Health Q&A: gout and alcohol

Dr David Roche / 08 September 2016

Dr Roche on whether it helps to give up alcohol when you have gout.

Q: My husband has just been diagnosed with gout and people keep telling him he’ll have to give up alcohol – is this true? He’s never been a heavy drinker and his doctor hasn’t mentioned it.

A: No, he does not have to give up alcohol but as it is a common trigger for the painful, disabling acute attacks of gout then heavy drinkers should certainly reduce their intake. 

Most gout sufferers have a genetic predisposition to the condition, having a higher than average level of uric acid in their blood.

When uric acid levels reach a critical point crystals begin to form in the joints, the big toe joint being the most likely to be affected.

Various factors cause uric acid levels to rise, alcohol, obesity, diet, poor fluid intake, poor urine output and dehydration.

Uric acid in the body is derived from purines which are present in some alcohols and some foodstuffs.

Port, beer and spirits have high purine levels as do meat, offal, fish, some vegetables and yeast extract.

Sugary drinks also carry an increased  risk of gout. The sugar at fault appears to be fructose, present in many mass produced sweet drinks. 

Most people appear able to control the attacks with a reduction in alcohol intake, care with weight and diet, and  a reduction in sugary drinks.

Those that cannot and who have frequent attacks are usually started on the drug Allopurinol, taken daily, which is very effective at eliminating attacks of gout.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.