What Are Purines and How Do They Affect Gout?

Quincy AdamGout Lifestyle

If you have been diagnosed with gout, you have probably been given a list of foods that are high in purines and told to limit them in your diet. So what are purines and how do they affect gout?

They increase uric acid levels in the body, and high levels can trigger those very painful symptoms that you suffer during a gout attack. Here we’ll get into the details on these substances including where they come from, how they can affect uric acid levels, and how you can minimize your exposure to them to help prevent gout flare-ups.

What Are Purines?

Purines are compounds that are naturally present in all cells of the human body and those of all plants and animals. They play a role in the construction of DNA and RNA, and help cells synthesize, or manufacture, energy and molecules they need for healthy function, among many other crucial functions. The majority of these compounds are made by the body, but we get a significant portion of our total amount of them from the foods we eat as well.

How Do Purines Affect Gout?

When the body has more purines than it needs, it clears out the extras by breaking them down, and uric acid is a waste product of that process. That uric acid enters the bloodstream and is generally carried to the kidneys to be eliminated from the body via urination. However, if you have gout, that process typically is not as efficient as it should be. Your body may be producing more uric acid than the average person, or could be having trouble eliminating it through the kidneys. For many gout patients, some combination of both of these issues may be at work. The end result is a buildup of uric acid in your bloodstream.

When there is too much uric acid in the blood, the excess can form sharp crystals that collect in your joints. The irritation these crystals cause is the basis for the symptoms of gout – the intense pain, swelling, redness and heat that typically afflicts joints during gout attacks.

Those crystals can also, over time, collect in certain areas of the body to form lumps, called tophi, which can develop in joints, causing chronic pain and deformity on the cartilage of the ears and in the kidneys, among other areas.

How to Limit Purines In Your Diet

When you have gout, the less purine you have in your body the better. Your doctor may prescribe medications that can block production of uric acid or increase the amount you eliminate through urination, which can help reduce levels in your blood, but a low-purine diet is also an important part of maintaining healthy uric acid levels. That means limiting red meats, organ meats, seafood and alcohol, as well as foods that contain high fructose corn syrup. Fatty foods and sugary ones are best avoided, and poultry, such as chicken and duck, should also be limited.

Your doctor can help you learn more about what goes into a healthy, low-purine diet. However, if you have already talked to your doctor and are still having a hard time working out a diet that is both satisfying and gout-friendly, a few sessions with a nutritionist may be a wise investment. After all, given the often excruciating nature of gout flare-ups, you’ll certainly want to do all you can to avoid them.