An excess of this substance in the body can lead to crystal deposits in the joints, which causes gout. Reducing dietary intake of these compounds can reduce the uric acid level in the body, and is an important component of managing this disease.
What is purine?
Purine is a natural substance that makes up part of the base structure of RNA and DNA. Because it is part of the genetic material, it occurs in both plants and animals, including humans. When cells in the body die, or foods containing this compound are ingested, the body breaks it down, forming uric acid.
Uric acid is typically eliminated from the body in urine. If the body produces an excess of this substance, or the kidneys are not able to effectively eliminate it, it can build up in the blood.
This is associated with gout, as uric acid crystals can build up in the joints, causing severe pain.
What foods are restricted on a low purine diet?
Restricting this substance in your eating habits can help lower the amount of uric acid in the body, which may decrease the risk and severity of gout attacks. Combined with other healthy lifestyle measures and prescribed medications, changing your nutrition can help manage your symptoms. If your doctor prescribes such a diet, it will probably include avoiding or eliminating foods that are high in this natural chemical such as:
- Organ meats (kidneys, livers, brains, and sweetbreads)
- Red meat, game meats, and most poultry
- Shellfish and most other seafood
- Alcohol, especially beer
- Gravies, stocks, and other meat concentrates
Though not high in purine, studies have shown that foods and beverages containing high levels of fructose, such as sodas and other drinks sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, can increase the risk of attacks.1 These foods should also be limited.
If your doctor has you on this type of diet, you may also need to limit your intake of certain plant foods that contain high levels of this substance, such as beans, lentils, oatmeal, raisins, spinach, asparagus, and mushrooms. Though there are no specific restrictions on these foods, as most individuals can process plant purines better than animal purines. It is always a good idea to monitor yourself for symptoms, as individual triggers may vary.
What is allowed on a low purine diet?
Though it may seem to be restrictive, there are still many foods allowed on this type of diet. Foods that are generally considered safe to eat include:
- Most fruits and vegetables. Unless you have a reaction to a specific plant food, you may not need to restrict your fruit and vegetable intake.
- Nuts and nut butters
- Breads and cereals.
- Coffee, tea, and diet soda
In addition to these foods, low-fat dairy products are recommended, as they have been shown to have a protective effect against gout.2 It is also a good idea to drink plenty of water, as this will help the body flush the uric acid out of the blood.
While dietary changes alone are often not sufficient to completely prevent recurrent gout attacks, following a low purine diet in addition to other healthy lifestyle measures such as regular exercise can reduce the frequency and lessen the severity of your symptoms. Your doctor and nutritionist will be able to assist you in putting together a dietary plan that works to help control your gout.
2 Choi HK, Atkinson K, Karlson EW, Willett W, Curhan G. “Purine-rich foods, dairy and protein intake, and the risk of gout in men.” N Engl J Med. 2004 Mar 11;350(11):1093–1103. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15014182. Accessed April 9, 2015.