|People who have been awakened by a sharp strong breathtaking pain in their big toe in the middle of the night know that gout is a very real condition.
According to Tammy Roberts, a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension, gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when too much uric acid builds up in the body.
"Uric acid is a by-product of the breakdown of purines in the body. Purines are found in all of the tissues of the body. They are also found in many foods such as organ meats, dried beans and peas, anchovies and gravies," said Roberts.
Uric acid usually dissolves in the blood and passes through the kidneys and out of the body in urine. It can build up in the blood when the body increases the amount of uric acid it makes, the kidneys aren't able to get rid of the uric acid or when a person eats too many foods high in purines.
There are things that increase the likelihood of a person developing gout. More men than women develop gout. Men most often develop gout between the ages of 40 and 50. Women rarely develop gout before menopause.
"Being overweight can increase the risk of gout as can drinking too much alcohol. About 20 percent of the people who develop gout have a family member who has had it," said Roberts.
Some medications can also put people at risk for developing gout. People who have untreated high blood pressure or other chronic conditions such as diabetes, high levels of fat and cholesterol in the blood or narrowing of the arteries can be at risk for developing gout.
"New research is being conducted all of the time. Some recent research suggests that low fat dairy products, vitamin C and wine may be protective in the development of gout," Roberts said.