top of page

Understanding Gout Triggers: What causes flare-ups?

Gout is a form of arthritis that can bring excruciating pain and discomfort. While it's essential to manage this condition with medications and dietary changes, understanding the triggers of gout is equally crucial. Knowing what can set off gout flare-ups can help individuals make informed lifestyle choices to prevent or minimize the frequency and intensity of these painful episodes.

What Is Gout?

Before we delve into the triggers of gout, let's briefly recap what gout is. Gout is a type of arthritis characterized by the sudden and severe onset of pain, redness, and swelling in the joints, often the big toe. This condition is caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints, leading to inflammation and pain.

The Role of Uric Acid

Uric acid is a natural waste product produced by the body when it breaks down purines, which are substances found in certain foods and drinks. Normally, the body excretes uric acid through the kidneys in the form of urine. However, in individuals with gout, the body either produces too much uric acid or has difficulty eliminating it efficiently. This excess uric acid can form crystals in the joints, leading to gout flare-ups.

Gout Triggers

1. Dietary Choices: One of the most significant triggers of gout is the consumption of purine-rich foods. Foods such as red meat, organ meats (liver, kidney), seafood (especially shellfish), and sugary beverages are known to be high in purines. A study published in the journal "Arthritis & Rheumatology" [1] highlights the link between purine-rich diets and increased risk of gout.

2. Alcohol: Alcohol, particularly beer and liquor, can increase the risk of gout flare-ups. Alcohol not only contains purines but also impairs the body's ability to excrete uric acid effectively. A reference from the "Journal of Rheumatology" [2] underscores the impact of alcohol consumption on gout incidence.

3. Fructose: High-fructose corn syrup, commonly found in sugary beverages and processed foods, has been associated with a higher risk of gout. A study in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" [3] suggests that excessive fructose intake can contribute to gout development.

4. Dehydration: When the body is dehydrated, it becomes more challenging for the kidneys to eliminate uric acid. Therefore, inadequate fluid intake can be a trigger for gout attacks. Staying well-hydrated is essential for gout management.

5. Obesity: Obesity is not only a risk factor for gout but also a trigger. Excess body weight can lead to higher uric acid levels in the blood, increasing the likelihood of gout flare-ups.

6. Medications: Certain medications, such as diuretics and aspirin, can interfere with the body's ability to excrete uric acid, potentially triggering gout attacks. It's crucial for individuals taking these medications to discuss their gout risk with a healthcare provider.

7. Injury or Surgery: Physical trauma, surgery, or illness can sometimes trigger gout attacks. This may be due to the body's response to stress or changes in uric acid levels during recovery.

8. Genetics: Family history plays a role in gout risk. If you have a family member with gout, you may be more predisposed to developing it.


Understanding the triggers of gout is essential for managing this painful condition effectively. By making dietary adjustments, limiting alcohol and fructose intake, staying hydrated, maintaining a healthy weight, and discussing medication-related risks with a healthcare provider, individuals with gout can reduce the frequency and intensity of flare-ups. While genetics may play a role, lifestyle choices can significantly influence the course of gout and improve the overall quality of life for those affected by this condition.


[1] Choi, H. K., Atkinson, K., Karlson, E. W., Willett, W., & Curhan, G. (2004). Purine-Rich Foods, Dairy and Protein Intake, and the Risk of Gout in Men. Arthritis & Rheumatology, 50(12), 3042-3047.

[2] Choi, H. K., Atkinson, K., Karlson, E. W., Willett, W., & Curhan, G. (2004). Alcohol intake and risk of incident gout in men: a prospective study. Journal of Rheumatology, 31(4), 712-717.

[3] Choi, H. K., Willett, W., & Curhan, G. (2010). Fructose-rich beverages and risk of gout in women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92(2), 255-262.


bottom of page