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Uric acid is formed when the body breaks down purines- crystalline compounds that are found in certain foods. This naturally occurring waste product usually dissolves in the blood, passes through the kidneys and is removed from the body by the way of urine.
If you indulge in a diet that is high in purine, or if your kidneys are not able to get rid of excess uric acid, then this results in high uric acid levels, a situation also known as hyperuricemia, which ultimately leads to gout.
In gout (gouty arthritis) the uric acid crystals deposit in the joints, and most commonly in the big toe. High levels of uric acid can also lead to the formation of kidney stones and renal failure. Recent studies have also associated high blood uric acid levels with diabetes and heart disease. (1)
Causes of High Uric Acid Levels
The primary causes of high uric acid levels are increased production of uric acid and inability of the kidney in eliminating the uric acid from the body.
A number of secondary factors may also result in high levels of uric acid, like:
- Diuretics, sometimes called water pills, rid the body of salt and water
- Excessive alcohol
- Family history
- Immune-suppressing drugs
- Vitamin B-3
- Purine-rich diet like seafood, organ meats, processed food items, and foods high in fructose/sugar. (2)
- Inability of the kidneys to filter waste
- Cancers or chemotherapy
- Sugar-sweetened soft drinks (3)
- Hormonal issues
- Metabolic imbalances
Exercising, fasting and crash dieting may elevate uric acid levels temporarily.
Symptoms of High Uric Acid Levels
High levels of uric acid in the body are indicated by 3 types of symptoms:
- Joint symptoms – High concentration of uric acid in joints leads to symptoms in the form of gout which includes pain, inflammation, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joints like heels, ankles, knees, fingers, wrists, and elbows when touched.
- Skin symptoms – After many years of high uric acid levels, the crystals of uric acid tend to form lumps beneath the skin, known as tophi. Though they are not usually painful, the tophi can become swollen and tender during gout attacks.
- Kidney symptoms – High uric acid levels may also lead to the formation of kidney stones, especially among men. The symptoms of which include back pain, pain in the abdomen, severe pain in the groin area, a high fever, cold chills, nausea and vomiting, and blood in the urine.
Testing High Uric Acid Levels
Uric acid levels can be determined with a sampling of blood. Additional testing may be used to rule out other conditions.
Normal uric acid levels are (values may vary at different labs):
- Men: 3.4–7.0 mg/dL
- Women: 2.4–6.0 mg/dL
The painful symptoms associated with gouty arthritis may be present even when uric acid levels are in the normal range.
Dietary Changes That Help Lower Uric Acid Levels
Here are some ways to control uric acid levels.
1. Changes in diet
The first step towards controlling the rising levels of uric acid is eliminating the primary agent resulting in increased uric acid, i.e., purine. Avoid indulging in purine-rich food and adopt an alkaline diet instead.
Purines are nitrogen-containing compounds that break down into uric acid, thus increasing levels in the body. They are mostly found in animal proteins.
Fresh green vegetables are helpful in alkalinizing the blood and can reduce uric acid levels. Limit meat and seafood intake as they typically contain purine, a compound that can contribute to uric acid formation.
An alkaline diet helps to reduce inflammation in the body and can alleviate the discomfort that accompanies gouty arthritis. (4)
According to a study published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases in 2011, animal protein and seafood consumption led to higher chances of hyperuricemia while consuming soy products led to lower cases of hyperuricemia among middle-aged Chinese men. (5)
You can also drink green papaya tea to prevent the buildup of uric acid and treat uric acid and gout-related problems. The papain in green papaya helps the body maintain an alkaline state and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.
2. High-fiber foods and starchy carbohydrates
Foods high in dietary fiber help lower uric acid levels by absorbing it and then eliminating it from the body. You can also eat foods with starchy carbohydrates as they contain only small amounts of purine.
According to the latest research, a high-fiber diet is helpful in inhibiting inflammation that is caused by monosodium urate (MSU) crystals resulting from gout. (6)
Whole grains, apples, pears, oranges, and strawberries are some examples of high-fiber foods that you can incorporate in your diet. Starchy carbohydrates are foods like rice, whole grain pasta, tapioca (also called sabudana), quinoa, potato, oats, and bananas. Avoid processed foods and excess sugar.
3. Lemon juice
Lemon juice actually helps to make the body more alkaline. It helps to neutralize uric acid by prompting the production of calcium carbonate. (7) It also contains vitamin C which can help lower uric acid levels. (8)
How to consume:
- Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a glass of warm water. Drink it in the morning on an empty stomach. Continue for at least a few weeks.
- You can also take vitamin C supplements. For proper dosage and suitability, consult your doctor.
Cherries and dark berries contain chemicals that help reduce uric acid levels.
Purple and blue-colored berries contain flavonoids called anthocyanins that help lower uric acid and reduce inflammation and stiffness. (9)
Eat ½ cup of cherries daily for a few weeks. You can also drink 1 or 2 cups of tart cherry juice for about 4 weeks.
Drinking plenty of water helps optimize uric acid filtering. It helps dilute the uric acid and stimulates the kidneys to eliminate excess amounts from the body through urine. (12)
Drinking adequate water regularly can reduce the risk of gout attacks. It has been suggested that people who drank 5 to 8 glasses of water in the 24-hour period prior to a possible gout attack had a 40 percent decreased risk of an attack compared with those who drank only 1 glass of water or less.
Drink about 8 to 10 glasses of water throughout the day.
7. Dairy products
Low-fat milk and dairy products have been associated with lower plasma urate concentrations and reduced risk of gout. Skim milk, for example, contains orotic acid that decreases the re-absorption of uric acid and promotes its removal through the kidneys. (13)
How to consume:
- Drink 1 to 5 cups of skim milk daily.
- You can also include low-fat yogurt and other dairy products in your diet.
Tofu, too, can help alter plasma protein concentration and increase uric acid clearance. Soy milk, however, has been found to increase uric acid.
8. Wheatgrass juice
Wheatgrass helps restore alkalinity in the blood. It is rich in vitamin C, chlorophyll, and phytochemicals that promote detoxification. It is a good source of protein and amino acids as an alternative to eating animal protein. (14)
Simply drink 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of wheatgrass juice mixed with a squeeze of lemon juice daily until your uric acid level comes down.
9. Apple cider vinegar
Though there are no scientific studies to prove its efficacy in controlling the uric acid level, apple cider vinegar has been found to be highly beneficial by many users.
A natural cleanser and detoxifier, apple cider vinegar can help remove wastes like uric acid from the body. It contains malic acid that helps break down and eliminate uric acid. Apple cider vinegar helps restore the alkaline acid balance in the body and provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
How to consume:
- Add 1 teaspoon of raw, organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to 1 glass of water.
- Drink this solution 2 or 3 times a day.
You can gradually increase the amount of apple cider vinegar up to 2 tablespoons per glass of water and continue this remedy until your uric acid levels come down.
Note: Do not take apple cider vinegar in excess as it may decrease potassium levels in the body. It may interfere with diuretic drugs. Heavy consumption of apple cider vinegar may contribute to stomach complaints and erosion of dental enamel.
10. Baking soda
Baking soda, also called bicarbonate of soda, is highly beneficial for lowering uric acid levels and reducing gout pain. It helps maintain the natural alkaline balance in the body and makes the uric acid more soluble and easier to flush out of the kidneys.
How to consume:
- Mix ½ teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water.
- Drink up to 4 glasses of this daily for 2 weeks. You can drink it every 2 to 4 hours.
Note: Do not take this remedy on a regular basis. Do not follow this remedy if you suffer from high blood pressure or kidney issues. Contact your physician prior to starting this remedy.
Preventing High Uric Acid Levels
- Limit your alcohol intake as it interferes with the elimination of uric acid.
- Avoid high-fructose corn syrup or glucose-fructose syrup as they tend to increase uric acid levels.
- Get regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight. It is believed that fatty tissue tends to increase uric acid production.
- Eat a balanced diet that is high in complex carbohydrates and low in protein. Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white bread, cakes, and candies.
- Cut back on foods high in fat as it lowers the body’s ability to eliminate uric acid.
When to See a Doctor
You would need to consult the doctor in cases where there is:
- Localized joint pain, that is red and inflamed
- Shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort
- Bleeding that does not stop in a few minutes
- Occurrence of new rashes on your skin – especially if you have started any new medication
Hyperuricemia can lead to serious ailments and complications if left untreated. So, it is important to consult a doctor if you notice any symptoms of this condition for proper diagnosis and treatment.
You can also try the above listed tips and remedies as adjunct measures to reduce and control uric acid levels.