment usually includes medications to reduce pain and inflammation and lifestyle changes to manage uric acid levels.

Alcohol's Connection to Gout

You might be wondering how alcohol fits into this picture. Here's the scoop:

  • Increased uric acid. Alcohol can increase uric acid levels in the blood. Fermented drinks such as beer are particularly rich in purines, compounds that break down into uric acid. More uric acid can lead to more crystals and more pain.o uric acid. More uric acid can lead to more crystals and more pain.
  • Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic. It makes you urinate more, which can lead to dehydration. Less water in the body can concentrate uric acid, making crystal formation easier.
  • Medication mishaps. Sometimes, alcohol can interfere with gout medications, making them less effective.
Diagram about alcohol’s connection to Gout

Not All Drinks Are Created Equal

It's not just about alcohol, however — the type of alcohol matters as well. Beer is often more problematic than wine or spirits because of its higher purine content. Hard liquors like whiskey can also have a higher impact on uric acid levels.

The quantity of alcohol consumed also plays a role. A glass here or there may not be as harmful as frequent or excessive drinking.

Steps To Banish Flare-ups

Now that we've discussed the relationship between gout and alcohol, here are some ways to steer clear of the problem:

  • Stay healthy. Maintain a balanced diet, avoid foods high in purines, and exercise regularly. Healthy bodies are the key to happy feet.
  • Hydrate. Drink plenty of water, especially if you have consumed alcohol. Staying hydrated helps dilute and eliminate uric acid. Aim for 8-10 glasses a day, and add a slice of lemon for zest!
  • Choose your drinks wisely. If you choose to have an alcoholic beverage, opt for wine over beer or hard liquor. And remember that moderation is key.
  • Purine patrol. Get to know the purine content in foods. Opt for lower-purine options such as whole grains, most fruits and vegetables, and lean protein sources like poultry and tofu.
  • Mind your medications. Consult with your healthcare provider about your alcohol intake and any medications you're taking for gout. They can guide you best.
  • Embrace alternatives. Discover non-alcoholic beverages that tickle your taste buds. There's a world of sparkling waters, herbal teas, and mocktails waiting to be explored.
  • Footwear finesse. Comfort is key when it comes to gout. Choose shoes that provide solid support and enough room to wiggle those toes. It might be time to pamper your feet with a new pair!
  • Embrace the cold. If a flare-up occurs, try applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the affected joint for about 20 minutes. It might ease the inflammation and provide some relief.
  • Explore relaxation techniques. Stress can be a gout trigger for some. Consider relaxation exercises, meditation, or hobbies that calm your mind. Your joints might just thank you!

Summing Up

Understanding the relationship between alcohol and gout gives you the power to make informed choices. Your feet don't have to hurt — give your gout the care and attention it deserves, and you'll be back to dancing through life in no time!

Get Inspired and Set Out on Your Own Journey With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet hundreds of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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