Sign Up For Auto-Renew Subscription and Save 10%

How to Sign Up


Gout, Arthritis and Kidney Disease

How are these caused and where do they come from — continually high uric acid levels from too many purines in the diet.Sounds simple enough to correct right?

To correct this, we first need to know what “purines” are and where they are found.

Machelle Pacion
Avian Nutrition Specialist

Purines are found in every cell of a living creature’s body, so, in essence, our birds are pre-disposed to already naturally occurring purines in their bodily systems. Purines are crystalline compounds that form uric acid as they oxidize. Purines are found wherever protein is found. Any food that contains protein will also contain purines to varying levels depending on the food source. When food oxidizes, as it breaks down during the digestive process any purines it contains will form uric acid. Therefore, any high-protein food we feed our birds will form uric acid through the digestive process.

Hmmm…thinking about the high-protein foods all of us feed to our birds we can easily begin to make a list of foods that form uric acid during the digestive process:

  • If we feed meat of any kind.
  • Any dairy products including yogurt and kefir.
  • Beans and other legumes.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Sprouted items.
  • High-protein grasses like wheatgrass and barley grass.
  • Whole grains.
  • Vegetables with high-protein levels.

Do you notice what kind of food is not on this list? Fruit. Actually, the only fruit high in purines is apricots, dates, figs and dried plums. Although I would caution feeding certain “domestic” fruits for other reasons I will be explaining later in 2016 in workshops I will be hosting.

Now remember, each food contains purines each to “varying levels” depending on its own characteristics. So not each food source will contribute the same amount of purines and thus the same amount of uric acid. However, that being said, we need to take into consideration “the stacking” of one food upon another, each with their own level/amount of purines which can add up to an excessively high amount of purines in our birds’ diets. If we feed this “stacked” diet on an ongoing and regular basis, our birds are receiving an extraordinarily high amount of purines for which uric acid forms in their body on a constant basis. Maybe so much uric acid is formed from this kind of diet their body cannot rid itself and, therefore, gout, arthritis, and/or kidney disease are formed.

Again, I must reiterate the fact that to feed our birds “really, really well” we must educate ourselves on proper food combining. We must understand not only the macro- and micro- nutrients in the foods we are feeding, but also the individual naturally occurring “constituents” in each of the foods we are feeding and how they interplay with each other. The idea of “throwing the whole kitchen sink” into our birds’ mash, mix, or whatever your call your recipe is not proper food combing and may be doing more harm than good.

Field research and avian food producers before us have developed *guidelines* for us to go by. While I believe we should use those guidelines as that, only “guidelines” and not as “holy grail,” I certainly do not believe we should throw the baby out with the bathwater and ignore those guidelines. We need to utilize all information we have at our disposal including those guidelines, field research and our own good common sense regarding what exotic birds consume in their natural indigenous habitats.

Moving along, many of the foods we have been using to ensure a quantitative protein levels in our birds’ diets is actually quite high in purines. That is, when you consider birds’ systems are much smaller than humans and much more sensitive and well-adapted to extract nutrients from the foods they consume than human systems.

Yes, Nature designed birds’ systems to extract nutrients much more efficiently and effectively at a quicker rate than human bodies. This is evident by their very short and narrow digestive tract. Think about it, their systems are required to consume, digest and metabolize rapidly so they can take to flight quickly to hunt for more food and to escape potential predators. Humans? Not so much. Therefore the reason for our very long and broad digestive tract. Birds require foods that break down very quickly. The quicker those foods break down, the quicker the nutrients are metabolized and used or stored. If more nutrients enter their systems than they can use those nutrients are normally stored in the liver, kidneys or any adipose fat, our birds may have. Being captive creatures in our homes we see our birds now develop many of the human type illnesses and diseases we suffer. When we consider how small their bodies are combined with a more sedate lifestyle our birds may have if we do not give them adequate exercise, it becomes even more important to ensure we are combining the foods we feed them correctly and properly.

So what is my opinion on foods containing high amounts of purines?

Obviously, I would suggest that we stay away from feeding large amounts of meat and absolutely no dairy to our companion birds. The only “meat” product I endorse is slightly steamed mussels. Even at that, I do not endorse feeding mussels as a “staple” food, but only as an infrequent treat. I have always suggested that nuts be fed in moderation. Seed should always be soaked and sprouted and fed in limited amounts for most parrots. The exception here would be for the truly granivorous species like Cockatiels, Quakers, etc. Even then, If your granivorous feathered friend has been diagnosed with high uric acid levels, you will want to change the diet to reflect a low purine content.

You may be surprised to learn that nuts, seed, beans, legumes, grains, many of the items we sprout, high-protein grasses and even certain vegetables are too high in purines to be feeding to our birds on a large scale, regular and consistent basis. I know this is very surprising news, but it’s true and many of our birds are suffering gout, arthritis and kidney disease to prove this point. In fact, birds who have these disorders have been fed diets consisting of high volumes of these very foods! Some of the seed, beans, legumes, grains, grasses and vegetables highest in purines are almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, millet, sunflower, poppy, sesame, peanuts, lentils, peas, chickpeas, soybeans, white beans, barley, buckwheat, rye, wheat, white rice, mushrooms, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, green beans, cabbage, spinach, and asparagus.  And even some fruit like apricots, dates, figs and plums. I consider any food with a purine score above 10-12 “high” for exotic birds due to the fact their systems are so much smaller than a human system and the fact that their system digests absorbs and metabolizes so much faster than a human’s.At that level the “stacking” or food combining becomes increasingly important to know and understand.

Again, I will reiterate, it’s not any one individual food, it’s many foods “stacked” upon another fed on a regular and continual basis that contribute to an imbalanced diet that contributes to high uric acid levels.

So then if we are cautious about “stacking” high protein foods in our birds’ staple diets, just where do our birds receive the bulk of their protein to meet their protein needs? Fruit. A bird’s system is uniquely designed by Nature to extract all of the nutrients out of the foods it ingests very efficiently, including the little amount of protein found in fruit.

I’ve been on this bandwagon beating this drum for three long and arduous years now touting the benefits of fruit in our exotic birds’ diets. I’ve been teaching the benefits of feeding exotic birds what Nature designed their digestive tracts to easily accept, digest, absorb and metabolize. Many of the foods we commonly think of as “staple” foods, such as grains, legumes and even sprouted seed should not be feed in the large volume many of us have been feeding. And tropical fruit is not the “bad guy” full of sugar so many of us are deathly afraid of. In fact the “sugars” in tropical fruits are what some term “essential sugars” ( for exotic birds, not the potentially dangerous “fructose” or other starchy and refined sugars that can potentially contribute to overall inflammation, diabetes or heart disease. However, I must emphasize the term “essential sugars” is a widely debated term. The term “glycoproteins” is probably a more suited term.

Glycosylation of these basic sugars takes place during the digestive process, first and foremost in the proventriculus and eventually throughout the entire digestive tract which begins the solubility of proteins, or otherwise known as “hydrolysis”, the breaking down into the free form, single unit amino acids for total and complete absorption. When sugars go through the glycolysis process citric acid is synthesized (2.2pH), which in turn breaks down the proteins. This transfers into ATP which is the energy that fuels each living cell. To have a system void, or even too low in dietary sugars is to inhibit the proper breakdown of dietary proteins since the correct amount of “healthy” sugars are needed for the glycosylation of proteins. Could it be that we have actually been starving our exotic birds of correct carbohydrates who Nature designed to consume an abundance of tropical fruits?

Fruit is lower in purines than any other food source. Is it any wonder? Nature planned it that way specifically for exotic birds knowing that these creatures would not be able to handle an abundance of uric acid in their small, delicate systems. The digestive system of exotic birds is so uniquely designed by Nature that it is able to extract protein from any fruit ingested to help meet the nutritional requirements they have, not all of their entire nutritional requirements, but a lot.

It all begins in the proventriculus if there is enough dietary sodium in the diet and if the digestive system is producing enough hydrochloric acid. (This is one of main reasons parrots flock to the clay licks immediately after they consume fruit in the wild. While these two factors are not the only factors involved, they are two of the most important factors in hydrolyzing (breaking down) the nutrients in foods into their free form (single unit) molecules for total and complete absorption and metabolism. And so it goes with fruit and all of the wonderful nutrients fruit contain.

Nature is keenly intelligent when it naturally supplies fruit for exotic birds. Packed with a highly digestible form of digestive acids, amino acids (protein), fatty acids (Omegas), fiber (carbohydrates), vitamins and minerals along with unique naturally occurring constituents like proanthocyanins and phenols and “glycoproteins” that are vital to this special class of aves. Parrots are designed to consume and thrive on an abundance of tropical fruit. While tropical fruit cannot be their only source of food, it certainly should be their main, staple food in their daily diet.

A parrot’s digestive tract has a crop, proventriculus (first stomach), gizzard and ventriculus (second stomach), their tract is one short and narrow continuous tract. Therefore, it is not considered a monogastric system (one stomach). However, parrots do not have multiple chambers in their digestive tracts and therefore are not considered ruminants. It is within their upper stomach where digestion first begins with the “drawing out” of the digestive acids such as hydrochloric acid and pepsin from their digestive walls by the dietary sodium in their foods. If there is not enough sodium to meet the needs of drawing out these acids, the food they ingest doesn’t get properly and fully broken down. Furthermore, if there is not enough citric acid present, formed by the presence of glycoproteins found in the tropical fruit Nature designed our exotic feathered friends to consume, the digestive tract will be void of yet another vital form of digestive acid. Clearly we can understand that if food is not fully broken down into the free form molecules most of the single unit nutrients will never be absorbed and metabolized!

And so it goes for the protein in fruit…if the proventriculus cannot do the early breaking down of food as it enters the digestive tract, due to lack of digestive acids because not all of the dietary needs are met, such as the proper level of sodium, hydrochloric acid, citric acid and more, then a bird’s system will not be able to extract protein from the fruit it consumes. Therefore, a diet high in other forms of protein will be necessary to meet the protein requirements. Normally, though, if all of the nutrients are in balance other protein sources, in excessively high amounts would not be necessary and therefore, we would not need to be so concerned about the oxidation of purines. With balanced nutrients high uric acid will not occur in our birds’ systems; they will be able to extract most of the protein they need from fruit like Nature originally intended.

Unfortunately, this is not what we have seen in foods for parrots for decades. Instead, we have been feeding foods Nature never intended for parrots to consume, high in protein, but lacking in other vital nutrients necessary for exotic birds to thrive. We have had the diets of exotic birds turned around 180 degrees backward. It’s time we learn to take our heads out of the sand and begin following Nature’s original blueprint for feeding our beloved exotic birds.

Most of us have been feeding diets that cause insulin levels to rapidly spike because of the high amounts of starch and indigestible gluten; diets first high in gluten-containing starchy grains,  starchy legumes, dead and dried out seed, nuts and high-cellulose botanically classified vegetables, starchy vegetables and starchy veggie-like fruits, and last tropical fruit. Those diets are also high in purines which oxidize to uric acid. We need to turn those diets around.  We should feed diets that allow for slow and leveled blood sugar levels. Our birds’s diet should first include pectin-rich tropical fruit, tender greens (which are high in hemicellulose, a soluble fiber), limited sprouted seed, limited sprouted legumes, limited amounts of nuts and very little to no sprouted grains (only those species whose regions supply indigenous grains should have grains in their diets) along with grubs/larvae as the animal source of protein. A diet like this is lower in purines resulting in lower uric acid levels. Can you see where the “stacking” of all of the ingredients can quickly add up to an imbalanced diet if we are not careful about how we combine the foods we use to make up our birds’ daily diets?

2016 is going to be a very intense and revealing year in the overall restoration of health for our beloved exotic companion birds! I will be hosting a series of workshops in our forum surrounding and regarding how to detox your bird’s system and properly combine your bird’s diet. Time is well overdue for all of us in learning about individual food constituents. I’m not just talking about the macronutrients such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. I’m not even just talking about the micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. I will be delving deep into the “naturally occurring food chemicals” of foods; the constituents that interplay with one another when each food is combined in the larger recipe we mix with so many other foods to make our birds’ daily diets. If we don’t understand the chemicals in the foods we are mixing together we can actually be making a “food bomb” so to speak that eventually explodes in the manner of ill-health in our birds potentially leading to auto-immune disease, cardiovascular disease, liver damage, kidney disease, metabolic syndrome and more.


©12.26.15   Machelle Pacion   Passion Tree House LLC   All Rights Reserved

Leave a comment (all fields required)

Comments will be approved before showing up.