Healthcare professionals often recommend a low-purine diet for people who have gout, kidney stones, or a similar disorder.
The diet involves limiting or avoiding the intake of certain foods and beverages in favor of more healthful alternatives.
While a low-purine diet is designed to ease symptoms of certain illnesses, it can also improve general health and well-being.
In this article, learn which foods a person on a low-purine diet should eat and which they should avoid.
Purines are organic compounds that are not necessarily harmful. In fact, it is natural for the body to contain some purines at all times.
However, purines break down into a waste substance called uric acid. Most uric acid dissolves harmlessly in the blood before the kidneys filter it and remove it from the body.
The breakdown of purines is responsible for about 15 percent of the uric acid in the body.
A low-purine diet helps to minimize the number of purines in the body and reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood.
There are two key parts of a successful low-purine diet. The first involves recognizing and avoiding foods that contain high levels of purines.
The second consists in changing the diet to help the body get rid of uric acid more efficiently.
Uric acid crystals can form kidney stones or cause gout if they build up in the joints and tendons.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, a low-purine diet can lower the levels of uric acid in the bloodstream and reduce the risk of severe complications.
People with high levels of uric acid in the blood have a condition called hyperuricemia, and a low-purine diet can help.
Foods that contain high levels of purines include:
- wild game, such as veal, venison, and duck
- red meat
- some seafood, including tuna, sardines, anchovies, herring, mussels, codfish, scallops, trout, and haddock
- organ meat, such as liver, kidneys, and thymus glands, which are known as sweetbreads
Other foods and beverages can change how the body retains or eliminates uric acid.
A person should significantly limit or avoid the following foods to help the body process purines more effectively:
- High-fat foods: Fat holds uric acid in the kidneys, so a person should avoid fried foods, full-fat dairy products, rich desserts, and other high-fat items.
- Alcohol: Beer and whiskey are high in purines, but some research shows that all alcohol consumption can raise uric acid levels. Alcohol also causes dehydration, which hampers the body's ability to flush out uric acid.
- Sweetened beverages: Fructose is an ingredient in many sweetened beverages, including fruit juices and sodas, and consuming too much puts a person at risk for gout.
People on a low-purine diet can still enjoy plenty of foods and beverages. Good choices include:
- Water: Staying hydrated helps the kidneys to remove uric acid from the bloodstream and the body.
- Low-fat dairy products: Low-fat and fat-free options are best for foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and frozen yogurt.
- Grains and starch: These include foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. Favor whole-grain products.
- Fruits and vegetables: All vegetables are healthful, and a person should favor whole fruits and juices with no added sugar.
- Vitamin C: Good sources of vitamin C include grapefruit, oranges, pineapples, strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, and avocados.
- Lean proteins: Doctors do not believe that small or moderate amounts of poultry and fish will raise purine levels.
- Eggs: However, a person should only consumer moderate amounts.
- Coffee, tea, carbonated beverages.
While a low-purine diet can help to prevent kidney stones or flare-ups of gout, the diet is not a cure for either condition. A person should discuss further treatment options with a doctor.
Medication can also help to lower chronically high uric acid levels. Two common drugs that doctors prescribe are probenecid and allopurinol. These medications can regulate uric acid levels in the long term.
A low-purine diet cannot ease a gout flare-up while it is happening, but over-the-counter medications, such as naproxen (Aleve), can help. Prescription-strength treatments are also available.
A low-purine diet can reduce uric acid levels. It may also help people who are overweight or obese to lose weight. These changes can prevent kidney stones and flare-ups of gout.
Always speak with a doctor before embarking on a new diet, especially one that aims to address a health issue.
The doctor can provide tips, and they may recommend additional medical treatments to reduce symptoms.