When the body breaks down chemicals called purines, uric acid which is a waste product, is produced. Purines occur naturally in the body and also come from some foods we eat. Some foods high in purine include organ meats like liver; some meats such as bacon, turkey, veal, venison; some seafoods like sardines, anchovies, sardines, mussels and scallops; food and drinks with high fructose corn syrup and alcoholic beverages especially beer. Moderately high in purine include other meat, poultry, fish and other seafoods like salmon, shrimp, lobster. Fruits and vegetables as well as whole grain cereals either have low or negligible purine.
Most of the uric acid is dissolved in the blood and gets excreted in the urine. However, when the body produces too much or does not remove enough uric acid, these can accumulate in the blood. With high levels of uric acid in the blood termed as hyperuricemia, crystals of uric acid called urate can build up in the joints especially the big toe. This condition is known as gout which is characterized by inflammation, swelling, warmth, pain and limited movements in the joints. Some uric acid may settle in the kidneys and form renal stones. Gout being associated with other chronic degenerative diseases like hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, has been reported. Eating foods high in purines can trigger gout attacks hence should be avoided. Foods of moderately high purine content can be used in moderation. In the case of fish and seafood, the benefits outweigh the risks. Other recommendations are weight control and adequate fluid/water intake.
The diet cannot be a stand-alone remedy for gout. It is just a supplement to medical management. Medications that help control production or help in the excretion of uric acid, as well as those that alleviate pain and inflammation, are prescribed.