If you have gout, it is important to get your uric acid levels tested regularly. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, if you are taking medication, or even natural remedies to lower uric acid levels, you want to make sure that they are actually working. You also want to make sure that you are maintaining a healthy uric acid level – too much uric acid and gout can occur (bad) – too little uric acid and neurological issues can occur (rare, but worse).
Second, uric acid levels can fluctuate wildly, from day to day, even hour to hour. A blood test gives you a snapshot of what your uric acid level is at that moment. You could be having a good day and your uric acid level is low. This might make you feel as though you do not need to take so much medication and scale back. Unfortunately, this will likely result in a gout attack.
At the other end, you could have been having a bad day when you where tested and decide to take more uric acid lowering medication and end up taking too much. Although its very unlikely that you would drive your uric acid down to the point where you would start having neurological problems (below 2.16 mg/dL or 120µmols/L), you still probably want to take the minimum amount of medication needed to stop your gout attacks.
This is why it’s important to get tested frequently. With frequent testing, you can average out your test results to see how you are doing over all. Below is a chart from a study where the subjects where tested every month for a year. These people where not on uric acid lowering medication and shows how much uric acid levels can fluctuate over time.
One gout expert I interviewed mentioned that those with gout should know their uric acid level like someone with diabetes knows their blood sugar level.
Hopfully, you know by now that the key to effectively stopping gout attacks is to keep your uric acid level below 6mg/dL (333µmols/L). If you didn’t, keep reading the posts on this site starting with Gout Basics. If your uric acid level is consistently below 6mg/dL (333µmols/L), there is no way uric acid can crystalize in the body. No crystallization, means no gout attacks.
Spikes in uric acid levels can also trigger an attack any time even if you are doing a good job of controlling your level. Even if you are taking uric acid lowering medication and your uric acid level is consistently below 6mg/dL (333µmols/L) you can trigger an attack by causing a sudden spike in uric acid levels.
How? You can often hear me yelling that gout is NOT caused by diet – it’s a genetic problem. However, that’s not the same as saying diet has nothing to do with gout. If you drink a six-pack of beer and gorge yourself at the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, you will cause your uric acid levels to spike and this can cause a gout attack – even if you are taking uric acid lowering medication and have not had a gout attack in years. Even if you don’t make a pig of yourself, if your uric acid levels are borderline, then it won’t take much to make conditions right for an attack. As alway, the key when talking about diet is not necessarily to restrict the foods you eat, but to eat in moderation! If you eat thirty shrimp that’s not moderation – four or five is. Drinking a six-pack is not moderation – one or two beers is. Having that one or two beers every day is not moderation – drinking it on occasion is.
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