Gout is an arthritic condition that causes severe pain and swelling in certain joints of the body. One of the primary causes of this condition is a buildup of uric acid in the blood. This buildup is a result of a compound called purines. Eating excessive amounts of foods that contain large amounts of purines is considered one of the triggers for an attack, which is why there is a dietary connection between fish and gout. Although diet plays a hand in triggering an attack, there are other risk factors for the condition, such as obesity, family history, thryroid problems and being a middle-aged male.
For one to understand the connection between fish and gout, it is necessary to understand purines and what they are. Purines are organic, nitrogen-based compounds that the body produces and that can be found in certain types of food. When the body breaks down the purines, uric acid is formed, and it either exits the body during urination or is broken up by bacteria in the intestines. If it does not properly exit the body, uric acid continues to build up in the bloodstream. When this occurs, it begins to form a crystalline substance, called monosodium urate (MSU), that gathers and builds in the joints.
Exogenous purines are the type of purines that are found in food. Certain types of food contain greater amounts of purines, which is the reason that fish and gout are often associated with one another. Eating large amounts of fish that contain excessive levels of purines can increase uric acid in the blood, trigger an attack and result in gout pain. Types of fish that are rich in purines include tuna, mackerel, herring and anchovies, as well as fish eggs or roe.
When there is a connection between fish and gout in a patient, a treatment plan that involves limiting certain types of fish is an important part of managing symptoms. In addition to seafood, consumption of other purine-rich foods that cause gout attacks, such as poultry, organ meat and red meat, should not exceed 6 ounces (170 grams) each day. People who suffer from gout also can reduce attacks by losing excess weight or maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing activities that are stressful to the joints and eliminating alcoholic beverages.
Although diet is an important part of managing gout and reducing attacks, medications are available to help lessen gout pain during an attack. These medications are meant to reduce the inflammation and pain that are associated with the condition. Medications that are commonly given during this time might include prescription or over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids and colchicine.