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Gout: Why Is It So Common Among Hispanics?

According to the Arthritis Foundation, 1 in 4 adults in the United States suffers from arthritis. Among the more than 100 types of joint disease, it is the fourth most common. (1) Although not much is said about it, it is necessary to know that it interferes with the management of other diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Arthritis is also directly related to other diseases such as depression, vision issues, sleep disorders, gum problems, deafness, skin lesions/rashes, kidney inflammation, flu, and increased risk of heart failure, among others.

Gout is one of the most common variants of arthritis among Hispanics, mainly due to our habits – especially our eating habits. We will explain the differences between rheumatoid arthritis, with which gout is often confused, and gout, and also the changes you can make to avoid and treat it.

The big difference

We already know that arthritis itself involves joint swelling and pain. One of the most common misdiagnoses is between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gouty arthritis. Even antibodies, which show up in tests done to confirm RA, are sometimes also found with gout (2). The best way to know for sure which type of arthritis is to draw fluid from the problem joint and check for uric acid crystals. If these are present, the arthritis is definitively gout.

RA has the same manifestations but with an autoimmune origin, registered as an ‘error’ in the way our defense system does its job and attempts to protect us. Our defenses end up attacking the membranes that cover the joints, which causes pain that can occur with an onset in several places at once, such as the knuckles, knees, and shoulders.

With gout, on the other hand, there is an onset of intense pain and swelling in one joint, especially the big toe or knee. When some injury usually occurs, then the other joints gradually begin to be affected. The entire process takes quite a long time. (3)

How does gout occur?

  • Inflammation of the joints due to too much uric acid in the blood. The kidneys cannot eliminate it completely and the excess accumulates and crystallizes or forms pebbles that travel to different parts of the body. These crystals can end up in the kidneys themselves, for example, the bladder, or the joints. (4)

  • More frequently in middle-aged men and in post-menopausal women. To a certain extent, genetic antecedents also have an influence, but the main causes of gout mostly has to do with diet, excess weight, and alcohol consumption (three areas in which Hispanics fare very badly). (5)

  • People who suffer from metabolic syndrome (excess weight, hypertension, high cholesterol and other lipids, insulin resistance, and diabetes), as well as those with some coronary heart disease, tend to be candidates for high uric acid and consequently gout.

  • The consumption of purine-rich foods such as animal flesh and innards is also a trigger. Think carefully about you weekend barbecue if it is abundant in liver, kidneys, and sweetbreads. However, there are foods generally considered healthy that can also lead to gout in excess, such as asparagus, mushrooms, and seafood such as mussels, herring, and sardines.

  • Processed products rich in high-fructose corn syrup increases uric acid and worsens a patient's situation. (6)

How to treat gout

Fortunately, gout can be treated on several fronts for almost total relief. Medications can help control pain, swelling, and uric acid levels.

  • Dietary supplements can help reduce gout. According to a comprehensive review of 23 studies conducted in 11 countries on use in patients with musculoskeletal problems, 47% of participants indicated the supplements were effective. Among the most commonly used ones are marine oils, glucosamine, vinegar, and coindritin. (7)

  • According to the Arthritis Foundation, something as simple as more physical activity can reduce pain and improve functionality by 40%. This is not only in cases of gout, but in any type of arthritis. (1)

  • Avoiding alcohol is very important, especially beer and including non-alcoholic beer. (5)

  • Maintaining weight is fundamental as it has been proven that weight loss can help decrease levels of concentration of uric acid. It is vital to maintain proper eating habits under professional supervision, since even typically healthy options can exacerbate gout.

  • Low-fat dairy products are counterproductive to gout. Ketogenic, or keto, diets, often suggested for weight loss and anti-inflammatory capacity, should be performed under medical supervision because they can initially increase the amount of uric acid, generating gout outbreaks. Research in animals and humans so far seems to show that once the adaptation period of the organism has passed, keto diets could help combat gout. (5)(8)

Gout is a painful disease that disproportionately attacks the Hispanic community. Now we know what we can do to keep it at bay. Incorporating these habits can, in the end, save us from a lot of major health issues!

This chalks up another point for reasons to work on being healthy, so let's do it together!

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