Indeed, having gout in your 20s is pretty early. But there’s no need to worry—it can be cured with simple lifestyle changes. Read on to learn how you can take control of your gout and reduce your chances of flare-ups.
What is Gout?
Gout is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation of the joints due to excess uric acid, usually in the big toe. Uric acid is a waste product that dissolves into your blood. The human body makes it by breaking down chemicals called purines found in certain food and drinks.
Uric acid goes through the kidneys and exits the body when you urinate. But sometimes the body produces too much uric acid or the kidneys don’t do a good job of handling it. When the body has high levels of uric acid, crystals can concentrate in the joints. These sharp, needle-like crystals cause gout.
What Are the Signs of Gout?
You are also more likely to develop gout at a young age if you:
- Consume a diet high in animal proteins like red meat and seafood
- Consume a significant amount of alcohol
- Have a family history of kidney disease, diabetes, or are overweight.
- Have a sedentary lifestyle
If you have a developing case of gout, you may be experiencing the following symptoms.
Joint Pain and Discomfort
Gout doesn’t just affect your big toe. Aches in your knees, elbows, fingers, wrists, or ankles can also occur. You’ll feel this most intensely when you’re having a gout attack. As the initial pain lessens, you’ll feel residual joint discomfort for days or weeks. Sudden surges of intense joint pain can pop up again, even spreading to other joints.
Swelling, redness, and inflammation may be signs of gout. These symptoms are caused by the crystals that form in the joints. Swelling will be at its peak within the first day of a gout flare-up. Like a newly formed bruise, the affected joint will also feel tender and warm.
Restricted Range of Motion
When you twist an ankle or pull a muscle, that part of the body becomes less capable of movement. This likewise happens when you have gout; however, the injured joint can be impaired long after the initial flare-up. Gout can cause long-term limited range of motion in your joints.
Health Risks of Gout in Young Adults
One of the biggest misconceptions about gout is that it only affects the joints. In actuality, it causes a variety of health problems throughout your body, including your heart and blood vessels. Gout risk factors include:
- Cardiovascular Disease: A 2019 study found patients diagnosed with gout at age 40 or younger have an increased risk for heart disease and recurrent gout.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis: Another study shows that gout increases the risk of developing DVT by 50%.
- Blood Clots: Gout patients of all ages have a 25% greater risk of developing blood clots, but the risk is 79% higher in gout patients ages 50 and under.
Gout isn’t just a pain in your foot, it’s an inflammatory disease. And inflammation is a major contributor to any type of cardiovascular health issue.
How to Prevent Gout Flare-Ups
If you’ve developed gout at a young age, you need to focus on reducing uric acid levels and other sources of inflammation. Here are some tips for keeping your gout at bay.
Drinking lots of water is especially important for people with gout. That’s because it helps keep the pH balance of your urine at a neutral level. This makes it easier for your body to flush out uric acid, thus making it harder for crystals to form.
Drinking water can also decrease the regularity and severity of gout attacks. We’d recommend drinking 8 to 12 cups of water a day. When attacks occur, increasing your daily intake to 16 cups can also help with symptoms.
Up Your Vitamin C
Vitamin C may be one of the best nutrients for people with gout. That’s because studies have shown those who consume more vitamin C tend to have lower levels of uric acid in their body. Vitamin C supplements have also been found to reduce uric acid in the blood.
Strawberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, cruciferous vegetables, and citrus are all rich in Vitamin C. By eating more of these healthy foods, you can reduce the amount of uric acid in your body and help prevent gout flares.
Keeping alcohol intake low is a wise practice for everybody. People with gout may want to consider cutting it out altogether. Alcohol, especially beer, is purine-rich. And as we’ve learned, this breaks down into uric acid and can cause gout flare-ups. So if you’ve been struggling with frequent gout attacks, limiting alcohol may help.
Eat Less Seafood and Red Meat
Like alcohol, red meat and certain types of seafood can be high in purines. Anchovies, sardines, salmon, and mussels are particularly purine-rich. If you want to stop gout attacks from happening, cut back on these foods that trigger gout. Instead opt for a low-purine diet with proteins like nuts, seeds, and eggs.
Keep Your Gout Under Control
Having gout in your 20s is not a fun undertaking. But it can serve as a wake-up call to improve your health. Diet changes, lowered alcohol intake, better hydration, and doctor-prescribed medications can help defend you from gout attacks. So while early onset gout may feel like you’ve hit health rock bottom, consider it an opportunity to set things right with your body.