Uric acid is a waste substance found in your blood. How does it relate to gout? It’s the result of a process in which your organism breaks downs chemicals called purines. From this catabolic process, urid acid is generated in several organs and it’s part of your normal metabolism. However, as with many other substances and nutrients, too much urid acid can, in some cases, become problematic.
The most part of the uric acid generated in your body is dissolved in blood and makes it to your kidneys to be excreted as urine and faeces. When your body produces more uric acid than it’s able to eliminate, or struggles to properly discard it, the acid can accumulate in your blood and give rise to several conditions. This is known as hyperuricemia.
How are uric acid levels measured?
As MedlinePlus notes, your doctor can determine whether your uric acid levels are healthy by performing a basic blood test, usually obtaining blood from a vein in your elbow, just like many other blood tests. This procedure usually requires fasting — not drinking or eating — in the 4 hours leading to the test.
Why is uric acid important?
Even if it’s a waste product, the concentrations of uric acid in your system can cause problems when they are not properly expelled. The main health condition related to hyperuricemia is gout.
Gout is defined by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs) as a very painful and inflammatory form of arthritis that can affect your joints, often the ones located in your big toes. Gout is related to bad uric acid management because it appears when this substance is not properly discarded and accumulates forming uric acid crystals that build up in your body, mostly in your joints.
Symptoms come and go in the form of flares, which are intermittently interrupted by periods of remission. While gout is incurable, the good news is symptoms can be treated with medication and lifestyle changes.
Per this public health agency, hyperuricemia does not necessarily result in gout, as sometimes it doesn’t culminate in gout symptoms and so it doesn’t need treatment. However, they point out that chances of developing gout grow higher if:
You are male
You are obese
You suffer from health conditions such as congestive heart failure, hypertension, insulin resistance, diabetes, poor kidney function or metabolic syndrome.
You take certain medications such as diuretics
You drink alcohol
You ingest food and drinks that are rich in fructose
Your diet is high in purines
In addition to measuring your uric acid levels, doctors can diagnose gout during a flare by using X-rays, physical examination and lab tests that look for crystals, as well as taking note of your symptoms; the CDC indicates.
How does my diet impact uric acid levels and gout?
As mentioned above, uric acid is the result of your body breaking down purines as a normal process that is part of your metabolism. Purines are present in many foods and drinks, including red meat, organ meat and seafood like mussels, scallops, tuna or sardines.
It therefore seems apparent that acting on the intake of these foods and being conscious of the role they play can have a positive impact on your uric acid levels. This is confirmed by the CDC and Arthritis Foundation guidance, which mention diet as an important part of a number of self-management strategies to fight this illness, along with exercise and avoidance of other triggers. The CDC notes that changes to your diet and lifestyle may help in preventing future flares or “attacks”.
With gout and hyperuricemia, following a healthy diet basically means avoiding foods that are known to trigger gout flares — i.e. rich in purines —. As mentioned, the CDC lists red meat, organ meat and seafood as some of this options to avoid.
Obesity is known to heighten the chances to develop gout, so exercising leading a physically active life is recommended. Because of the very nature of arthritis, exercising can be uncomfortable or painful, but it’s still recommended. For these patients, the CDC recommends following a special strategy, known as S.M.A.R.T., to enjoy the benefits of exercise safely.
Start slow, go slow
Modify activity if yor symptoms increase, try to stay active
Activities should be “joint-friendly”
Recognize safe places and ways to be active
Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist.
Quit or limit alcohol consumption
Alcohol can also cause gout flares, with risk increasing as you ingest more. To manage gout, the CDC advises to limit the alcohol intake, especially that of drink beer or hard liquor.