Does Drinking Coffee Help With Gout?
Coffee! North America’s love affair with the coffee bean or I should say addiction is unparalleled to any other beverage other than water, since we have so much of it. Coffee shops are everywhere, we all have those specialty capsule coffee machines in our homes, and we just can’t get enough java! Coffee is slightly acidic (pH 5.0–5.1) and can have a stimulating effect on humans because of its caffeine content. It is one of the most consumed drinks in the world and I love coffee like anybody else and guess what? It’s good for us gout sufferers to drink a cup or 2 a day! So go ahead, take that trip to Starbucks and enjoy every sip of that Grande Cappuccino, my favorite by the way and add some cinnamon on top, mmm….delicious!
What is the evidence on coffee and gout?
A study conducted over a 12 years span published by the Arthritis and Rheumatology medical journal proved that men over the age of 40 who drink coffee regularly had a lower risk of developing gout. This was a study that followed 45,869 with no history of gout at baseline by the way and 757 of these men developed gout after the 12 years. Furthermore, the more coffee the men drank; the more they decrease their risk of a gout attack the study claimed.
Men who drank 5 or more cups a day appeared to have the lowest risk. Drinking one to three cups of coffee a day lowered gout risk by only 8%. The risk of gout was 40% lower for men who drank four to five cups a day and 59% lower for men who drank six or more cups a day than for men who never drank coffee. Wow! That’s a lot of coffee man! This correlation also seemed to hold true for decaffeinated coffee too! Decaffeinated coffee did have an effect, although it wasn’t as large as the effect of caffeinated coffee. The conclusion the researchers came to was that coffee caused reduction in uric acid levels in the blood stream allowing coffee drinkers to avoid gout.
Why can coffee do this?
When you have gout, your doctor will prescribe you two types of medication: uricosurics and xanthine oxidase inhibitors. Coffee is a methyl xanthine which means it can block the metabolization of purines which are the source of uric acid. When you drink coffee, you essentially keep your uric acid levels low.
In addition, there is a polyphenol in coffee called chlorogenic acid which helps with insulin sensitivity. Decreased insulin sensitivity in the body also means better uric acid elimination.
What about tea?
What is also interesting is that participants answered a questionnaire that assessed coffee and tea consumption over the previous month by checking their uric acid levels in the blood and it showed that it decreased with increased coffee intake but not with tea intake. “These findings suggest that components of coffee other than caffeine contribute to the observed inverse association between coffee intake and uric acid levels,” the researchers state.  It’s not clear why coffee lowers gout risk. The researchers note that coffee is a major source of a strong antioxidant, phenol chlorogenic acid, that may affect gout risk.One glaring omission from this report is the effect of milk, which is often taken in coffee and the correlation between the uric acid lowering potential in dairy proteins.
Coffee side effects
Coffee is a widely popular drink but it comes with caveats. First, it’s addictive. One can go from drinking one cup to five cups a day so be very careful with this. On your days where you had less hours of sleep, it’s okay to have one more cup than the usual but don’t make it a daily habit. It’s very easy to fall into this routine and become dependent on coffee.
Caffeine has also been known to cause stomach upset and vomiting. If you find that you’re sensitive to coffee and react this way, minimize your consumption or avoid it completely. Another side effect is insomnia and restlessness. Because coffee is a stimulant, it can make you hyperactive even at times when you should already be relaxing.
One thing about gout is that stress and lack of sleep can exacerbate it. So try to avoid drinking coffee in the late afternoon. Schedule your day so that all your important tasks are done in the first half. That way, you don’t need to rely on coffee to perform these activities. Avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon will also allow you to sleep better at night.
More serious side effects of caffeine includes elevated high blood pressure and rapid heart rate. If you have an existing heart problem, you cannot drink too much coffee as this may make your condition worse.
A lesser known side effect of coffee is fatigue. Coffee can definitely boost your energy levels but you might find yourself feeling tired the next day after the previous day’s caffeine binging.
Can coffee cure my gout?
Remember that this does not mean that drinking coffee will cure your gout, just that if you drink coffee then, statistically, you may be less likely to get gout. I am not recommending you drink 4 or more cups of coffee a day because men more than women may experience side effects of heavy caffeine intake, including insomnia, fast heartbeat, muscle tremors and nervousness. If anything mix it up with some decaf coffee. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, reduce your coffee consumption or caffeine from other sources. Choose organic coffee over the regular Folgers or Maxwell House type of coffees.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on what you add to your coffee, particularly cream and sugar. Some people go overboard with this and the essence of coffee disappears because they drown it with so much cream and sweetener.
Starting with creamer, opt only for whole options like milk or almond milk. These are healthier choices compared to the small white packets of creamer. As for sweetening it, you can get away with plain old brown sugar but it’s best to explore healthier options as well like maple syrup, honey, or stevia. These are natural and are less likely to cause a gout attack.
To take it one step further, you might even want to buy your own coffee beans and grind them at home. Just use the blender you already have and make your own coffee with a french press. Making coffee this way makes it taste so much better than processed coffee. It also makes you less likely to add anything to it since it already tastes amazing by itself.
Caffeine may elevate blood sugars and make them more difficult to control in diabetics, so please be careful if you are a diabetic. It can also cause elevation in blood pressure and heart rate in people with hypertension or heart disease. Talk to your doctor before increasing your caffeine consumption particularly if you have other medical problems.
 Choi HK, Curhan G. Coffee, tea, and caffeine consumption and serum uric acid level: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arthritis Rheum (Arthritis Care Res). June 2007 (DOI: 10.1002/art.22762).
Posted by Spiro Koulouris