The other day, my friend Joey complained that he was suffering from arthritis—but it was more than just everyday joint pain and stiffness. Joey showed me his big toe and it was the size of a golf ball! An inflamed big toe is a symptom of a common form of arthritis called gout. It is a condition that affects 8.3 million Americans.
What does this have to do with uric acid? Gout is caused from elevated uric acid crystals in the blood, also called hyperuricemia. The uric acid is not properly absorbed and a digestive enzyme will allow the crystals to be passed in the urine.
High uric acid in the kidneys is also associated with kidney stones and kidney failure. Studies suggest that elevated uric acid levels in the blood can lead to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
Other factors that contribute to high uric acid levels include obesity, an underactive thyroid, psoriasis, diabetes, diuretic medications, and immune-suppressing drugs.
I told Joey that his diet also played a big role in his gout attacks and high uric acid levels. For instance, Joey’s lifestyle consists of a high-fat diet that is rich in refined carbohydrates—foods that can help contribute to gout attacks.
A previous doctor prescribed Joey with medications to reduce the uric acid in his blood, including xanthine oxidase inhibitors and uricosuric agents
I’m not like most doctors. I believe in Joey. And the truth is, a healthy gout diet is one of the best approaches to reduce the uric acid levels in the blood.
10 Foods That Reduce Uric Acid
Keep in mind that uric acid crystals form after the breakdown of purines. In fact, purines are known to increase the level of uric acid in the blood. Since some purines are taken in through the diet, a low uric acid diet is also a low-purine diet. With that being said, here are the best foods that will help lower uric acid levels in your blood:
Cherries are among the top foods that lower uric acid levels. They help prevent uric acid crystallization in the joints and they contain powerful compounds called bioflavonoids, proanthocyanidins, and anthocyanins. In a 2012 study published in the journal Arthritis Rheumatism, researchers discovered that cherry consumption reduced gout attacks by 35% in 633 people with gout.
2. Apple cider vinegar:
Apple cider vinegar should also be included in a low-uric acid diet. The malic acid in apple cider vinegar is thought to help break down and remove uric acid from the body. It also contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is best to add one to three teaspoons of raw, organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to eight ounces of water. Drink the apple cider mixture two to three times daily to help control uric acid. In general, apples can also help control uric acid levels.
3. Lemon juice:
Vitamin C is important in a low-uric acid diet. Lemon juice is a good source of vitamin C and citric acid. Lemon juice will stimulate calcium carbonate formation—as a result, uric acid is controlled. The citric acid and vitamin C in lime can also help lower uric acid levels. It is a good idea to add freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice to a glass of water and drink it after meals to prevent gout attacks.
4. Olive oil and olives:
Olives and extra virgin olive oil are considered good alternatives to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and they are among the foods that lower uric acid levels. The antioxidant vitamin E in olives and olive oil is considered vital to control uric acid levels. It is best to add olive oil to salads, vegetables, and pastas. Avoid using the olive oil for deep-frying, especially since gout sufferers should always avoid fried foods.
5. Organic eggs:
Eggs are considered a low purine food and should be included among the foods that lower uric acid.
Keep in mind that protein intake should not be excessive. It is best to limit your protein intake to 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.
In general, blueberries, hawthorn berries, strawberries, goji berries, cranberries, as well as other dark blue or red berries and fruits should be part of the low-uric acid diet. Berries were featured as foods to eat with gout in a 2012 study published in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal. Like cherries, berries are rich in proanthocyanidins and anthocyanidins. These bioflavonoids help prevent collagen destruction and inflammation.
7. Brazil nuts:
Brazil nuts can help lower uric acid levels. They contain only 23 milligrams (mg) of purines per cup. Most nuts contain less than 40 mg of purines; however, peanuts are the exception—they contain nearly 79 mg of purines per cup. Walnuts also control uric acid levels, and they contain 25 mg of purines per cup. Other low-purine nuts include cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts.
8. Pinto beans:
Dietary folate is very important in the treatment of gout, and foods high in folate can help reduce uric acid levels. Pinto beans are an excellent source of folate and they contain a lower amount of purines (57 mg per cup). Other low-purine legumes that are good sources of folate include lima beans and chickpeas.
Parsley and its major flavonol constituents, quercetin and kaempferol, can also reduce uric acid levels. Parsley will act like a natural diuretic and help your body excrete excess uric acid. A 2011 study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research found that parsley, quercetin, and kaempferol significantly reduced uric acid levels in hyperuricemic rats. A particular bioflavonoid flavone in parsley called apigenin can also reduce uric acid levels. Apigenin can inhibit the enzyme xanthine oxidase, which is responsible for the conversion of purines to uric acid.
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are a good source of essential fatty acids that can help reduce inflammation. In a study published in 2011, researchers from Brazil found that flaxseeds reduced uric acid levels better than soybean oil in rats.
The flaxseed supplement reduced uric acid levels by 34% after 180 days.
What Foods Should You Avoid with Gout?
It is best to avoid purine-rich foods, including anchovies, sardines, mussels, fish eggs (roe), yeast, sweetbreads, herring, mackerel, gravy, and organ meats (i.e. kidneys, liver, and brains). I know that many people can’t live without bacon, but bacon is also on the purine-rich list of foods to avoid.
Other foods with high or moderately high purine levels include beef, cod, salmon, tuna, lamb, lentils, scallops, bouillon, shrimp, turkey, venison, asparagus, cauliflower, chicken, kidney beans, lima beans, mushrooms, navy beans, peas, spinach, rhubarb, and oatmeal.
Other Natural Remedies to Lower Uric Acid Levels
To help reduce uric acid levels in the blood, stick with natural remedies and supplements, such as vitamin C (500 mg to 1,500 mg), fish oil supplements with 500 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), evening primrose oil, protease enzyme products, and capsaicin creams. Quercetin and folate (folic acid) are known to naturally inhibit xanthine oxidase.
Anti-inflammatory herbal remedies will also help control uric acid levels. Try olive leaf extract, milk thistle, celery seed extract, capsaicin in cayenne pepper, artichokes, grape seed extract, nettle root, devil’s claw, dandelion root, celery seed extract, pine bark extract, bromelain, chlorella, ashwagandha, and castor oil packs. Homeopathic remedies can also benefit people with gout, including arnica montana, belladonna, ledum, bryonia, pulsatilla, sulphur, and rhododendron.
There are a couple of contraindications with nutritional supplements and gout. Niacin (vitamin B3) will compete with uric acid for excretion. Also, over 3,000 mg daily of vitamin C may increase uric acid levels in some people. Speak with your doctor before embarking on a new diet plan.
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- Why You Might Be Susceptible to Gout
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Sources for Today’s article:
Zhang, Y., et al., “Cherry consumption and decreased risk of recurrent gout attacks,” Arthritis Rheumatism 2012; 64(12): 2004-2011; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23023818.
Bruso, J., “What Kind of Beans Are Good for a Low Purine Diet?” SFGate web site; http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/kind-beans-good-low-purine-diet-10856.html, last accessed August 4, 2015.