If you have ever had a gout attack, you probably know this form of arthritis, once referred to as the “disease of kings,” can be a royal pain. You probably also know that if you’ve had one attack of gout, your risk of a repeat attack increases.
But what many people are not aware of is the close connection between gout and diabetes. If you have either of these conditions, your likelihood of having the other, or developing it in the future, is above average.
So, can gout lead to diabetes, or is gout a symptom of diabetes? And what can you do to prevent and treat both conditions?
Elevated Uric Acid Is a Common Link
Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis, marked by pain, swelling, and redness in the joints. It is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the blood that forms sharp, needle-like crystals in the joints, most often in the big toe.
Uric acid is a waste product generated during the breakdown of purines, which are compounds made in the body and present in red meat and other foods. Although uric acid is normally transferred via the blood to the kidneys for excretion in the urine, it sometimes builds up, resulting in elevated blood levels of uric acid.
This is called hyperuricemia—and here’s where the diabetes link comes in. In addition to being the primary cause of gout, hyperuricemia is also common in individuals with type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases.
Why Does Uric Acid Build Up?
Hyperuricemia obviously occurs when too much uric acid is produced in your body, or too little is excreted by your kidneys. Specific factors associated with high uric acid levels include:
- Insulin resistance
- Metabolic syndrome (a cluster of risk factors for diabetes and heart disease that include abdominal obesity, elevated blood sugar and blood pressure, and cholesterol abnormalities)
- High intake of purine-rich foods (see list below)
- Diet high in fructose and other sugars
- Excessive alcohol, especially beer
- Poor kidney function and trouble eliminating wastes
- Some medications (such as low-dose aspirin, thiazide diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and beta blockers)
Lifestyle Changes Benefit Both Diabetes & Gout
As you can see, most of these factors are lifestyle related. In fact, both diabetes and gout are considered to be lifestyle diseases, meaning they can be prevented, treated, and in some cases reversed by making lifestyle changes.
Weight loss is one of the best therapies for diabetes and gout. In addition to lowering blood sugar, it reduces uric acid and the frequency of gout attacks.
Staying well-hydrated is also important. Dehydration increases the concentration of uric acid in the blood, so make sure you drink plenty of water.
Inflammation is an underlying factor in both diabetes and gout, so a good supplement program with an emphasis on natural anti-inflammatories is recommended. Supplements that curb inflammation include curcumin 500 mg and omega-3 fatty acids at least 2,000 mg per day.
Also add vitamin C and quercetin to your daily regimen, as they have been shown to hinder the production of uric acid. The suggested dosage of both of these supplements is 500 mg 2–3 times a day.
Diet Is Essential
One of the easiest ways to treat gout naturally and stave off flare-ups is to examine the types of foods you are eating. Most of these dietary suggestions are beneficial for diabetes as well.
- A low-purine diet may reduce gout attacks. Red meat, organ meats, and some seafood, especially sardines, anchovies, trout, tuna, and shellfish, are high in purines.
- Fructose increases levels of uric acid and is a risk factor for gout and diabetes. In addition to soft drinks, fruit juices, and processed foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and most other sugars are also loaded with fructose. Read labels carefully and severely limit your intake.
- Beer and spirits can increase gout attacks. Everyone, regardless of their state of health, should limit their intake of alcohol to one or two drinks a day.
- Coffee is protective against gout, as it decreases levels of uric acid. It also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Cherries, which are rich in phytonutrients that have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, help reduce the intensity and frequency of gout attacks. Fresh or frozen cherries and tart cherry juice concentrates and extracts all pack a similar health punch.
In summary, it’s not that gout causes diabetes or vice versa. Rather, they share common risk factors and by addressing those factors you have a good chance of improving both conditions.