Uric acid is a substance found in your body that is normally no cause of concern. When found in high levels, however, it may lead to several health conditions, namely gout and uric acid kidney stones. Diet is known to impact uric acid levels, which is why making changes to your meals and lifestyle can be of help when living with these conditions, according to experts.
The following text is based on information by the British National Health System (NHS) and charity UK Gout Society. It is meant for general purposes only. Do not rely on it as a substitute for actual diagnosis or guidance your doctor may offer, as it does not constitute any form of medical advice. Talk to your doctor, registered dietitian or healthcare provider if you suspect you may have high uric acid levels or are experiencing gout symptoms.
What is uric acid?
Uric acid is a waste product found in your blood that is produced after your body processes chemical compounds called purines. These are normally found in your body, but you can also find them in some foods you eat, increasing uric acid production. Normally, this acid is excreted in the form of urine, but sometimes uric acid accumulates in the body, forming crystals around joints.
Too much uric acid or an inability to process it correctly can lead to gout, a form of arthritis directly linked to this substance. Gout symptoms appear in the form of flares or “attacks” that cause inflammation in affected areas and agonising pain. These episodes usually come and go, as gout sufferers tend to alternate flares and easier phases where symptoms disappear.
Family history is sometimes a risk factor for gout. This condition is more prevalent in older men, according to information by the NHS. The risk is also higher among overweight individuals with high cholesterol levels, kidney problems, diabetes or osteoarthritis. Taking diuretics or medication to lower blood pressure is also linked to a higher risk, and women who have alredy experienced menopause seem more prone to gout as well.Aside from gout, too much uric acid can also accumulate and crystallise into painful kidney stones that can get stuck in your kidney or travel down the urinary tract, much like other types of kidney stones.
Foods to avoid, according to experts
Gout can be treated and prevented through diet, experts say. Reducing your purines intake is the main course of action as far as diet goes. Even if diet is not the only factor at play — and sometimes a genetic predisposition renders the body unable to process uric acid —, it can be an important part of gout management, specialists say. Purines contents vary depending on the type of food, so knowing which are particularly high in these compounds is key. According to UK Gout Society, gout sufferers who eat foods rich in purines are five times more likely to suffer more gout attacks. This sources identifies several types of foods to avoid:
Animal organ meats, like kidneys, liver, heart or sweetbreads.
Game, like rabbit, venison or pheasant.
Oily fish, like anchovies, sardines, mackerel, whitebait or trout
Meat and yeast extracts (Marmite, Bovril)
Mussels, crab, shrimps and other types of seafood
However, not every meat should be banished from your diet, as some types are lower in purines and can therefore be eaten in moderation, like beef, pork or lamb. Chicken and duck are also considered less risky. Talk to your doctor for dietary guidance if you need to restrict your purines intake.