Why Menopause May Be To Blame For Your Gout Attack
Millions of people suffer from gout each year – that painful joint inflammation that lasts for way too many agonizing days – and most of these sufferers are men. In fact, there’s such a disparity, that being male is considered a real risk factor for developing gout.
Sure, women can get gout, even young women. But it’s really, really rare.
But then something happens at menopause. Once a woman enters this new phase of life, the odds of developing a gout attack start going up. The risk is never as high as a man, but it is certainly much higher than a younger woman’s risk.
Why does this happen and what can women do to make sure a gout attack doesn’t happen to them? Read on to find out!
Why Menopause Increases Gout Odds
Well, first off, older age is a risk factor of gout in all people – including men. Since menopause often comes in a woman’s 50s, these timelines start to coincide. But the connection goes farther than that.
When a woman is in menopause, her production of estrogen plummets. This is what brings on all of those uncomfortable side effects like hot flashes, low libido, and mood swings. We normally think of estrogen in terms of libido, PMS, and fertility, but these hormones play a role in many other body functions…
… including helping the kidneys remove uric acid. Here’s why this means more gout:
Purines are a substance in DNA that we create and we eat (mostly from meat). They are perfectly normal. When our body breaks them down, a waste product called uric acid is created. When you’re healthy, that uric acid will dissolve in the blood, and move through your kidneys all the way out your urinary tract.
But when you either produce too much uric acid or cannot remove the uric acid properly, it builds up and forms something called urate crystals. These are sharp like needles and eventually travel to your joints – most often your big toe – and cause gout attacks.
So when a woman is no longer producing all that estrogen, it is no longer there to help the kidneys get rid of that uric acid. So it builds up, and many end up with gout.
Other Risk Factors For Women In Menopause
Aside from age and the drop in estrogen, there are a few other things that make gout during menopause more likely:
- The age of menopause is getting into the time where more women have high blood pressure. Diuretics are sometimes given to help with blood pressure problems, but diuretics increase the chance of gout.
- Regular drinking will double the chance of gout in men, but it triples the chance of gout in women. And heavy drinking is even worse. It still only doubles the chance of gout in men, but women are 7 times more likely to develop gout when they drink heavily.
RELATED: Major Symptoms of Gout Flare-Ups
Is Gout Different In Women?
For the most part, gout is the same in men and women. It will often attack one joint at a time, but it is also possible for it to attack multiple joints. The flare-up usually starts at night and comes on suddenly.
You will experience:
- Severe joint pain
- Limited range of motion
These symptoms tend to last between 3 and 10 days. As it goes on, the sharp pain tends to dull and you’re left with a lingering discomfort.
The biggest difference of gout between men and women is the location.
By far, the most common location for a gout attack is in base of the big toe on either foot. But with women, it is more common to see the gout flare-ups pop up in other joints – often their fingers and their ankles.
Things Women Can Do To Prevent Gout
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to prevent the buildup of uric acid in your body. Here are 4 important steps to making sure a gout flare-up doesn’t come your way:
1. Eat Your Cherries
There are many all-natural substances that naturally help the body flush out uric acid. One of the most effective and well-researched are something you probably love to eat: cherries.
Studies have shown time and time again that cherries really can reduce uric acid levels, and they also help reduce inflammation (which makes them beneficial during an actual gout attack too).
One study of over 600 people discovered that those who take cherry extract have a 35% less chance of having a gout attack.
Another study looked directly at women. They ate two servings of cherries after fasting overnight. Their test results showed that urate in the blood had decreased and urate in the urine had increased. This mean it went out of the body – exactly what women need to prevent a gout attack.
My favorite way to take the cherry extract is to combine it with other natural supplements that fight gout. Here are four extremely powerful options:
- Celery Seed Extract: Celery seed is another natural supplement that can keep inflammation away
- Chanca Piedra: This herb focuses on the inflammation in your joint and it can lower your chances of also developing a uric acid kidney stone – it’s a must-take
- Hydrangea Extract: This option can improve your joint heath and manage your body’s inflammation
You can take these along with the cherry extract (VitaCherry® HiActives® ) with Eu Natural’s G-Gout Purge Uric Acid Cleanse.
2. Reduce Your Purines
Many of your purines are produced by your own body, but many of them you eat. Fortunately for us, we are in 100% control of what we put in our mouths. This means limiting our uric acid really is possible.
Below is a list of the foods highest in purines. You should probably avoid these entirely – or at least greatly reduce your intake.
- Organ meats: (liver, kidneys, sweetbreads)
- Game meats: (veal, venison, goose)
- Red meats: (beef, pork, lamb)
- Dark-skin poultry: (chicken thighs or fatty poultry)
- Some seafood: (anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna, haddock, mussels, codfish, and scallops)
- High-fat dairy products: (whole milk and sour cream)
- Gravy (made with meat)
Next up we have moderate purine foods. These can still be eaten, but don’t go overboard:
- Other seafood: (seafood not mentioned in the “high” purine category)
- Some Grains: (oatmeal, wheat bran)
- Certain veggies: (asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, cauliflower, peas)
As you can see, the easiest thing to do is learn how to prepare both vegan and vegetarian meals and substitute some of your regular recipes. If you do want to eat meat, make sure to stick around 3 ounces or less per meal.
Sometimes it’s much easier to focus on what you can eat than what you can’t eat. So here’s a list of low-purine foods you can go crazy with:
- Nuts (nut butters included)
- Veggies (other than those on the moderate purine list)
- Low-fat dairy: (low-fat milk or yogurt)
3. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is so important for preventing gout:
- Being overweight is a risk factor in developing gout, so staying active can help you maintain a healthy weight
- Studies in men (remember, they are the ones typically dealing with this condition) are showing that regular physical can lower your odds of gout
Plus, exercise has been shown to be absolutely necessary to women in menopause. Physical activity can help you get many of your symptoms under control.
So there should be no doubt about it: you need to get moving!
The CDC has recommendations for women of menopause age, and it’s a great place to start. You have two options:
Weekly Exercise Goal Option #1
- 5 hours each week of moderate aerobic activity
- AND 2 or more weekly sessions of muscle strengthening activities working all major muscle groups
Weekly Exercise Goal Option #2
- Or get 2 hours and 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity
- AND 2 or more weekly sessions of muscle-strengthening activities working all major muscle groups
If you don’t like going to the gym, just get creative with other methods. Swim, hike, garden, or bike. Take a yoga or Pilates class. Go out dancing.
4. Talk To Your Doctor
Ideally, you will be able to use these three tips to manage your body’s uric acid without needing a prescription medication. But some people still need medical intervention.
There are medications available that can lower the amount of uric acid you produce as well as medications that will help you excrete the uric acid better.
What To Do If You Do Have A Gout Attack
So you may take all the right preventative steps and still wind up with a gout attack someday. If this happens to you, here are a few pain management tips:
- Continue to take your all-natural uric acid purge
- Take over-the-counter NSAIDs to help manage the extreme pain
- Ice the inflamed area regularly
- Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the entire attack in order to get rid of some uric acid
- Use a cane to help you get around if the flare-up is in the lower part of your body
- Elevate the affected joint
- Do not drink any alcohol
- Call your doctor
Women, Menopause, and Gout
If you are a woman nearing or in the menopause years, don’t take this information as an alarm. Take it as information to spur you on toward healthy lifestyle habits.
Because even though your chances of developing gout absolutely go up once you’ve hit menopause, they are still fairly low. Only 4% of all women in their 60s will end up with a gout attack.