Controlling the amount of uric acid in your body plays a crucial role in managing gout -- a painful form of arthritis that occurs when uric acid crystals accumulate in your joints. Uric acid is a waste product created when your body breaks down dietary substances called purines. Making dietary changes is the primary way to reduce uric acid levels and prevent painful attacks. Lowering uric acid levels with diet takes time. Some people will need the addition of medication to manage their uric acid level. Talk to your doctor about medication if you need to quickly get your uric acid level under control.
Understanding Gout, Purines and Uric Acid
Purines are found in many foods, but because some foods contain larger amounts, doctors prescribe a low-purine meal plan if you have gout. Controlling how much purine-rich food you eat lowers the uric acid in your body. Various factors cause higher-than-normal uric acid levels. Certain medications cause uric acid to rise, while drinking excess alcohol and eating too much purine-rich food are also factors. Some people have a genetic predisposition toward developing gout too. In many cases, however, uric acid rises due to reduced kidney function, because the kidneys are responsible for removing uric acid from your body.
Avoid Foods Very High in Purines
Restricting purine intake to about 100 to 150 milligrams per day is a good starting point. If your gout is well controlled, however, you may be able to tolerate more than this amount, so follow your doctor's guidance. Very-high-purine foods contain anywhere from 100 to 1,000 milligrams per 3-ounce serving, so aim to avoid them completely. Examples include organ meats, bacon, venison, meat extracts, yeast extract and broth. Certain fish and seafood -- like anchovy, herring, haddock, mackerel, sardines, mussels, shrimp and scallops -- contain very high amounts of purine.
Cut Back on Moderate-Purine Foods
Besides the previously mentioned fish, other fish and seafood have a moderate amount of purine. Some other foods with moderate purine include poultry, red meat, dried beans, mushrooms, dried peas, lentils, asparagus, whole grains and spinach. It's not necessary to completely avoid these foods, especially because they provide needed nutrients. Instead, your doctor or dietitian may limit your portion sizes and the amount of times per week you're permitted to eat moderate-purine foods.
Other Ways to Reduce Uric Acid
Alcohol is a common gout trigger. If you're prone to attacks, limit your alcohol consumption. Avoid alcohol when you're having a flareup. Stay away from sugary drinks and fruit juice as well, because sugar-sweetened beverages increase the risk of gout attacks. Counter uric acid by eating plenty of vegetables, as they help lower uric acid. Dietary fat increases uric acid production, so it's best to stick to a low-fat diet. Water doesn't lower uric acid, but it dilutes it, which helps prevent gout attacks. Make sure you're drinking at least eight glasses of water each day, and drink a glass before and after meals. A dairy-rich diet also reduces the risk of gout, but it's necessary to choose low-fat options.