A woman holding out her hands with red and inflamed joints.
Hyperuricemia is a complication that can arise with lupus, which can cause severe joint pain and stiffness.

How to Lower Uric Acid

Uric acid is a chemical that our cells produce when they break down chemicals called purines. It is normal to have some uric acid in the body, but high levels can lead to various health problems. High uric acid, or hyperuricemia, is often associated with a painful form of arthritis known as gout. However, it can also affect people with lupus and may increase the risk of certain complications. This article explores the link between hyperuricemia and lupus, and it explains how to lower uric acid. Here’s all you need to know.

What is Hyperuricemia?

Hyperuricemia is the medical term for high uric acid levels in the blood.

It forms when the body breaks down purines (chemicals that occur naturally in food). It is usually excreted by the kidneys as part of urine. Therefore, people with healthy kidneys usually only retain low levels.

However, people with certain medical conditions, including lupus, may have higher-than-average uric acid levels. This is because lupus can damage the kidneys making uric acid excretion less efficient than usual.

Some medications prescribed for people with lupus can also interfere with this excretion, leading to hyperuricemia.

Hyperuricemia and Lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in multiple organs and systems throughout the body. It frequently affects the heart, lungs and kidneys. This means that people with lupus can have difficulty excreting waste products, such as uric acid.

Furthermore, people with lupus often take medication that affects the acid excretion. For example, diuretics are one of the most common treatments for high blood pressure. They work by increasing urinary output and decreasing the volume of the blood. However, they also alter how the kidneys process uric acid and can increase the amount that stays in the body.

If someone cannot excrete it effectively, or if they produce too much, this can lead to hyperuricemia. One of the most common conditions associated with hyperuricemia is gout. It occurs when uric acid forms crystals in the joints, causing inflammation and pain.

Although gout is not an issue for most people with lupus, hyperuricemia can cause other significant problems. It has been linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular, lung, kidney and neurological disease. Therefore, doctors recommend that people with lupus manage their levels to reduce the risk of complications.

How to Lower Uric Acid Levels

1. Limit Purine Intake

As we mentioned earlier, purines are chemicals that occur naturally in food. They break down into uric acid in the body, so limiting purine intake is one of the best ways to lower uric acid.

Some foods have a higher purine content than others. High-purine foods include red meat, bacon, wild game and some seafood. However, since fish has many health benefits, it is best not to avoid it completely.

Limit your intake of shellfish, sardines and anchovies, which have some of the highest purine levels, and choose flaky, white fish, like cod.

2. Eat More Fruit and Vegetables

Some vegetables are high in purines too. Examples include peas, beans, lentils, asparagus, spinach and mushrooms. However, these foods do not seem to raise purine levels when consumed in moderation.

Therefore, limiting your intake of meat and eating more plant-based protein may help. Fruit and vegetables are also packed with beneficial compounds that play a role in reducing inflammation and maintaining overall health. Cherries are thought to be especially good for lowering uric acid levels.

3. Reduce Sugar Consumption

Sugar is another food that can contribute to hyperuricemia. This includes fructose, the sugar found in fruit.

Avoid cakes, desserts, candies and sugary beverages, including naturally-sweet fruit juice. Try snacking on low-purine foods, like nuts or low-fat dairy products instead.

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4. Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol can also increase uric acid levels. Beer and liquor seem to be especially detrimental, while wine is a better choice. However, it is still essential to avoid excessive consumption and have several alcohol-free days each week.

5. Drink Coffee

Coffee appears to lower uric acid levels in the body, and drinking a moderate amount may be beneficial.

With that said, it is important to not consume too much caffeine, as this can cause side effects like anxiety and increased heart rate. The FDA recommends a maximum of 400 milligrams (equivalent to 4 to 5 cups of regular-strength coffee) each day. However, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, so exercise this caution.

6. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Being overweight can increase uric acid production and reduce its excretion. Therefore, maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the best ways to lower uric acid.

However, rapid weight loss from crash diets or fasting can actually cause the kidneys to hold onto uric acid. So, it is best to lose weight gradually, using methods that will be sustainable in the long-term.

Healthy eating plans, such as the Mediterranean diet or dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet, are often recommended. They should be combined with regular exercise for the best results.

7. Choose Regular, Moderate Exercise

Increasing physical activity is one of the best ways to manage body weight. However, excessive sweating due to exercise may cause dehydration and increase levels. Therefore, it is better to perform moderate, aerobic exercises regularly, rather than infrequent but intensive workouts.

8. Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, especially if you have been sweating a lot. Activities like sauna bathing have been shown to increase levels and should be avoided.

9. Increase Vitamin C Consumption

There is some evidence that vitamin C consumption helps to lower uric acid levels by inhibiting its production and increasing excretion.

Try to eat more foods with a high vitamin C content, such as citrus fruit, peppers and strawberries. You could also ask your doctor about taking a daily supplement.

10. Request a Medication Review

Some medication can increase uric acid levels in the body. Common examples include diuretics, immunosuppressants and low-dose aspirin, although there are several others.

However, it is essential to not stop taking any prescribed medication without speaking to your doctor first. If you suspect your medication is increasing your levels, ask them for a review and to suggest alternatives if necessary.