Purines are chemical compounds that break down to form uric acid. Purines are mostly endogenous in origin, which is to say, most are made within the body as a byproduct of chemical reactions, rather than consumed directly. Purine-rich foods include beer, alcohol, meats, and seafood. Uric acid usually dissolves in the body, but when produced or consumed in excess, or when inadequately excreted in urine, it can lead to medical problems.
A low-purine diet is advisable if medical problems are related to excess uric acid in the body. One such common disorder is gout. Another disorder characterized by defects in purine-processing reactions is Lesch-Nyhan syndrome; this disorder manifests as severe gout, mental retardation, poor muscular control, and disability. Kidney stones can also be the result of excess uric acid.
A low-purine diet can control the uric acid content in the body without any adverse effects.
To begin, one should consult a doctor to check the blood’s uric acid levels and assess possible causes of high levels found.
Some medicines increase the levels of uric acid in the blood. Diuretics are one such class of medicines. These are used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease. Other medicines that can raise the blood uric acid levels are aspirin, cyclosporine, levodopa, and the B-vitamin niacin. These may need dose adjustment or substitution.
One should also drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, exercise daily, and maintain a healthy body weight.
Foods that have high purine content should be avoided. These include:
• Meats (beef, pork, lamb, etc.)
• Organ meats like kidney, liver, and sweetbreads
• Yeasts and yeast extracts
• Beer, wine, and alcohol should be avoided as it hinders the elimination of uric acid from the body
In addition, sugar contributes to weight gain and should be avoided or minimized, though sugar has no direct relation to uric acid levels in the body.
Low-purine foods can be taken without restrictions, except those necessary for weight control. Low-purine foods include:
• Peanuts and peanut butter
• Low-fat cheese
• Beverages like coffee and tea
• Fruits and fruit juices
• Cereals and breads can be consumed in moderation without the fear of raising uric acid levels. Drink a lot of water as water helps to flush out excess uric acid from the body.
Medium-purine foods can be taken in moderation. These include:
• Wheat germ
A doctor should be able to provide a complete breakdown of low-, medium-, and high-purine foods.
Discontinuation of a low-purine diet, especially abrupt discontinuation, can build up more uric acid in the blood, which can cause an attack of gout. There can be intense pain in the toes, ankles, feet, hands, and/or wrists.
After a few hours of disabling pain, there can be discomfort in the joint or joints. The affected joints may be red and painful to the touch, due to inflammation. Uric acid may get deposited in the kidneys while the blood is being filtered and can lead to kidney stones.