Gout is a type of arthritis. Gout does not flare up and cause pain all the time but will occur only occasionally, and months or years can pass between attacks. It usually affects one joint at a time, most often the big toe. A gout attack can happen quickly, and it’s incredibly painful for most people.
The pain of gout leads most people to want to avoid gout in any possible way. One of the best ways to prevent gout starts with diet, especially monitoring alcohol use. Drinking alcohol can cause gout flare-ups.
Why Does Alcohol Cause Gout?
Gout develops from a buildup of a chemical in the bloodstream called uric acid. The body makes uric acid as it breaks down chemicals called purines, which are in foods like seafood and meat. Usually, uric acid is dissolved into the blood and then removed from the body through urine. If there is too much uric acid in the body, it can turn into crystals in your joints and cause a painful gout flare.
Alcohol has been shown to cause gout flare-ups in several ways, including:
- By increasing the amount of uric acid that the body makes
- By stopping the body from getting rid of uric acid as fast as it usually would
- By causing dehydration
The combination of all three of these factors makes a person more likely to have a gout flare if you drink alcohol. Dehydration, specifically, can cause gout flare-ups because, without enough water in the body, the kidneys can’t get rid of the extra uric acid that causes gout. Alcohol only worsens this process. When a person drinks alcohol, it shuts off a chemical in their brain called the antidiuretic hormone, or ADH. Without enough ADH, someone can become extremely dehydrated very quickly because they will urinate a lot in a short time. Dehydration raises a person’s chances of having a gout flare.
Alcohol and Gout Symptoms
If a person drinks alcohol, it is possible that they may suffer a gout attack within a few days, due to increased uric acid and dehydration in their body. The attacks tend to develop suddenly and without warning, and the symptoms of a gout flare are hard to miss. When gout occurs, the symptoms can last days or even weeks, and alcohol use only worsens the gout symptoms.
Common symptoms of alcohol use and gout include:
- Intense pain in one joint (usually the big toe)
- Swelling in one joint
- Redness in one joint
- The feeling that the joint is hot to the touch
- Impaired coordination (if drunk)
- Impaired judgment (if drinking)
- Increased risk of alcohol addiction
What Kinds of Alcohol Cause Gout?
Studies have shown that all kinds of alcohol cause gout flares. Doctors used to think that beer and liquor were more likely than wine to cause gout flare-ups, but recent research shows that all alcohol forms can cause gout.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Gout Flare-Ups
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent gout, even if a person had gout in the past. Certain medicines can help the body remove uric acid more effectively, but lifestyle changes are integral to preventing gout. To avoid gout, be sure to:
- Drink plenty of water
- Maintain a healthy weight and diet
- Limit intake of red meat, organ meat, and fish
- Avoid alcohol, including beer, liquor, and wine
- Talk with a medical professional about medications for gout
Key Points: Alcohol and Gout
It is essential to know about the relationship between alcohol and gout if you or a loved one struggle with recurring bouts of gout. Knowing how alcohol and gout relate to one another can help you take steps to avoid having a flare-up of the painful condition in the future.
Important points to remember about alcohol and gout include:
- Alcohol makes you create more of the chemical that causes gout
- Alcohol stops your body from getting rid of the chemical that causes gout
- Alcohol makes you dehydrated, which can also lead to a gout flare-up
- All types of alcohol (beer, wine, and liquor included) can cause gout flares
- It is best to avoid alcohol if you have a history of gout
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol use and finding it hard to stop drinking, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to talk to our trained professionals. The Recovery Village offers many different addiction treatment options to help you lead a healthier life without alcohol.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Gout.” Reviewed January 28, 2019. Accessed April 9, 2019.
- Neogi T, et al. “Alcohol quantity and type on risk of recurrent gout attacks: an internet-based case-crossover study.” American Journal of Medicine. Published April 2014. Accessed April 9, 2019.