We discuss in this interview:
- How Tammy started experiencing severe pain and was diagnosed with RA
- How drugs were ineffective in reducing pain
- Her discovery of the Paddison Program after searching the internet
- How changing her diet took the pain away
- Sulfasalazine and its side effects
- Removing dairy, gluten and sugar from the diet
- The importance of consistency
- Integrating vitamin B12 and vitamin D
- How diet changes helped Tammy also with a ganglion cyst and diabetes
- The importance of having great support
Clint – We love hearing good news. Today we’re going to hear more of it from Tammy. She lives in a place called Asheville in North Carolina, which is a Paddison family favorite. It’s a beautiful part of the United States and I was there for the second or third time, a couple of years ago. I was there to give a talk at the University of North Carolina. And it was a place that we’ve fallen in love with a beautiful vegan option and outdoor living. And Tammy has endured rheumatoid arthritis throughout the pandemic in a way that’s quite remarkable. She has managed to transform her inflammation levels and get her inflammation under control following the Paddison Program. And she’s going to tell us about how she did it and she will also give us details. She will also share any tips, specifics, and emphasis on certain aspects of the program. With that, you can also improve the way that you’re doing it or maybe get started on it and improve your health as well. Tammy, thanks for joining us.
Tammy – You’re welcome. And everyone calls me TJ, so feel free to call me TJ for Tammy Jo.
Clint – That is so American, isn’t it? I love it. Let’s go with T.J, it’s very endearing. And TJ, tell us the before and after situation. We spoke briefly before this, but I don’t have too much details other than you’ve got a great story to tell. Can you give us this quick snapshot before and after in like a minute or so?
Tammy – I woke up on July 5th after having our neighborhood gathering and my feet hurt so badly I could hardly walk. And my husband and I jumped in the car to go shoe store in Greenville. I bought new shoes because I thought maybe it’s my shoe and we bought lots of shoes and of course, it didn’t do it. And then my pain just started getting worse and worse. And my doctor had me do blood work and I was found to have RA factors. So I started on three different medicines in a series of a short period of time and nothing was really taking the pain away. Except if I took prednisone, which they didn’t want me to do and I didn’t want to do. So I was pretty desperate one night and I was laying in bed. I could hardly roll over or I couldn’t turn my head or move my arms and everything hurts so bad but I wasn’t suicidal. Rather, I was thinking I really don’t want to live like this. And I’m not that old, I just turned 61 so I was 59 then. I got on the internet because I couldn’t sleep because of the pain and then I found a person who then linked me to you, Clint. Then I began changing my diet pretty drastically and it didn’t feel that hard but it was difficult at times within days. I started noticing my pain go away and I couldn’t believe it, so I had to test it that weekend. I said this can’t really be true, so I ate dairy and sugar again. I felt just horrible and almost as if I’d never felt better. So I immediately got back on the food and decided that it was working and it’s been working ever since. My numbers are normal and it’s helped me in other areas of my life as well. Not just the RA, but also other health issues that I’ve had. So, that’s it in a nutshell.
Clint – It never ceases to surprise me, even though I do have the blessing of hearing it quite often. It’s just this remarkable link between the inflammation, our body, and the fuel that we’re putting into it and yours is a really exciting case. So let’s go into it in more detail. You started with Methotrexate, and you mentioned that you were using Prednisone and it was the main thing that was working. What went wrong with methotrexate? How come you didn’t persevere with that?
Tammy – I remember when I first was told that I was going to be on and I learned that it was used for cancer patients. So I was kind of a little afraid of it and then I started getting horrible migraines. So I said, I can’t do this and I’m not going to take this. And then migraine medicine and it will just build upon, so they switched me to Leflunomide. My doctor said if you get any cramps at all, stop taking it immediately. And I immediately got cramps like on the first day that I took them. Then they switched me to sulfasalazine, which I am currently taking. And it is also what my doctor is talking about taking me off if my numbers continue to be good, which chokes me up a little.
Clint – Leflunomide, just for everyone else’s benefit who are listening to this and this is purely anecdotal. It’s common to hear challenges with that medication. I’ll just go so far as to say that and this is purely just anecdotal within our support forum. I do probably hear more cases or challenging cases with that medication than what we hear positive. But that’s not to say it’s not ideal for some people. But it doesn’t you’re not the first person to have trouble with that medication. And then the sulfasalazine, it’s interesting isn’t it? Does that give you any side effects of sulfasalazine, like fatigue?
Tammy – Well, I have my energies increased so much. I do notice that, I don’t know if it’s the RA or age, or the medicine, when I used to clean the whole house I just can’t keep on going. But now, it’s sort of like one room at a time. And then this morning I’m in the cellar right now, which I’m not usually in my cellar doing this kind of thing. But I cleaned out my half of the cellar and my husband has the half, which is a workshop. For me, it looks so great and I didn’t have to stop at all. I have that much energy and I’m sure I’ll sleep really well tonight.
Clint – And that’s awesome, we’ve done a great job. The cellar looks beautiful in the background.
Tammy – The sulfasalazine did cause me to have a lot of nausea. So my doctor was splitting it up to one tablet in the morning with five hundred milligrams of dosage and then two at night after dinner. So I have to be really careful still to eat food. And I’m a light eater in the morning, it’s a bit of a challenge for me. But (inaudible) kind of fills me up.
Clint – Is that thing successful for you? So you still do that today? To reduce nausea, you split the tablet dosage. That’s interesting.
Tammy – Yes. And my GP and I didn’t know where nausea was from, so she started me on one capsule of Pepcid. So there is something for my stomach in the morning.
Clint – Right, because it counteracts nausea from the sulfasalazine. OK, well if it’s providing or it’s holding your hand as you go through and with all your lifestyle changes. Then, this sort of outweighing the downsides benefits? And it sounds like at the moment, that it does. Let’s go now onto the dietary changes, which is where all the excitement lies in chat. How different was this way of eating compared to what you were doing before?
Tammy – As I said, the nurse who led me to you know or who I found that desperate night on the internet. I found her ad which said, I’m an RN with RA, and then it’s said free consultation. Then I thought, what have I got to lose? She’s RN, so she’s medical and I had a free consult with her and she asked me to start juicing celery, and then I said, I would like to buy a consultation. I always say my life was changed with $60. When I got on with her, she said, I want you to stop eating dairy, gluten and sugar. And I kind of giggled and said, what will I eat? And my husband even said but that’s your diet, and it wasn’t all my diet. So I was just looking in my book again, and it looks like I worked with her off and on from March until then, I found you more or less in July. This is ironic because it’s July 4th of 2020. And a year later, I started taking notes in my book, Paddison. I have at the top of my page and I was doing the mantra. I am pain-free, I am med-free, I have energy, and then I was looking at where my pain runs, fingers, elbows, feet and that. Things were getting better and better. Then with the diet, she didn’t really have a diet to follow. It was a lot of things I would have never been able to eat. So when I found your recipe for that, that has become my Bible. And so I share about the other person.
Clint – For listeners wondering what this moment is about. We spoke before the recording here about a friend of yours, right, TJ?
Tammy – I’m going to say, Bay so there’s no identifying. So they wanted to do this with me and so I would share it would really help me reinforce my own program. And today, I feel like I am 95 or more percent pain-free. They are in a worse condition than they were a year ago. What I realized was how difficult it is for many people to make this dietary shift, and that’s why probably there are some people who suffer.
Clint – I’ve never said it was easy and this is a good situation. It’s not the case where they do studies of identical twins and then they watch them over their lifetime and watch their patterns. Then they are able to draw conclusions about things because they’ve got the same genes, the same birth date, and all that. And it’s not like that because the two of you, you and your friend, obviously have a lot of different biological markers. It’s probably your age, history of eating, genetics, and all sorts of stuff. However, it does go to show that in this case study of two, there was only a 50 percent compliance. And your results and your friend’s results are remarkable, from a medical angle or from virtually any angle, and more typical of RA which is progressive and degenerative and yet awful. Thank you for sharing that comparison.
Tammy – Well, in a really exciting thing that’s happened. I remember one of the first appointments with my first doctor, I said, is there anything I could do to change my diet? And he said, no there’s really not. And he said you could try the Mediterranean diet that’s probably the closest. As the order of the doctor, I did do that. Well, now I have a new doctor, and she shared with me that she is a cancer survivor. And she’s made a lot of dietary changes herself, but she’s very supportive of what I’m doing. And while she’s saying let’s work toward getting you off the sulfasalazine. He kept saying, can I give you an infusion or would you like an infusion? And I would look at it and I’d say, but I want my diet is changing how I feel. And it was almost as if he didn’t listen or hear me but I liked him a lot and he was a great guy. But he just says, we can always do infusions if this doesn’t work. And I said, but I’m getting better look at my numbers. It’s really interesting, it is different.
Clint – It remains the dilemma of the medical profession in just sticking with medical profession training. And then you’ve got your other doctor who’s had a personal experience, who then offers I guess, a holistic view to your situation. And it just goes to show that the doctor you’re working with plays such a crucial role in your attitude towards your condition, your treatment plan towards your condition, and just how you feel about the whole situation. The insights that you get from a doctor who’s had a personal experience are tremendous and a cancer survivor clearly knows the importance of nutrition.
Tammy – So this has been a very positive change. It just turned out that he left the city, so I had to find someone new. But I feel like it was a universal blessing for me.
Clint – I’m going to ask you a couple of questions about tips and tricks and things that you want to share with our listeners, that you feel work best for you within the realms of the program. But is there anything else that you want to talk about before we do that?
Tammy – I sort of overcome with the miracle that my life changed so much. And when I look at my notes with all the pain I was having and when I was sort of going from head to toe up until today. Well, now it’s two years, but within a year by changing my diet. It was completely as if I no longer had it and I was not communicating with you other than through email. So I didn’t really know you never saw you except on the podcast. And I was sending you an email to thank you for helping me from afar, really changing my life, and giving me a better future. I felt like I was not going to a good place and was very worried about my career as a psychotherapist in my life. And I moved to Asheville so I could hike and enjoy this beautiful place and suddenly I could hardly walk in my own home. It’s amazing the change that could I say it again and again, food is medicine.
Tammy – But most of us take poor drugs or poor medicine, don’t we? We need to take the right medicine. And in your case, it’s been such a transformation. And for some people who are working as hard as they can and listening to this and saying, but I am doing all those things and I’m still not making progress. Well, diet is the platform, and it’s like the concrete slab of the house. Once you get your diet right, eat low-fat whole foods, no oils, and plant a based diet. And then if that only gets you so far, then at least you’ve got your concrete slab that shouldn’t change. And then from there, you can do other aspects of the building of that house. For some people, it is enough to get you to the point that you have gotten to the moment. And then you have only other tools available to you should you need to engage with those as I did a lot of other people do. For me, the other big tool is exercise. And that for me, I got a yield that weapon as much as I can for my body in my situation, so what you said was beautiful. And to be able to utilize the nutrition to reduce inflammation, to keep us healthy, and to therefore require fewer interventions. Whether it be supplemented or medications to keep those at the minimum as a result of just eating, which we all have to do is a blessing. Give us some of the TJ tips as we’ll call them for people who might be looking at the program at the moment or who are doing it. And I want you to emphasize the points that are non-negotiable that you think you’ve got to do this.
Tammy – For me, I do want to touch base on exercise because that was the last thing to come to me. For me, dairy is out of the question. I cannot eat any dairy but I can tolerate a few of the other two which are gluten and sugar but I just try not to do so. But for me, dairy is one hundred percent off the table. And what my tips are, I kind of eat the same stuff. And I find the stuff I really like. For example, I really like a bean burrito made with all the right ingredients with the ones that I can eat gluten-free, and dairy-free. And that is a staple lunch for me every day when I take a break from my clients. I love not having to think about it too much. Prior to this, my husband, he is a food writer and he’s a really great cook. And so he was making all these unbelievable meals. And then we had to kind of like a screeching halt to some degree. And he’s been such a trooper about adjusting. And it’s amazing what you can do to adjust food. For example, you like your potato mashed, you don’t have to have all that butter and all those other things. So he’s been just a whiz in the kitchen about that for me. And we have an international food group and we met last night, and it was Indian food. So everybody labeled it gluten-free, dairy-free because there were some vegans there and it was just lovely. And you just have to be diligent about looking at labels, tracking how you feel to some degree after you eat something, and letting yourself have the good stuff that you really like as often as you want. As I say, the bean burrito sounds so simple, but I love it. It gives me protein and it makes me feel good. My other tips would be I didn’t know it, but I got very low and B-12 and D because I was mostly plant-based. And one of the things you can become deficient in is those two things. And luckily I have a great doctor, a great GP who caught this thing. I told her I was so fatigued and I think that was from the drop of my B-12. But now I’m fine and I’m taking those supplements and just being open to talking about what’s going on and not ignoring it, being really on top of it. Like, if I wake up and my hands really hurt, then I sort of review what I ate or what I did. Did I use my hands too much? And that sort of segue a little to the exercise.
Tammy – I really had a hard time getting into that part of it. My neighbor moved and sold her brand-new treadmill. I bought it for $400 and it was like $2000, but that’s for the cold weather or the rain. And then I’m trying to go out and hike mostly on Lauterpacht. For now, I’m trying to just ease my way to climbing that mountain again, but I have to be careful. I’m a little unsure, a little unsteady, but I use the poles when I want. And that keeps me feel safer when I do that. And I hooked up with a friend who was recovering from a hip injury, so that was perfect. So we both kind of slow and I’m going to get my bike off the hook over there soon and right out of the Biltmore. The Biltmore Estate has a beautiful path. Just keep on moving, that’s kind of what I would say is the tip.
Clint – Did you use the treadmill a lot or is it just a new acquisition?
Tammy – It’s a new acquisition, literally just a few weeks ago.
Clint – Well, to sort of wrap this up. We see some consistencies over the success stories. If we want to put them in inverted commas or those of us who have results to share seems to have some consistent parts of the story. The first is great support. Your husband has provided that support to you. He has encouraged you and he put his own ego aside, being a fantastic chef and being a real expert with food. And he has set aside that expertise and said, I’m going to cook simple and I’m going to set aside all of the luxuries of food and all of the indulgences to make my wife better. So that degree of support is the sort of thing that consistently comes up with people who have a positive experience with their RA. And then, of course, the diet, then you’ve added the exercise and how you’ve got goals to do more. And also you’re aware of the need to keep it up to work on it, to grow your exercise, your abilities to exercise, and your medication management has been good. You’re not taking the prednisone any so that drug isn’t being counterproductive to your efforts to heal yourself. Sulfasalazine doesn’t have any contraindications to being able to improve gut health. It does have an antibiotic component, there is no clarity as to whether that’s actually positive or negative. And you’re not the first person to share improvements or dramatic improvements whilst taking that medication. And therefore, just speaking anecdotally, it’s not a drug that’s going to get in the way of our efforts to improve our internal health. And you haven’t gone overboard on crazy supplements. There’s not been like one magic pill that’s done this for you. It’s been all of the holistic things that you’ve done. It’s been the natural things, mostly the eating in your case. Then you mentioned the B-12, which is part of our program. You need to take a B-12 and then the vitamin D, which drops not just for people on a plant-based diet, but I don’t recall the exact statistics. But the majority of people are in need to increase their vitamin D levels. So that’s something that we have as a worldwide scenario and those two are really sort of foundational things.
Tammy – I was going to share, I don’t know if you want me to share about my hand.
Clint – Oh, yeah.
Tammy – So I had in my right hand what’s called a ganglion cyst, which is a lump. It’s filled with fluids that’s kind of like Jello and honey, that’s how he described it when he aspirated this hand. Before I change my diet, I started getting another one on my left hand. And I went in to get it aspirated and he said, we can’t do that because it’s on the tendon. He said we have to schedule surgery. Well, then covid hit and nobody was doing minor surgery. Then I changed my diet, and one day I got an email from that surgery center wanting to schedule the appointment. And I was like, oh, my goodness, it’s gone and it literally went away. And I don’t know what the deal is but I’m attributing it to the diet because I don’t think they go away. I know many people who have them and who have had them for their whole life for many years. And so that’s what I’m attributing it to, is that my change in my diet and that was another good side effect. I didn’t tell you this, but my entire family is diabetic and I had type two diabetes as well. It very well controlled all the time but now it’s out of the range of even diabetes. In addition to taking sulfasalazine, I’m talking with my GP. I’ve cut back already to two before I was taking four pills. And she’s wanting to get me off of that too. So it’s not only helped my RA this time, it’s pretty remarkable. My blood work is amazing, I’ll send you a transcript before and after. It’s nothing short and I feel like it’s a miracle. I know that it’s because of the food, but it still feels like really just cutting out dairy, gluten, and sugar. And those would change all of this, my entire body chemistry.
Clint – Yep, it’s amazing and it’s transformational. Diabetes is not uncommon to come off type two diabetes medications when you’re on a whole food plant-based diet. Shout out to my friends over at www.masteringdiabetes.org, Cyrus, and Robbie. We had them on the podcast a little while back. You can find their episode if you’d like to go and check out that interview. They’re reporting the situation that we’re reporting on a regular basis. Is it a one diet fits all? Well, it’s a human diet and it’s a diet that aids easy digestion and provides lots of nutrients. And it doesn’t add any of the more offensive sorts of foods to the body. So you’re going to get the best results that we can within our own limitations of our own body and genetics and stuff by eating this way. I would anticipate that if you continue to go down the path you’re going, that the type two diabetes meds are well within your sights. So I look forward to hearing how that comes out along.
Tammy – Well, and I grew up in Wisconsin. I was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and that’s the cheese capital. And so that wasn’t the easiest thing to say goodbye to. And what I learned was that goat cheese is sometimes tolerable for people who can’t tolerate dairy. So every now and then, if I’m really feeling that Wisconsin urge or when I can’t have the cheese curds or the cheddar or all the others, I might have a little bit of goat cheese. But when your pain goes away, it’s a thing that makes it all worthwhile. When you’re laying in bed, you can’t roll over, you can’t move your elbow, and everything hurts. When you roll over your elbow hurts, your hips hurt, hurt your neck, and everything. And that is no way to live and not for me at least, and so giving up cheese is a small price to pay. I had enough of it, I’m 61, I’ve had enough cheese.
Clint – That’s enough cheese. Thank you, TJ, and it’s been very interesting and enjoyable to chat with you. And I look forward to meeting you in person one day once the world resumes international travel and it’s safe for us to go from Sydney to the US. We wanting to visit Asheville and it’s one of our favorite places. We’ve talked of buying a property there if we could afford it.
Tammy – You can find it.
Clint – Yes, and it’s expensive. It’s a beautiful place in the states for great outdoor living and great food for vegan options. It’s really good, so perhaps we’ll end up there. But right now it’s on our To-Do list and hopefully meet you the next time we visit. So thanks for sharing your beautiful story. It’s been wonderful and I wish you all the best.
Tammy – Well, thank you so much for having me. What an honor, I feel honored to be on your podcast, so thank you.