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Health Spotlight: foods that inflame arthritis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Living with arthritis can be brutal, and some foods are making your arthritis pain worse.

Nearly 1 in 4 people in the United States are living with arthritis. It’s the leading cause of work disability, costing billions in lost earnings. Age, obesity and genetics are risk factors that can lead to arthritis, but what you eat can also cause your symptoms to worsen.

Achy, sore and stiff joints are classic signs of arthritis, and they don’t just affect the elderly.

Dr. Mathew Pombo with Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center in Georgia said, “We’re seeing arthritis at an earlier age, not only in the knees, but shoulders, really everywhere.”

Arthritis can severely impact a person’s day to day.

Dr. Stephen Messier, director of the J.B. Snow Biomechanics Laboratory at Wake Forest University, said, “The main symptom is pain, decrease in quality of life, decrease in mobility.”

Arthritis often limits a person’s ability to work. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 adults have to limit their activities due to arthritis.

But, experts say, people can reduce the severity of symptoms by avoiding certain arthritis-inflaming foods.

Wheat products — including pasta, bread, bagels and crackers — contain gluten, a protein that can aggravate arthritic joints. In fact, studies have shown that people with celiac disease are at an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, but people who went gluten-free alleviated their symptoms.

Added sugars are another thing people with arthritis should avoid.

A study in New England found people who drank sugary beverages five times or more per week were three times more likely to have arthritis.

Other foods that can increase the risk and worsen symptoms include red meats, processed foods, alcohol, and foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, which includes vegetable oils.

Diet is not the only factor in arthritis pain. Experts say managing smoking status, activity level, and body weight can also help ease arthritis symptoms.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV.