Alcohol and Gout: Does Drinking Affect It?

Last Updated: February 1, 2024

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Article at a glance:
– Gout is a painful joint condition caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood.
– Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of developing gout and make it more severe if it does occur.
– Alcohol increases the risk of gout by affecting how uric acid is eliminated and increasing uric acid concentration in the blood.
– The most common symptom of gout is severe joint pain, along with inflammation and limited mobility.
– Quitting alcohol can help reduce the risk and severity of gout attacks, as alcohol increases uric acid levels in the body.
– Beer is the worst type of alcohol for gout, while wine and spirits have lower levels of purines, which the body turns into uric acid.

Gout is a very painful condition that affects your joints. Drinking alcohol may increase the risk of gout and make it more severe if it does develop. Alcohol can have this effect for several reasons, but there are steps you can take to reduce the impacts alcohol has on your gout.

What Is Gout?

Gout is a painful joint condition affecting over nine million Americans. This condition typically causes severe pain, inflammation and limited mobility in the joints. Gout most commonly occurs in the big toe but can affect any joint. 

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid normally dissolves in the blood, but in great amounts, it can form solid crystals in a joint. This causes jagged, sharp crystals in a joint designed to be smooth and slippery. These crystals cut the linings of the joint each time it moves, causing pain and inflammation.

Gout Symptoms

The most common symptom of gout is severe joint pain. Signs of inflammation, such as redness, swelling and warmth, may also develop. Additionally, you may notice the joint is more difficult to move or put weight on. 

Causes of Gout

The cause of gout is high levels of uric acid. This can occur due to a high intake of uric acid, an impairment in how uric acid is eliminated or a higher concentration of uric acid in the blood. There are several medical conditions that can increase the risk of gout, including:

  • Obesity
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Chronic high blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease

Does Alcohol Cause Gout?

Alcohol can increase the risk of gout in many ways. Several studies show the connection between drinking alcohol and the risk and severity of gout attacks. Some of the main ways alcohol increases the risk of gout include:

  • Increased uric acid production: Alcohol, especially beer, is high in purines, which are substances that break down into uric acid in the body. Consuming alcohol can lead to increased uric acid production and accumulation in the bloodstream.
  • Impaired kidney function: Alcohol can impair kidney function. As a result, alcohol consumption may reduce the kidneys’ ability to remove uric acid from the body, leading to a higher risk of developing gout.
  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. Dehydration may contribute to the concentration of uric acid in the body and trigger gout attacks.
  • Increased weight gain: Alcohol is high in calories and can lead to weight gain from excessive consumption. Obesity is a risk factor for gout, as it increases the production of uric acid and puts more strain on the joints.

Are you finding it difficult to stop alcohol use, even though you know it could be the cause of your gout? We can help! Contact us today to learn how we can help you stop using alcohol.

Will Eliminating Alcohol Reverse Gout?

Eliminating alcohol can help reduce the risk of future gout attacks and make them less painful if they do occur. Because gout creates solid crystals in your joint, stopping alcohol won’t make it go away. But it can keep the crystals from forming in the future and may even reduce the severity of episodes. 

What Kind of Alcohol Is the Worst for Gout?

While all alcohol increases your risk of gout, some types are worse than others. This is because some types of alcohol are higher in purines, the chemical your body turns into uric acid. The worst type of alcohol for gout is beer, as it is the highest in purines. Wine is moderately bad for gout, while spirits are lower in purines than most other forms of alcohol.

How Much Alcohol Is Safe To Drink if You Have Gout? 

There is no minimum amount of alcohol known to be safe to drink without increasing your risk of gout. Alcohol can be a gout trigger for many people, and drinking even a relatively small amount of alcohol can cause a gout flare, depending on the individual. If you are concerned about the impact alcohol could have on your gout, the safest way to prevent gout flares is to eliminate alcohol from your diet completely. 

How To Prevent Gout Flare-Ups

Aside from quitting alcohol, there are many other ways you can prevent gout flare-ups or help them when they occur. These tips are most effective when followed together: 

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Obesity increases the risk of gout. Losing weight, if necessary, and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce uric acid levels in the body.
  • Staying hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help dilute uric acid concentrations in the bloodstream and promote its elimination through urine.
  • Eating a balanced diet: Limiting high-purine foods, such as red meat, organ meats and some seafood, can help reduce uric acid production. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products can help maintain overall health while minimizing gout risk.
  • Limiting sugary drinks and foods: High-fructose corn syrup and excessive sugar consumption can increase uric acid levels. Reducing the intake of sugary beverages and processed foods can be beneficial for managing gout.
  • Medication: Depending on the severity of the condition, your doctor may prescribe medications to control uric acid levels or to manage pain and inflammation during gout attacks. Carefully following any medication instructions is important to manage your gout.

Avoiding Alcohol When You Have Gout

Avoiding alcohol when you have gout can be difficult for some people. It could mark the first time they’ve ever realized how difficult it can be to stop using alcohol. If you are finding it hard to stop drinking alcohol despite adverse health effects, it may be time to consider seeking professional help.

At The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, we have years of experience helping people successfully stop drinking alcohol. We can help you stop using alcohol and get your gout under control. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support you in overcoming alcohol addiction and avoiding the negative effects that alcohol creates.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Gout.” July 27, 2020. Accessed March 15, 2023.

Yip, Kevin & Berman, Jessica. “What Is Gout?” JAMA Patient Page, December 28, 2021. Accessed March 15, 2023.

Dugdale, David C. “Uric acid – blood.” MedlinePlus, May 1, 2021. Accessed March 15, 2023.

National Institutes of Health. “Overview of Gout.” February 2020. Accessed March 15, 2023.

Zhang, Yuqing, et al. “Alcohol Consumption as a Trigger of Recurrent Gout Attacks.” The American Journal of Medicine, September 2006. Accessed March 15, 2023.

Neogi, Tuhina, et al. “Alcohol quantity and type on risk of recurrent gout attacks: An internet-based case-crossover study.” The American Journal of Medicine, January 17, 2014. Accessed March 15, 2023.

Towiwat, Patapong & Li, Zhan-Guo. “The association of vitamin C, alcohol, coffee, tea, milk and yogurt with uric acid and gout.” International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, June 17, 2015. Accessed March 15, 2023.

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