What is uric acid and how does it affect your body?

uric acid levels

Have you ever heard of purine? It is a chemical compound found in foods, and lead to the formation of uric acid. Some foods contain more purine than others and are made and broken down in your body. Generally, uric acid is filtered through your kidneys and in urine. However, when you consume too much purine or your body is unable to remove it quickly, it leads to a buildup of uric acid in your body. This may not be good for your overall health. Let us know all about uric acid and how it affects your body.

What is uric acid?

Uric acid refers to the chemical created when the body breaks down purines, which is a compound found in various foods. Too much purine can lead to high uric acid, also known as hyperuricemia. Uric acid levels are considered high when it is greater than 7 mg/dl in men and 6 mg/dl in women. As per data in the journal StatPearls, hyperuricemia affects 38 million Americans. And the incidence of the  condition is increasing across the world.

High levels of uric acid may lead to gout or kidney stones. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Uric acid is a waste product created when your body breaks down chemicals called purine in your food. Uric is generally dissolved in the blood, processed by the kidneys, and eliminated from the body through urine. However, too much uric acid can lead to a buildup and form crystals, which can deposit in the joints, leading to a condition known as gout. They can also accumulate in the kidneys and lead to kidney stones. Gout is characterized by sudden and severe joint pain, especially in the big toe but it can affect your joints. Managing uric acid levels through dietary changes and medications to prevent complications like gout and kidney stones.

What are the symptoms of high uric acid?

High uric acid levels may not cause any significant changes in your body. However, a person may experience some symptoms in case the uric acid levels are high enough to cause kidney stones or gout.

Symptoms of gout include:

  • Discolouration or redness of joints
  • Painful or swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness
  • Tender bones

Symptoms of kidney stones

  • Pain in the lower back or side
  • Back pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Cloudy, smelly, or bloody urine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Inability to urinate

What causes high uric acid?

1. High purine foods

The acid is created in the body after breaking down foods rich in purine. When eaten in moderation, purine foods do not lead to problems. However, regular consumption of foods high in purine can lead to hyperuricemia. Foods and drinks high in purine include:

  • Red meat
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Shellfish
  • Organ meats

2. Other causes

The main cause of high uric acid levels is eating foods rich in purine regularly, but other reasons could also lead to high levels of it in the body:

  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • High blood pressure or hypertension
  • Drinking too much soda
  • Diuretics
  • Immune-suppressing drugs
  • Obesity
  • Psoriasis
  • Niacin or vitamin B3
  • Kidney problems
  • Genetics
  • Drinking or eating foods that contain fructose
  • Leukemia
  • Metabolic syndrome

There could be other reasons that may trigger high levels of the acid, so it is best to check with a doctor to avoid any complications.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing the condition may involve a series of tests, medical history, and physical examination. Your doctor will diagnose hyperuricemia with a blood test to measure the acid in your blood.

Treatment of high uric acid

High uric acid treatment may include a low-purine diet. It aids in lowering the concentration of purines, which lowers these levels. Limiting the use of specific foods and drinks, such as alcohol, red meat, and shellfish, may be recommended by the physician. You may be recommended to use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) to lessen gout-related inflammation. Certain drugs may occasionally also aid in reducing inflammation.

Kidney stones can disappear on their own or occasionally need to be removed by a doctor. The physician might advise drinking more water and abstaining from alcohol and fizzy beverages.

How to prevent high uric acid levels?

1. Maintain healthy weight

Did you know excess weight can contribute to high levels of uric acid? Try to keep your weight in check by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, says the expert.

2. Drink lots of water

Your body gets rid of it through your kidneys. A study published in the Journal of Advanced Research found that your kidneys filter out 70 percent of this acid in your body, and the best way to flush it out is by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This will help prevent the buildup in your body.

3. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol can increase uric acid production and reduce its excretion. You should try to avoid drinking too much alcohol.

4. Keep your protein intake in check

While protein is essential for maintaining your bodily functions, excessive consumption of high-protein foods can increase the acid levels. Choose lean sources of protein and balance your intake to avoid problems.

5. Limit sugary foods

Fruits and honey contain fructose, which is a natural sugar, which when broken down releases purine and increases levels of the acid, as found in a study published in StatPearls. High intake of sugary foods and beverages, especially those containing fructose, can also contribute to the problem. It is best to avoid consuming sugary drinks, sweets, and processed foods.

6. Manage stress

Chronic stress can trigger inflammation and contribute to the buildup. Practice meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or hobbies you enjoy to keep stress levels in check.

A stressed woman
Stress may also trigger gout. Image courtesy: Freepik

7. Limit purine-rich foods

Foods that contain purine increase your risk of having hyperuricemia. You should avoid purine-rich foods such as red meat, organ meats, fish, etc, to avoid high uric acid levels.

8. Eat more fibre

Increasing fibre consumption can lower uric acid levels. Additionally, fibre can assist in maintaining insulin and blood sugar homeostasis. It usually increases satiety, which prolongs the feeling of fullness.

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