Is Your Uric Acid Balanced Today?
Uric acid is a substance that is normally found in our blood. When we eat certain foods such as meats, grains and beans, the purines in these foods contribute to blood uric acid levels. Like the more familiar ascorbic acid, uric acid is both an electron donor and potent antioxidant when properly balanced in the body. In fact, uric acid makes up half our blood plasma's antioxidant capacity! It's only when uric acid levels in the body become unbalanced that problems begin. Low levels of uric acid have been associated with multiple sclerosis. High levels of uric acid have been tied to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, uric acid stone formation, and most commonly, gout. Gout is actually considered a type of arthritis, and is caused by a buildup and crystallization of uric acid in the joints. In some people, gout comes and goes and is never heard from again. Yet, in more than half of people who experience gout, the joint pain and inflammation of gout will return, and typically each time it does, it becomes more severe. Some people will even develop a constant, though less severe form in what's known as 'chronic gout." Chronic gout is a condition that can be quite debilitating and is often confused with other types of arthritis.
The symptoms of gout are actually symptoms of high uric acid. However, by the time gout symptoms appear, uric acid is already far out of balance, and has formed uric acid crystals on one or more of the joints. Symptoms of excess uric acid and gout can include:
- Pain that starts in the big toe joint
- Warmth, pain, and swelling in joints - most typically in the toes, ankles, knees, and sometimes in the hips, fingers, wrists and elbows
- Intense pain, especially at night
- A rapid increase in discomfort
- Very red/purplish skin which may appear infected
- Limited joint movement
- "Tophi" (hardened nodules on the joints)
- Infrequent but intense attacks, or ever present though less severe chronic gout
Gout can develop in any one at any time, but there are certain risk factors that make you more susceptible. These include:
- Being male
- A history of gout in the family
- Regular or heavy consumption of alcohol, especially beer
- A diet of purine-rich foods such as meats, grains and beans
- Diuretics use
- Regular aspirin use
- Frequent dehydration
- Serious illness or infection
- Exposure to lead
- Kidney problems
- Very low-calorie diets
- Joint injury
At Home Treatment
Though gout can strike randomly, you don't need to wait for it before you do something about it. There are ways you can lower your risk of reoccurrence and reduce the severity of symptoms at home, helping ensure your peace of mind and consistently active lifestyle.
IMPROVE YOUR DIET
A healthy diet is a big part of uric acid and gout symptom management. As discussed, high-purine foods increase uric acid levels in the body, which is exactly what a gout sufferer wants to avoid. Limit high purine foods, such as:
- Dried Peas
- Game Meats
- Green Peas
- Meat Extracts (often found in broth)
- Organ Meats
- Sea Salt
- Wheat Bran
- Wheat Germ
Of course, many of these foods are otherwise beneficial to health and well being, so when you occasionally enjoy them, make sure you assist your kidney and liver to help remove excess uric acid and decrease risk of a gout attack. Many natural herbs can help boost kidney and liver function, and simply drinking enough water (1/2 oz for every pound of body weight, per day) can help flush out toxins and excess uric acid as well. Because being overweight is also a gout risk factor, you may want to limit the amount of fat and calories you eat, and add exercise to your list of priorities. However, a diet that is too low in calories can also spur attacks. Your best approach is to stay in the normal range of 2,000 - 2,500 calories every day, or consult your health care provider for your individual needs.
AVOID CERTAIN MEDICATIONS
Some medicines may increase the severity or risk of gout. Avoid medications which reduce salt and water in the body, such as diuretics. Niacin should also be avoided in individuals with gout or at risk for developing gout. Low-dose aspirin may also raise uric acid levels. Before making any changes to your medication regimen, it's best to talk to your doctor first.
BE KIND TO YOUR BODY
During attacks especially, listen to your body. If a joint is painful, don't stress it further. Elevate painful joints and rest as much as possible during the attack, and for 24 hours after the attack subsides. Avoid taking aspirin, as it actually increase uric acid levels, and instead opt for ice or topical pain relievers.