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Diet can help get a grip on gout

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Many of us would love to have something in common with royalty.  But getting the “Disease of Kings” is not the way to do it!  

Gout earned that title centuries ago because it was most common in people who ate rich foods – which at that time meant they were probably royalty.   Of course, you don’t have to have royal blood to have gout, but it’s still true that what you eat may have a strong impact on whether you develop the condition or not.

Gout is a type of arthritis that usually starts in the big toe, but it can attack other joints as well. While I’ve never had gout personally, I know people who have it and from the swelling, inflammation, and the way they limp, it appears really painful.

One of the problems with gout is that it may seem like nothing significant at first – just a sore toe.  But if you have gout, getting quick treatment can make a big difference in how long the pain will last.   

Some of the big risk factors for gout are being a man over the age of 40, being a woman after menopause, being obese, or having a family history of gout.  

I really believe it is important to know your family history.  Many diseases, including gout, tend to run in families.  So be sure to find out what conditions your close relatives have had so you know what you have a higher risk of contracting.   If gout runs in your family, you’ll know to get to the doctor right away if you have a sore joint on your foot.

Sometimes gout will show up, but then go away a few days later.  Other times, gout keeps coming back.  If that happens, something must be triggering it.  If you keep getting it over and over, you need to figure out why.  Some medications can trigger gout, so talk to your doctor to see if you are taking something that increases your risk.

While being overweight can add to your risk of getting gout, losing weight can sometimes cause it too.  Diets that are low in carbohydrates are naturally high in protein.  Dr. Connie Mariano, a former White House physician, told me that an important step in reducing gout is to avoid foods that are high in purines, like red meat and animal products.  So if you are at risk for gout, you’ll do better with a different way to lose weight other than a low-carb diet.

Gout is one of the oldest recorded medical disorders, which made me wonder about other ways to treat it besides Western medicines.  I turned to one of our EmpowHER doctors Dr. Maoshing Ni, a 38th generation practitioner of Chinese medicine.  He recommended several foods that you might already have in your refrigerator - including garlic and scallions - to help open up the joints and circulation.  His video on foods to ease arthritis has a recipe for a tea to loosen up your joints. 

Our gout community also has more resources to help with gout symptoms, along with a forum for people to share their story with others who have gout. For me, it always comes back to knowing your own body and listening to what it’s trying to tell you.  Knowing your family history and being aware of how the foods you eat can affect your body are both important tools you can use to protect your health.

Michelle King Robson (pronounced robe-son) is one of the nation's leading women's health and wellness advocates. She is the Founder, Chairperson and CEO of EmpowHER, one of the fastest-growing and largest social health companies dedicated exclusively to women's health and wellness.  In 2011 EmpowHER reached more than 60 million women onsite and through syndication expects to reach more than 250 million in 2012.

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