Gout in Women: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Options
Women rarely get gout. It’s considered a man’s disease. But that doesn’t mean women never get gout.
If you are a woman experiencing a gout attack – pay attention – it’s important you understand why this is happening to you, so you can make adjustments to prevent it from ever happening again. It all starts by understanding exactly what’s happening when you get a gout attack.
Gout is all about uric acid. And uric acid is all about purines. So let’s start there:
Your body’s DNA and RNA have a compound called purines and so do the animals that meat-eaters eat. In a healthy body, these are perfectly normal and safe, but they can’t just stay in the body and build up. So our body converts them into a waste product called uric acid.
Normally, that uric acid goes through the kidneys and ends up exiting with your urine. But things can go wrong, and the uric acid can build up. When that happens, it creates something called urate crystals. These are needle-like crystals, and they travel to a joint – most commonly your big toe – and create serious inflammation and pain.
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And that, ladies, is a gout attack. The pain, swelling, and other symptoms normally lasts around 3 to 10 days.
Why does this condition that normally plagues men affect women sometimes? Well, there can be a few reasons. I’m here to explain all the reasons why a woman would get a gout attack. Then I’m going to show you exactly what you can do about it!
The #1 Risk Factor For Gout In Women: Menopause
Up until now we’ve talked about how gout is really rare for women, but that changes when menopause arrives. Here’s how it works:
Until a woman hits menopause she has lots of estrogen in her body. During menopause that estrogen production plummets. That’s why women feel all those uncomfortable side effects like mood swings, insomnia, weight gain, and hot flashes. But estrogen affects so many other areas of your body too, including your kidneys.
When estrogen goes down, so does your kidney’s ability to flush out all that extra uric acid. So your chances of developing gout go up.
Now, don’t think this is an extreme rise. Only about 4 out of 100 women will have a gout attack in their 60s. But if you are in perimenopause, menopause, or post-menopause age ranges and get a gout attack, realize your estrogen levels are probably playing a role in making that happen.
Don’t feel defeated about this! Some studies show that estrogen therapies can help lower the risk back down. But even if you choose to stay away from hormone replacement therapy, there are many steps you can take to help your body reduce uric acid production and increase uric acid excretion, so you can avoid having to experience the pain of gout.
Other Reasons Women Could Have Gout
While the menopause component tends to be the biggest risk factor, there are quite a few other reasons why women could get that rare gout attack. These can all be separate from the menopause risk factor – but they can also go hand-in-hand.
Read through to see which reasons could apply to you:
1. A High-Purine Diet
As we already know, purines are responsible for uric acid in your body. So when you eat a high purine diet, you are increasing the odds of a uric acid buildup. If you eat a lot of the following foods, you may end up with a gout attack.
Foods that are high in purines include:
- Red Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, etc.
- Organ Meat: Kidneys, sweetbreads, liver, etc.
- Game Meat: Venison, duck, etc.
- Dark Meat Poultry: Chicken thighs, turkey wings, etc.
- Some Seafood: Anchovies, sardines, tuna, scallops, mussels, etc.
- High-Fat Dairy: Whole milk, sour cream, etc.
Foods that are moderate in purines include:
- All Other Seafood
- Some Grains: Oatmeal, wheat germ, etc.
- Some Vegetables: Spinach, mushrooms, peas, etc.
2. Being Overweight
Being overweight or obese is a common risk factor that leads to gout. In fact, it’s a double problem. On one hand, being overweight can make your body produce more uric acid. On the other hand, being overweight can slow down your body’s ability to get rid of uric acid.
In fact, for both men and women, obesity can give you a three times greater risk of developing gout.
Luckily, this can absolutely be reversed. More on that below!
3. Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Alcohol actually makes it much harder for your body to flush out uric acid, so it builds up. While the occasional drink shouldn’t cause a problem, regular overconsumption certainly can.
And here’s the interesting thing – though this risk factor applies to both men and women, studies show that it applies more so to women. For example, drinking 5 drinks a week can double a man’s gout risk and triple a woman’s gout risk.
4. Health Problems
There are many other health problems that can up your odds of developing gout. These include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease or renal failure
- Metabolic syndrome
There are a few medications that can increase the amount of uric acid in your body. These include:
- Thiazide diuretics (for high blood pressure)
- Low-dose aspirin
- Anti-rejection drugs (after a transplant)
- Levodopa (a Parkinson’s disease medication)
Studies suggest that more women than men are prescribed diuretics for high blood pressure than men, so this could be a gender-specific cause of your gout.
6. Family History
There is a genetic component to gout. If your family members have had gout – especially if your female family members have had gout – your chances go up too.
How Women Can Prevent Gout Attacks
As I mentioned earlier, some believe that estrogen replacement therapy may be a way to bring down that gout risk in menopausal women. But many women choose not to take the estrogen – and other women may not be in menopause yet and need non-hormonal solutions.
In all of these cases, women should look to these 6 steps to prevent another gout attack:
1. Take An All-Natural Uric Acid Cleanse
There are actually all-natural supplements that help the body purge the extra uric acid buildup. Some of those include: celery seed extract, hydrangea extract, chanca piedra extract, and cherry extract.
2. Reduce Your Purines
The key is to lower your consumption of those high purine foods above. Instead of eating so much meat, replace it with plant-based sources of protein like lentils or quinoa. Eggs and nut butters are other great options too. Have plenty of fruit as well.
3. Lose Weight
Find a physical trainer in your area who can show you how to safely create a progressive workout routine to start losing the weight. Then make an appointment with a nutritionist to create a balanced diet that can help you lose weight while staying low in purines. Do not go on any crash diet or extreme workout plan, because unhealthy rapid weight loss can actually spur on another gout attack.
4. Cut Down on the Alcohol
If you do still have the occasional drink, make sure it’s not beer. The brewer’s yeast is high in purines. Red wine can be higher in purines too, so an occasional glass of white wine may be your best bet.
5. Drink More Water
The more water you drink, the healthier your kidneys and urinary system are. This is essential for proper removal of uric acid. If you struggle to drink enough, bring a large water bottle with you to work. Maybe add a few chunks of fruit so it tastes great. You can also try one of those hydration log apps on your phone. Most of them send you text reminders to drink up.
6. Get On a Prescription Gout Medicine
Though the all-natural lifestyle and supplement treatments are ideal, some people need some medical intervention for a time. There are medications that can be lower uric acid production and increase uric acid removal. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.
What To Do If You End Up With A Gout Attack
Of course, the #1 goal is to prevent a gout attack – which you should be able to do when actively following all the tips above. But sometimes the gout still shows up. Here’s everything a woman should do when she does get a gout attack:
- Take a pain reliever to help calm the pain; NSAIDs are often a good choice (If you can’t take NSAIDs, just follow the rest of these tips)
- Call your doctor for an appointment
- Make sure you are taking your all-natural uric acid cleanse
- Ice the affected joint for 15 or 20 minutes several times a day
- Rest your body and the affected joint as much as possible until all symptoms are gone
- Use a crutch, cane, or walker to prevent any joint pressure
- Snack on cherries to help reduce inflammation and uric acid
After this gout attack reassess what needs to be done to prevent another one. Perhaps you need to re-focus on losing weight or drinking less alcohol.
Dealing With Gout As A Woman
You may have been surprised to realize you were dealing with a gout attack as a woman. But as we have learned, it certainly is possible.
The key is to figure out which risk factors and lifestyle changes apply to your life. Then you can make the necessary adjustments to prevent another gout attack. For example, you can: start the all-natural supplement, talk to your doctor about getting your other health conditions under control, and begin a regular exercise regimen.
These steps can help to keep the gout away for good.