The body naturally produces uric acid as a byproduct of living, then it's eliminated by the kidneys through urine. So why would it suddenly cause you problems? Well, too much of any acid can be a problem! Sometimes the body makes too much. Sometimes it can't get rid of the excess. Then the high uric acid crystallizes. When uric acid crystals form, you may get gout and kidney stones. (1)
Fortunately, delicious foods await! See the recipe below to counteract any uric acid crystals.
What is Hyperuricemia?
That is the diagnosis you'll get if you have high uric acid levels. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans have high uric acid, but most people don't realize it. That only happens when uric acid crystals form, causing problems like gout or kidney stones. (2)
Hyperuricemia has two main causes: either the body makes too much uric acid, or it can't get rid of it. The body makes uric acid during normal metabolism -- it's a natural by-product of energy production. We don't want to reduce energy production! But purine-rich foods cause more uric acid production. (3)
- Pro Tip: You body produces purines with all foods. Again, it's a natural by-product of creating energy in your cells. But some foods lead to higher purine levels, which lead to more uric acid.
Sometimes the kidneys can't process all the uric acid and eliminate it via the urine. When the levels get too high, the acid backs up in the system. Then crystals form, depositing in the joints - causing gout - or in the kidneys - causing kidney stones. (4)
Gout is like a surprise party, but not the fun kind. It can give you sudden pain in your joints, especially in your big toe. That sudden pain can wake you from a deep sleep. The area may be tender and inflamed. Unfortunately, gout can pop up in other places, too. These painful episodes are often triggered by drinking too much alcohol, eating purine-rich foods, or taking diuretics. Obesity and family history also play a role. Chronic hyperuricemia can lead to long-term joint damage and kidney problems. (5)
Besides gout, high uric acid levels can also contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Kidney stones are little crystallized rocks that can develop in your kidneys when things get out of balance. If too much uric acid collects in the kidneys, then tiny, sharp crystals form. Up to 10% of people with kidney stones have uric acid stones. And trust us, you don't want these little rocks hanging out in your kidneys. (6)
Remember, the solution to pollution is dilution! If you have kidney stones, drink more water!
So you have joint stiffness, lower back pain, or other signs of inflammation. What next?
Steps to Reduce Your Uric Acid Load
Yes, if you let high uric acid levels persist for too long, you can develop long-term problems. Fortunately, you can take steps right now to limit your risk of hyperuricemia.
You want to avoid uric acid triggers.
To manage uric acid effectively, it's important to avoid certain foods and lifestyle factors that contribute to the formation of uric acid. High protein or high sugar diets are the main culprits. Here's the lineup: (7)
- Meat: Most meats have a high purine content, including organ and game meats, some seafoods (sardines, anchovies, and shellfish), and processed meat. During digestion and metabolism, the body makes more uric acid from these high purine foods, so limit them or remove them from your diet.
- Alcohol: Beer, in particular, is associated with increased uric acid production. Spirits and wine can also have an impact, so moderate your alcohol intake.
- High-Fructose Foods and Drinks: Foods and beverages high in fructose can lead to increased uric acid production. This list includes both naturally occurring sugars and high fructose corn syrup.
- Fasting without Adequate Hydration: Fasting is a critical detoxification strategy but must be done sensibly. Be sure to drink plenty of water to help clear out uric acid buildup.
- Keto Diet: All foods contain purines, but following a ketogenic diet emphasizes meats over vegetables. Very low carb diets, like keto, can increase uric acid levels due to limited vegetable intake.
- Diuretics: Diuretics can dehydrate the body, leading to increased urate concentration and uric acid buildup. More water, especially the water-sea salt combo, helps flush the kidneys.
You want to include these foods to manage uric acid levels.
Along with avoiding uric acid triggers, incorporate the following foods into your diet. It's a great strategy to add in instead of focusing on what you're missing. (8)
- Potassium-Rich Foods: Potassium can reduce crystallization and is found in foods like apricots, oranges, potatoes (with skin), avocados, and tomatoes.
- Wild Foods: Wild foods contain anti-inflammatory compounds that help with joint pain. A wild variety of blueberries, for example, has a higher concentration of nutrients that conventionally grown ones. (9)
- Cherries: Cherries can reduce uric acid levels and are anti-inflammatory. Sour red cherries have less fructose and are a better choice.
- Turmeric: Curcumin, found in turmeric, reduces uric acid and is a potent anti-inflammatory.
- Folate Sources: Legumes, asparagus, avocados, Brussel sprouts, and broccoli are rich in folate, which can remove uric acid crystals. Lentils are high in folate, which can help keep uric acid levels in check. Also, they are a lower-purine protein source.
- Sodium Bicarbonate: Drinking baking soda dissolved in water (even as little as 1/4 tsp. to 1 tsp. per cup) can help remove kidney stones. That's because of the high pH!
A study from 2011 concluded that having a more alkaline diet helps to flush excess uric acid from the body. So even on an acidic diet, a person will excrete less uric acid, which means it is backing up in the blood. On the other hand, on an alkaline diet, the body is able to process the excess uric acid and properly excrete it. (10)
To kickstart the process and bring uric acid levels into balance, try this 3-day detox plan. Your joints and kidneys will thank you!
Also enjoy this delicious smoothie lower uric acid levels or keep them in check.
Prevent Uric Acid Crystals with These Smoothie Ingredients
Avocados: this fruit is very low in fructose, yet it has the highest protein content of any fruit. And it has a nice balance of fats for energy.
Black Currants: one study compared the juice from black currants to cranberry juice and plum juice for kidney stone formation. The black currant juice helped to release excess uric acid. Neither cranberry juice nor plum juice showed any benefit related to uric acid crystals. (11)
Cherries: these little gems add a lot of delicious flavor to the smoothie while lowering uric acid levels. For an extra kick, try sour cherries, which are lower in fructose.
Anti- Uric Acid Crystals Smoothie
1/2 orange, peeled
1/2 avocado, peeled and pitted
1/3 cup pitted cherries
1/2 cup black currant juice
1 cup oat milk (or use water)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- Place all the ingredients in a blender or mixer and blend until smooth.
- Serve chilled with ice.
Drinking this smoothie daily for at least a week can help reduce the severity of uric acid-related symptoms, such as gout and kidney stones. Adjust the recipe for taste, but keep the fructose content low.
Looking for a creamier smoothie? Add in 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, and get the added benefit of provitamin A!
If you are experiencing pain, be sure to consult with a trusted health professional for personalized guidance.
And when you hear about kidney problems, you might think "cranberries." But cranberries reduce the pH of urine -- making it more acidic -- which doesn't help with uric acid levels. But it does help with urinary tract infections because a lower pH helps combat bacteria causing the infection. (14)