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Uric Acid and Your Health – A Few Essentials to Know

Uric Acid and Your Health – A Few Essentials to Know

functional nutrition information Nov 07, 2022

By Jennifer Engels, MD

We begin this article with a question: What do conditions like obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, stroke, neurological disorders, and premature death all have in common?

The answer is uric acid. All of these conditions can be fueled by high amounts of uric acid in the bloodstream.

What is Uric Acid?

Stated simply, uric acid is a waste product found in the blood and created during the digestive process when the body breaks down certain chemicals known as purines found in the foods we consume. Most of the uric acid produced through this process passes through the kidneys and is eliminated in urine.

However, if too much uric acid remains in the body a condition known as hyperuricemia occurs, leading to the formation of crystals of uric acid that can settle in the joints – especially the toes, ankles, and knees. This accumulation of uric acid crystals, in turn, creates gout, a form of arthritis, that can be extremely painful. And beyond certain joints in your lower extremities, uric acid crystals can also settle in the kidneys and create kidney stones.

If left untreated, high uric acid levels can lead not only to kidney stones but eventually to a host of other health issues, including permanent bone, joint, and tissue damage, heart disease, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and fatty liver disease.

Causes of High Uric Acid Levels

The causes of a high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream are not clear, but according to specialists at the Mayo Clinic risk factors that may contribute to this health issue include:

  • Genetics 
  • Gender – Males are more susceptible than females
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Diuretics
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Immune-suppressing drugs
  • Vitamin B-3 (niacin)
  • Obesity
  • Psoriasis
  • Renal insufficiency (the inability of the kidneys to filter waste)
  • Consuming a diet high in purines, including certain seafoods (like salmon, lobster, shrimp, anchovies, and sardines), organ meats, and red meat
  • Food and drinks containing high levels of fructose corn syrup

Uric Acid and Dementia – An Ongoing Debate

While it remains clear that high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream can contribute to a number of potentially serious health issues, the effect uric acid has on the health of our brain remains something of a debate in scientific circles.

On the one hand, because of uric acid’s antioxidant qualities, some scientists who’ve conducted studies in places as disparate as France and South Korea have concluded that uric acid may have a neuroprotective benefit, helping protect the brain against the onset of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

On the other hand, other scientists strongly disagree with this assessment, one of those being David Perlmutter, MD, a board-certified neurologist and practitioner of functional medicine. Perlmutter, a New York Times best-selling author, has recently written Drop Acid – The Surprising New Science of Uric Acid, based on his examination of over 400 peer-reviewed scientific studies on the effects of uric acid.  

In Drop Acid he discusses the many negative effects of high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream, concluding that in addition to playing a major role in the onset of gout, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease, excessive levels of uric acid also contribute to many other health issues over the long term, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

In discussing the negative effects of uric acid on our health, one of the main culprits he points to is fructose, which in the form of fructose corn syrup is used to sweeten many processed foods and beverages and is consumed in large quantities by most Americans.

Dr. Perlmutter asserts, however, that the situation regarding uric acid levels and our health is by no means hopeless, and he points out five practical things each individual can do to deal with the problem.

  • Read food labels carefully and drastically reduce fructose consumption.
  • Measure your uric acid level regularly, either with a home health kit or by having your healthcare professional measure it for you.
  • Consider time-restricted eating (intermittent fasting).
  • Take 500 mg daily of the dietary supplement quercetin, with your doctor’s approval.
  • Consider a wearable device to measure the quality and quantity of your sleep.

My Own Take

As a fellow practitioner of functional medicine, I generally agree with Dr. Perlmutter’s conclusions. If you’re concerned about possibly having issues related to a high level of uric acid, such as gout, I would be glad to consult with you, do the necessary testing to determine if there is a problem, and if so, recommend the medications, supplements, and lifestyle changes needed to deal with the issue.

New patients are always welcome, and I invite you to contact us at WeCare Frisco to schedule an appointment.

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“I was absolutely fascinated,” Engels says, “by this new style of medicine that saw the patient as a whole biological system rather focusing on only one organ system at a time, such as Cardiology. This was a complete paradigm shift from conventional medicine and how I was trained.”