Alcohol's Love Affair with Gout

by Sharon Hopkins

Gout is a form of arthritis characterized by severe inflammation and pain in the joints. It is caused the levels of uric acid in the body exceeding its prescribed limit. This causes crystals of uric acid to get deposited in the joints and tissues. These crystalline deposits cause severe inflammation in the joints and sudden attacks of pain. Chronic cases of gout may lead to severe disability and even kidney failure.

Medical researchers believe that gout is mainly caused by hereditary factors that damage the body’s ability to process uric acid. Other factors that can lead to gout are kidney disease and regular alcohol consumption. Gout and alcohol consumption have been closely associated in both medical and lay minds for a long time. A century ago it was thought that fermented liquors were one of the major causes of gout. Skeptics who do not believe that alcohol does cause gout should pay heed to the latest findings in medicine. These findings show that over the long term, those who drink alcohol regularly have a higher risk of developing gout. This is probably one of the major reasons behind the increase in the incidence of gout within the last three to four decades.

So how does Heavy Drinking or Alcoholism lead to Gout?

There are several ways in which alcohol, the principal cause of gout, can be a contributing factor to high levels of uric acid in the body. They include:

  • Alcohol has high energy content and causes weight gain. Research has shown that there is a definite correlation between body weight and uric acid concentrations.
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol produces high levels of triglycerides in the blood, which is associated with gout.
  • Acute alcohol intoxication can cause transient lactic acidaemia and ketosis. This inhibits the excretion of uric acid by the kidneys and leads to an increase in uric acid levels.
  • Research has also shown that alcohol can increase the synthesis of uric acid by increasing the turnover of adenine nucleotides.
  • Beer drinkers are at a greater risk than drinkers of regular spirits due to the high purine content in beer.

Taken together these findings suggest that long term consumption of alcohol increases the synthesis of uric acid and intoxication with alcohol compounds the effect by reducing its excretion.

Foods with high purine content such as meats, fish, shellfish as well as alcohol are bad for those suffering from gout. Good foods for gout includes vegetables with low purine content, fruits such as cherries, bananas and apples and low-fat dairy products.


1)    Alcohol intake and risk of incident gout in men: a prospective study

Hyon K Choi, Karen Atkinson, Elizabeth W Karlson, Walter Willett, Gary Curhan

The Lancet  17 April 2004 (Volume 363 Issue 9417 Pages 1277-1281 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(04)16000-5)


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