Does the Keto Diet Cause Gout?

Introduction

The Keto diet is a high-fat, low carb diet that’s been increasing in popularity over recent years.  Gout is known as the rich man’s disease because in Ancient Egypt the people that developed it had a lot of expensive foods in their diet such as meat and alcohol.  It stands to reason that you might think there’s a connection between a high-fat diet like Keto and this arthritic disease.  

The following article will explore this connection by showing you how the connection between Keto and gout might actually be a positive one and what you can do to reduce your chances of developing gout on Keto. 

What is gout?

Gout is an incredibly painful condition where urate crystals build up under the joints in your body causing pressure on those joints.  This often occurs in the toes and fingers, but it can occur anywhere you have joints in your body.  This disease is a type of arthritis that inflames the joints and leaves them red, sore and swollen.

A person suffering from gout will usually have an “attack” that lasts between 3-10 days.  This attack often begins while you’re sleeping, and it might wake you up.  Because gout is an episodic condition it is thought that something triggers the attack to begin.  It is thought that it’s possible to manage gout and prevent attacks if you know what those triggers are. 

What causes gout?

Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid in your body that forms urate crystals beneath your joints.  A build up of uric acid is caused when your body breaks down as substance known as purines.  Purines are naturally found in your body; however, there are some foods that are higher in purines then others and this may cause your body to break down too many purines, leading to high levels of uric acid and the formation of urate crystals.

Foods that are higher in purines include organ meat, steak, shellfish, seafood and alcohol.  The fructose that is found in artificially sweetened drinks can also cause uric acid to build up in your body.  These are foods are all triggers for someone who is already susceptible to gout.

There is a strong genetic connection with gout.  If a close family member has had it then your risk of developing it is greater.  This doesn’t mean that you necessarily will, it just means that you should limit your exposure to foods that might trigger an attack as well as any other risk factors.

There’s a link between obesity and gout so if you’re genetically susceptible to gout, keeping your weight at a healthy level can go a long way towards preventing an attack.  Diabetes and other metabolic conditions as well as high blood pressure can also be risk factors for gout.  If you’re on certain medications, especially ones that treat hypertension, then you might also find yourself at a higher risk of developing gout. The last major risk factor is your gender.  It may not be fair (and there’s nothing you can do to change it) but men are at a higher risk for developing gout than women and they tend to do it earlier in life.

What is Keto?

The Keto diet is an ultra low-carb, high fat diet that contains a moderate amount of protein.  On Keto you eat a large number of foods that are high in healthy fats such as nuts, seeds and plant oils.  There is also a fair amount of meat and seafood eaten on Keto along with plenty of leafy green vegetables.  You’ll most likely only be eating a small number of fruits on Keto because of their high sugar content.  Processed foods, sugar, starchy vegetables, grains, legumes and most alcohols are not allowed on Keto.

The Keto diet limits your foods in such a way in order to keep your net carbs between 20-25g daily.  Although this number changes from person to person, this is a good estimate of what it will take to keep your body in the metabolic state of ketosis.

Ketosis is the process of your body making ketones in the liver.  Ketones are made from your stored body fats and turned into energy that your body can use.  This is why the Keto diet places such an emphasis on healthy fats.  If your body is consuming too many carbohydrates it will still produce ketones; however, they won’t be in a large enough quantity to properly fuel your body.

In a high-carb diet your body chooses glucose over ketones as its primary energy source.  Glucose is also created in the liver; however, it doesn’t offer the same stability that ketones do.  Since the material for ketones is fat and fat is often already stored in our body ketones are easy to create.  Glucose on the other hand takes a steady supply of ingested carbohydrates to keep up production.  This leads to a surge in energy shortly after eating that’s followed by a drop in energy a few hours later.

People begin the Keto diet for a variety of reasons.  The majority of people who start Keto seem to do so for the weight loss effects.  Since the Keto diet is literally burning away stored body fat in order to produce ketones, this often leads to a drop in weight for a lot of people.  The mental clarity that comes with Keto is another reason that people begin it.  The brain is a very hungry organ, and it requires a steady supply of energy that Keto can provide.

There are signs that the Keto diet might be helpful in managing your blood sugar levels and increasing your insulin sensitivity which could be helpful in managing type two diabetes.  Always talk with your doctor before making a major diet change if you have any type of illness, especially diabetes.  The stabilizing effect on your energy is another reason that some people choose to begin Keto.

 

Does the Keto diet cause gout?

Now that you know that the Keto diet is high in foods such as seafood and meat it stands to reason that you might be wondering what Keto’s connection to gout is.  You might be surprised to learn that the Keto diet cannot cause gout all on its own.

The only period of risk when it comes to the Keto diet and gout is at the beginning stages when your body first begins producing ketones in earnest.  This switch from glucose to ketones can cause all sorts of minor issues as your body gets used to its new way of creating energy.  This period is usually known as the Keto flu and its accompanied by a range of flu symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and body aches.  

During this introductory phase, your body might have a harder time getting rid of excess uric acid.  Your kidneys usually process uric acid and there’s studies being done to see if the Keto diet might prevent your kidneys from properly flushing uric acid out of your body.  If this happens and you’re already at risk of developing gout due to genetics, obesity, medication or a previous medical condition then it’s possible that the Keto diet might increase your risk of developing gout.

This doesn’t happen from the foods that the Keto diet recommends that you eat.  Despite being high in fats, the majority of calories on Keto come from sources such as nuts, seeds and vegetable oils which are not usually triggers for gout.  The Keto diet cuts out most alcohol, sugary beverages and processed foods that might contribute to gout.  There is red meat and seafood in Keto; however, they’re not normally eaten in excess because the focus of Keto is on healthy fats and your protein should be kept to a moderate amount.

There are signs that the Keto diet might actually help prevent or treat gout.  The Keto diet is showing promise as a diet that can help reduce inflammation in people.  Researchers from Yale discovered through animal and human testing that there’s a positive link between the Keto diet and a reduction in swelling in the joints.  The main ketone that’s found in our blood has anti-inflammatory properties that can help your white blood cells to reduce inflammation.  There’s still more research that needs to be done but the studies are looking promising so far.

How can you reduce your chances of getting gout on Keto?

If you’re in one of the higher risk categories for developing gout and you’re thinking about beginning Keto, chances are you can do it and be just fine.  Always consult with a doctor before making any major dietary changes because they’ll be able to best lead you in the right direction.

If you want to limit your chances of getting gout while on Keto, then try to stay away from any potential triggers.  Get your fat from nuts, seeds and healthy oils as opposed to red meats and seafood such as shellfish.  This should help prevent you from developing gout.

Conclusion

Beginning the Keto diet doesn’t increase your chances of developing gout in any significant way.  Genetic pre-disposition to gout along with certain medications, foods and illnesses may increase your risk; however, these can be managed with the help of your doctor.  You might even find that a switch to Keto helps relieve the inflammation that causes your painful gout!

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