Competitive Athletes Can Be Stopped in Their Tracks by Uric Acid


I have been treating competitive athletes for many years and recently I began to have enough cases that were presenting with the same types of symptoms for me to put two and two together. This story really begins millions of years ago when early prehominids were moving, running and generally evading beasts on a daily basis. At that time we were genetically different than we are now. This is a fact over time as our species evolves or in some cases devolves. From generation to generation, the lifestyle and exposure risks we experience can alter our genetic make-up and alter how our body works. Especially in the here and now, we will often do things that run counter to our genetics and our evolutionary pattern.

Back in the day our bodies made an essential enzyme known as uricase. In prehominids (15 million years ago) uricase broke down blood levels of uric acid which helped to increase our survival rate. At this time typical uric acid levels may have been much lower, similar to other mammals (0.5 - 1 mg/dL). Uricase helped to maintain lower levels of uric acid in the blood and prevented it from spilling into tissues. In the blood uric acid has some great benefits:

  • stimulates foraging behavior,

  • maintains blood pressure

  • acts as an extracellular antioxidant

  • neuroprotective

  • innate immune responses against infection and injury

In fact, uric acid is actually an endogenous hormonal “danger signal”, identical to what cells release during inflammation that stimulates the fight or flight response. But over time as intelligence developed, we required less and less uric acid in the blood, which also lessened the need for uricase and so with each generation, uricase synthesis lessened. This also meant that the very thing that was meant to protect us (uric acid benefits) may now be making us unwell.

In competitive athletes the consumption of large amounts of purine protein particularly in protein supplementation, certain meats, fish and shellfish, supplements (niacin and Vitamin C) and the consistent use of diuretics, aspirin or epinephrine can all contribute to high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. With normal levels of exercise and movement, uric acid can be removed by the kidneys. But with higher levels of exercise, competitive or event training, as well as increased resting muscle tension levels with physique remodeling, the kidneys can become severely burdened and the removal of uric acid becomes radically insufficient.

This will force the body to precipitate uric acid crystals into tissues including muscles, connective tissue and hollow organs such as kidneys, the liver and the gallbladder. This may also be a consideration in burdening of the pancreas that is becoming more prevalent in athletes. Over time the uric acid crystals will fuse and create not only stones in the hollow organs, but a condition where uric acid acts as a pro-oxidant which increases chronic tissue inflammation and cellular stress.

So instead of benefiting the body, high uric acid actually hinders athletic performance and creates more frequent injury and chronic, unrelenting inflammatory disorders.

Let’s look at the best ways to reduce the uric acid load of the body:

  • Reduce the consumption of purine proteins, particularly red meat.

  • Reduce high fructose foods, particularly fruits and fruit juice.

  • Reduce excess stores of uric acid with herbal extracts of Celery Seed and Nettle Leaf.

  • Reduce the use of aspirin, diuretics and other drugs that increase uric acid accumulation in the blood.

  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol, which reduces the tendency to fatty liver disease.

  • Improve kidney excretion with herbs and formulas to heal and increase detoxification of the kidneys.

  • Improve excretion of uric acid within the intestinal area with better enzyme function and healthier gut microbiota.

  • Manage contributory factors such as Metabolic Syndrome, Fatty Liver Disease, Kidney Disease, Obesity and Hypertension.

When considering competitive athletic training, even amateur daily athletic challenges, keep your blood chemistry in mind. It might just spare you from injury, inflammation and even permanent damage.

Karen Clickner