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June 20, 2018  |  Login
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes swelling and pain that can range from mild to excruciating. Although more than two hundred diseases are classified under the name "arthritis," most arthritic conditions fall into one of two categories: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is by far the more common, afflicting 40 million Americans and 80 percent of people over fifty. The pain and the inflammation occur when the cartilage that protects the bones from rubbing against each other wears down. Not surprisingly, the disease usually appears in joints that do most of the body's hard work: the knees, the hips, the spine, and the hands. Although injury or the normal wear and tear of life often bring on cartilage damage, it can be made much worse by food allergies, poor diet, and mineral deposits in the joints. For some people, the effects of mental and emotional stress aggravate arthritis pain. Changes in the weather-usually, rain and falling barometric pressure-often cause arthritis flare-ups

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is quite another story. Most experts believe it is caused by an inappropriate immune reaction, in which white blood cells attack the cartilage in the joints; it can go on to destroy the bones themselves and even the muscles and the skin. It is often exceedingly painful and can cripple its sufferers. While osteoarthritis affects men and women equally, RA appears three times more frequently in women. It affects only 2 to 3 percent of the population and can occur at any age, even in childhood. The course of the disease is difficult to predict. It may disappear a few months after its appearance, or it may grow progressively worse. Experts disagree over the causes of RA, but it seems clear that genes, food allergies, bacterial or viral infection, stress, excess acid in the body, and the presence of certain antibodies in the blood all play a role. Many of the complementary therapies used for osteoarthritis are also effective in reducing the pain and slowing the spread of rheumatoid arthritis.

Underlying factors for both of these conditions may include poor digestive function (intestinal permeability), hormone imbalance, nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, and lifestyle factors.

Next: What are the Symptoms of Arthritis?

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