We discuss in this interview:
- How Jennifer’s rheumatologist put her on the Paddison Program as soon as she was diagnosed
- After 6 months her CRP was below 1 and she was discharged
- She has been pain-free and drug-free ever since, apart from a couple of episodes
- Experimenting with the Paddison Program
- Diversity of foods and diversity of the microbiome
- The importance of sticking within the barriers
- Breast cancer and related treatments, and how a healthy diet can help
- Exercise and building muscles
Clint – Welcome back to rheumatoidsolutions.com! I’ve got another guest today to inspire us all with her journey. She has been able to manage her inflammatory symptoms with rheumatoid arthritis by following the Paddison program. But, she has so much more to share than just rheumatoid arthritis management. It is because she’s been through a tremendous amount of having been diagnosed with breast cancer. We’re also going to cover the journey that she’s had with that as well. Jennifer is originally from Scotland but now living just north of Brisbane here in Australia. But you’ll pick up that her accent is still strong, healthy, and thriving. Jennifer, welcome, and thanks for joining us today.
Jennifer – Thank you for having me.
Clint – Now, you said that you’ve never done anything like this in your life. We will forgive you if you stumble or stutter, or go fuzzy on the screen, or whatever. I’m just grateful to have you here because your story is very unusual. Even for people who have had a lot of improvements by following the Paddison Program, but yours was extraordinary. Can you just give us a brief sample of what we’re going to hear about today?
Jennifer – Ok, my story started with very mild symptoms in 2015. I knew what it was and it was because of my family history. I went to a rheumatologist and she immediately put me onto the Paddison Program without medications. Then 6 months later, my CRP was below 1 and she happily discharged me. Apart from 1 or 2 odd episodes when I’ve eaten incorrectly, I’ve been completely symptom-free and medication-free from rheumatoid arthritis. In which is wonderful and I’m very grateful for that.
Clint – Yeah, that is true, as I said a moment ago, very extraordinary. Whilst we do get some people come to our program and say, I was just diagnosed and I never want to go on medications. They also say if I go on your program, can I be off drugs forever? The answer is mostly, you can try but you’re probably going to have a better outcome long term. If you follow the path that I took necessarily and also so many others have taken, which is to do some drugs in parallel or something that’s non-counterproductive. For example, methotrexate, sulfasalazine, and something like this. If your symptoms are well controlled at that level, and your rheumatologist and you agree that everything’s on track. Then, you can slowly taper the medications with time if all the indicators are good. Then occasionally someone comes along like yourself and pulls off the 3 points shot, and just manages to avoid needing any other interventions. It is whether be like heavy supplementation or medications or whatever. In that sense, your story is very unusual, tremendous, and wonderful. We’ll talk about the rheumatoid side of things. But let’s also go deep into your challenges with your breast cancer today as well. I’m now thinking, where should we go with this? First of all, let’s talk about the rheumatoid symptoms that you had before you saw the rheumatologist. You said they were mild, but where were you affected the most?
Jennifer – When I wake up in the morning, my hands and feet are a bit swollen and I do feel discomfort over 2 or 3 weeks. Then, it spread up to my elbows because they were also affected. By the time I showered and finished breakfast, things had come down. There was a strong family history and I knew what it was but I didn’t want it. I went straight to the doctor and asked for a referral. It was because if treatment was necessary, I wanted to get it started.
Clint – You’ve written to me some really wonderful lengthy notes here before our call so that I was well prepared. You said that you were very happy to go on whatever medications were recommended, that’s correct?
Jennifer – Yes, because I’m not a medication kind of person. I have literally thrown out paracetamol from my cupboard because it’s past its expiration date. I’ve been very lucky and I’ve been very healthy all my life. But if I needed medications for RA, I would have taken them because I didn’t want the disease. But she said I wasn’t quite ready for medication and the symptoms weren’t bad enough. She just wrote down your website address and the note was pushed across the desk. Then she said, try this diet and see how you go.
Clint – What has she since said, when you’ve returned and you were doing so well? Was she quite chuffed and happy with your results? Was she also chuffed that she’d made the recommendation?
Jennifer – Yes, I think she was. I went back and she examined me again and she said, everything looks great and that’s fantastic. She said, I really don’t think I need to see you again, but you know where I am. She also said, if you get symptoms again, come back. Then she also said, I have an array of drugs to choose from for your treatments.
Clint – All right, great. Do you want to share the name of the rheumatologist, who it is?
Jennifer – Dr. Lauren Young, Suite 2/93 Marine Parade, Redcliffe QLD 4020. Email – firstname.lastname@example.org Phone – 3284 5035 Fax – 3883 1628
Clint – Doctor Young in Redcliff? It is because everyone’s always looking for a rheumatologist, who’s happy to work alongside the medicine approach and who understands that there is a way that we can get a lot of improvements in parallel. So Dr. Young in Redcliff, I will add them to our preferred practitioner list inside our support group. I will also add her clinic to the notes of this episode over at rheumatoidsolutions.com. You’ve gone away and you’ve looked at what she’s recommended. You’ve also must have thought, I have to give up meat, dairy, and oils? Is this how things played out?
Jennifer – Well, I just read it and I took it all in. I was an omnivore, but I did try to eat healthily. I’ve always been a home cook, not a junk food person. I had my vegetarian moments when I was a student and so I know it was well. I used medications but they didn’t have any side effects, so I was absolutely up for it. I saw her just before Christmas and I had a Christmas dinner normally, Then, the symptoms started just after Christmas and I really was pretty dedicated. I had to speed up the very early stages a little bit because I was borderline underweight and I just couldn’t get enough calories. I think I did 2 days of week 1, 2 days of week 2, and then I went on week 3. Then I stayed at week 3 until week 6. Then I just reintroduced fruits one by one until I got an idea of what was working and what wasn’t. When I tried dairy, it didn’t go very well. I just did a tentative introduction just to see and feel what was happening.
Clint – You’ve got a clear and obvious reaction, when you tried to do something wasn’t recommended. OK, that’s good, isn’t it? I could imagine your body saying, no.
Jennifer – You kinda what to do an experiment, right?
Clint – You are and that’s right! The guidelines are merely suggestions. But we have to work within those suggestions that are based on science and anecdotal feedback from a lot of experience, a lot of people’s experience, or a collection of experience. But yeah, it’s very individual. Dairy, however, is pretty clear on that one and you were playing with fire there. Has there been any other foods that are more unpredictable? For example carrots or for me bananas because I’ve never fully trusted bananas. Are there any foods that I considered healthy but you don’t agree with?
Jennifer – Not really because I’ve always stayed with the whole food plant-based. If I eat something with oil, it’s definitely a bit iffy. If I do stick strictly to the whole food plant-based, I seem to be able to eat any fruit and vegetables. I don’t have an issue with gluten and I’m fine with that. I do have a really good range of foods and I make a big effort to eat variety. There was something recently about someone who published an article. It said people should try to eat at least 30 different foods a week. Then the day that I’ve I read that, I consumed 37, and the following day I consumed 47. It was because I made a curry and you can eat each spice individually. I’m eating a huge variety and which is marvelous.
Clint – This has been a push in recent sort of 12 to 18 months after Dr. B published his Fiber Fueled book, which became a huge sort of vegan Bible. His emphasis is on the diversity of plants, the way that that can create diversity of the microbiome, and how more diverse our microbiome is, the better our health. Now, that’s been known for decades, but that was sort of the main niche of his book. Let’s go for diversity because we know that it helps our health and eat lots of variety.
Clint – No one’s really confronted me with this or ask this question, but I’m going to sort of go there. It is because it’s something that’s relevant to our program. We start out with a small number of foods and they might only be in the baseline set of foods. They might only be a 12, 15, or something if you include the little ones like garlic, onion, and miso. If you count lots of the little detail then yes, there might only be a 12 or so. Despite it being nutritionally complete in the right quantity. If you eat enough of that, then you can meet all of your nutritional requirements. The diversity could be argued and say, there’s not enough diversity of foods. We aren’t the average healthy person who’s just looking to increase our microbiome. We’ve got a chronic inflammatory state and there are priorities here.
Clint – Our first priority, let’s really bring down the inflammation. Let’s develop a connection with the food and inflammation and that relationship on our individual level. Then we then start to introduce foods and also the reintroduction guide. I haven’t counted the number of foods on there, but there’s a lot and there are probably 60 or 70 foods there to work its way through and reintroduced. We get the diversity as sort of stage 3 or 4 and we work towards that. If someone was wondering about that, then that’s how it all fits in piece of the puzzle. I do think that getting the inflammation down, getting control and confidence first, and then increase our diversity second. Have you had, I know the answer to this but I want you to share it. Have you had any reactions to eating out foods that are noncompliant and so forth? With that, we can see that you are human, you do have rheumatoid arthritis, and you are reactionary to things other than the dairy in the initial stages?
Jennifer – Yes, I have a reaction when a barista has given me cow’s milk instead of almond milk, and that has happened once or twice. When I visit cafes, they’ve been too busy chatting with a friend to notice. But an hour later, I’ll get tingles and twinges in the left foot, which sometimes last 5 or 10 minutes but it’s just that little reminder. Then I just had a bigger reaction during the weekend. I was going out for dinner and I’m not very sure exactly what was in it that disagreed with me, but something did and it was a stronger reaction. (Inaudible) All is good, but I will never be free of rheumatoid arthritis. I got it and I just have to have to manage it. Frankly, you’re trying to give us good management too.
Clint – I want to bring these situations up. In our interviews here, which you and I are doing, are all about reality. We’re not creating a face or a false sense of fantasy. Whereby, here’s Jennifer and she got rheumatoid arthritis. Then the doctor had a great plan that involves getting healthy first and then looking at the need for drugs afterwards. Now she’s been perfect ever since. We’re not trying to mislead or confuse anyone. What we’re looking at here is, you have managed to sidestep the common medical path because of great choices. But you went out to a restaurant. It was like, what, a week ago? Now, I think you mentioned you add some fried tofu in a salad. Then the next day, the one problem area that you had when you were diagnosed, which was some bony erosions in your foot. Your foot has become sensitive again and it’s taken you a few days to get rid of that. The massive message is that we’ve got to stick within the barriers. For example at the bowling alley, they bring in those things for kids so it can’t go into the gutter. We’ve got those barricades in our life so, we don’t go in the gutter. If we take down the barricade and we start being a little bit more adventurous, particularly at restaurants. It is where they use oils and heat these oils in a way that is often repetitive or overly repetitive. These repeated heated oils are extremely free-radical creating. I just wanted everyone to know that even someone who’s totally in control for years, it can be that little reaction if we’re going to have something wrong.
Jennifer – Better to stick to the program.
Clint – Now you’ve had other health challenges. I want to go down this path and talk about your breast cancer experience. You were only eating sort of plant-based and so on for about a year and a half or 2 years when you got diagnosed. I remember that Dr. McDougall said often cancer and I feel a sense that I’m going to misquote this. But I believe that cancer can start to develop many years before it shows up. Can you comment on whether or not I’m accurate with that,
Jennifer – My understanding as breast cancer develops 5 to 10 years before it’s visible on a mammogram.
Clint – I’m glad that I’m on the right track and what I’m saying here is. If you’ve only done a couple of years of plant-based, which we know from the sciences that it reduces the risk of cancer, you may have contributed towards its development and it might not even be dietary?
Jennifer – I think that it’s something else entirely.
Clint – Yes, something else entirely. What was that experience like? Obviously it’s horrible but, can you walk us through those experiences?
Jennifer – Well, it was a total shock. I just went for a routine mammogram, and I was recalled and there was an issue. My family has really a history of cancer and in any description in my direct line. It was just a bolt from the blue and every pathology that did come back, and it wasn’t really what I was expecting. I had a mastectomy and reconstruction because initially they thought that would be enough, but that the mastectomy to take away some lymph nodes in your axilla. When they checked it, they found that they were affected also. We had to go back (inaudible) 29 or 30 of them were affected, and most of them were locally invasive. It wasn’t good and I knew it wasn’t good. Then I had to have chemotherapy or radiation therapy after that.
Clint – Where were the lymph nodes?
Jennifer – In my right armpit.
Clint – The discovery was in the breast, but then it was discovered afterwards that the armpit also had cancer activity. Then, it became a systemic situation, not a local situation.
Jennifer – The doctors actually categorized it as stage 3.
Clint – Right. What was the sort of side effects of the therapies that you went through?
Jennifer – I think it was surgical. Today, I’m left with lymphoedema in my right arm because all the lymph nodes were removed, so the lymph doesn’t flow out of the arm very well now. So that’s an ongoing issue, some nerve damage, and chemotherapy. The main problem with that was fatigue, and I experienced very severe fatigue. Also, chemotherapy and radiotherapy gave me burns in my skin, and that takes a bit of recovery as well. I had to have a couple of other drugs, which may have been contributing to fatigue. I’m still on an anti-estrogen medication, which I seem to be tolerating really well. But the fatigue is ongoing and I just haven’t got over that. Apparently, about 5 percent of people who have chemotherapy just don’t pick up. Afterwards, I seem to be in that category but I’m comfortable and I just live very quietly. I am also here, which is the most important thing.
Clint – Yeah, that’s right. I mean, that alone is an achievement, right? You were given some statistics by the oncologist, right? Those were statistics about your chances of survival. What were those statistics?
Jennifer – Yeah, I had to pin down her but didn’t want to tell me. She said I have up to a 30% chance of surviving in 5 years and I wasn’t very optimistic. But that was 4 years ago and I just had my annual review. (Inaudible) everything seemed to be good.
Clint – Further to that, on top of all that you’ve been through, all those treatments, the challenges that your body has endured, and all of the fatigue. Which doesn’t lend itself well to remaining physically fit to all of these challenges. Then, what was your recent C-Reactive Protein when you had it done for your rheumatoid arthritis?
Jennifer – My C-Reactive Protein was less than 0.4 mg/L. I was shocked because I didn’t even realize that they measured as low as that. I thought it was below one that was as low as they would measure and I was just so amazed. All through my treatment, my CRP has never been above 1. The only occasion that it was 1 was when I had an active infection at the time. I was kind of blaming the infection for raising it slightly. I mean, that’s just marvelous for my body to be under all that stress and yet no inflammation or minimal inflammation anywhere.
Clint – It is incredible! Can we just pause for a moment and say, hang on a sec and look at what your body has been able to sustain and look at the outcome. Again, I can’t emphasize enough that your rheumatoid arthritis was different. You had symptoms, as you said, fingers and feet into the elbow. Then the doctor says, go do a healthy lifestyle first. You’ve gone and done it, and you’ve remained symptom-free for years. As you put it, the ironic or whatever word you used, that just the other week you went out for a rare restaurant meal. You then felt a reaction in just one place and that just happened for a few days. It happened to remind you that you still had it because otherwise you’re so symptom-free. Despite all of you’ve been through with the chemotherapy, treatments, and stuff. You’ve just come back with your best C-Reactive Protein ever. It is really amazing, Jennifer.
Jennifer – I was just stunned and I just couldn’t believe it. I was thinking, where did that come from? It was just wonderful.
Clint – Where do we go from here? If we’re Jennifer and we’re feeling like we’ve got our best CRP ever. Then, we’re 4 out of 5 years, we’ll get to 5 obviously, to get out of the danger zone for having a recurrence. What do you do now? What does life look like for you now?
Jennifer – Well, I just keep going and I’m just hoping the fatigue will lift a bit more. The trend has been better, but the pace is glacial and that’s the thing. It just depends on the fatigue as that particular day and on how much I can do. I did get back to a little bit of yoga just recently and I was doing Yin Yoga, which is a very slow yoga. You might just do maybe 5 asanas in one class for an hour-long class and it is where you hold all positions, which is great. It is good particularly working on with legs and the with the shoulders of it. I have done it because of my incapacity to resolve the surgery. I’ve also done things like the downward dog challenge and it was good. It is because it was putting my weight through the shoulder. I just do what I can and I think that really good. I’m going to try and continue with that couple of times a week. Then, walking is my main exercise and I just did a kilometer from the supermarket. I try to walk there and bring back my rucksack and that’s good exercise. I just walk there and back with a bit of weight. I also swim and once the pool reopens in spring, I’ll get back to swimming. I’ve recently been going ice skating, which is a thing from my childhood. Now, I’ve worked up to skating steadily skating for about 20 minutes and I just love the movement. I’ve been active all my life and I’ve always been quite sporty. I also like to do a bit of sailing but I’m a bit restricted again. It is because I lack a bit of strength, but I can do a bit of that. One of these days on my bucket list, I am going to ski again and that’s my big game. We’re very keen skiers and I’m a bit short of that yet, but that’s what I would like to aim for.
Clint – Have you noticed a steady improvement in your physical abilities over the past 12 months?
Jennifer – Yes, but I’m still an awful long way short than I used to be. I’ve lost a lot of muscle because I haven’t been using it. I do need to try and I did see an exercise physiologist for a while. But that all got a bit upset because of COVID, so I couldn’t really go to the gym. We tried some Zoom classes, but it was a bad class and it was a bad day. All they could do with me was breathing exercises. I probably should warn him again and try and get back to that. But I’ve never been a gym buddy because it was quite an effort to go to the gym.
Clint – Yeah. Then forget the gym, just work with what feels right for you. Those exercises that you listed a moment ago, they’re perfectly adequate for you to be able to steadily build some more muscle. For example, you are fine with your walks. If you don’t have any knee issues and everything else is fine, you could add a little weight to the walk or you could buy a weighted vest. Just like my friend Ellen, who’s been on our podcast a few times and our support forum administrator. She wears a weighted vest for osteoporosis prevention. She goes on a walk, does some exercises steps up, and it just adds a little bit of weight around the chest. Just that alone, when you go for your walk, creates a little bit more weight through the legs and a little bit more effort if you’re going up a hill. It helps with not only building bone density, but also some muscle density through the legs. It’s just a simple little tweak like that and you can add a kilogram or some muscle over a couple of months ahead. If you go to sit down to go to the bathroom or before you allow yourself to go, just do 2 or 3 little squats and then go. It’s like my rule every time you go to sit down, do three squats, and then you’re allowed to go to the bathroom. If you go to the bathroom 4 times a day at a minimum, you’re getting 12 squats in a day and that’s not a bad thing. I’m thinking that I’m going to do 4 squats before I go to the bathroom. Unless you have the runs, where you better go and then do the squats. These are just little things and if you can work them into your day, you don’t need to think about the gym ever again. You just need to work into your lifestyle or things that are going to ask a little bit more of your muscles. Do notice that these couple of examples are leg muscle focus. It is because most of our muscle and body is in our legs and buttocks. If we can build up a bit of strength in that area, we’re targeting the easy win area of our body. Just explore these sorts of parts and there must be endless examples of how to safely increase the load on our muscles without having to even work out.
Jennifer – It’s just in doing that you are just like doing 1% every day. I’ve had that at the back of my mind and sometimes I manage quite well. Then sometimes I’ll have a better day and there are things I want to do. With that, I end up doing it because I’m feeling good. While I want to do X, Y, and Z, then off I go and do it, and then it takes me 3 days to recover.
Clint – Is it the shoulder or is it that right shoulder where the surgery was? Is that the part where it provides most of? Probably is that you just get hit with so much fatigue that you then flattened out.
Jennifer – It’s just the fatigue, have some lunch, lie down on the sofa, and wake up at 4 in the afternoon. So I just fall asleep.
Clint – Okay, so a couple of ideas and now let’s troubleshoot some fatigue. This might go beyond the conventional framework of helping fatigue because of chemo and radiotherapy, right? It’s not a fair playing field, to begin with. But having said that, do you eat many fruits in your diet? Have you got fruits that you consume and you’re happy with?
Jennifer – Yes, I do eat fresh fruits every day. I’ll just have another piece of fruit later in the day or so.
Clint – If that’s already part of your diet and you have no issue with that, it’s obviously super healthy. Maybe before you work out or even halfway through, take some more fruit with you and keep your blood sugar levels up. This is a safe and natural way to eat in a way that remains us energized. You might want to buy some Medjool dates and chew on a few dates as you go. While chewing, you walk to the store and back. You can also do this when you get home, have a big papaya, and just keep those energy levels up by eating fruit, all right? Because the the blood sugar levels are controlled nicely because of the fiber in the fruit. It’s a natural way of providing sugar to the body, and that’s one thing. The other thing is in terms of the vitamins. How is your vitamin D level? Are you supplementing vitamin D or do you get sunshine a lot?
Jennifer – I do supplement but just a thousand milligrams 5 days a week because my last one was 124. It was low when my breast cancer was diagnosed. It was because having done your program and the vitamin D was something I had overlooked. I was on supplement immediately to it get up,
Clint – Okay. Then the other thing would be, just as a no brainer for a general health is vitamin C. I was listening to a podcast by found my fitness, which is interesting science based podcast. I listen to it for an hour and a half, and it’s all about just vitamin C studies. In an hour and a half of nothing but vitamin C research, there is one thing that stood out to me. You need to take vitamin C throughout the day, not all in one dose. The body can only assimilate about 3 to 4 grams of vitamin C at a time and the rest just becomes waste. If we did, 3 to 4 grams at breakfast or at lunch, or in the evening then we’re spreading the doses. We’re able to assimilate all of that and not entirely replicate the same as having like a high dose intravenous vitamin C. But, we’re still getting a solid high dose, people would call it megadose of vitamin C. Its only side effect is loose bowels, which may affect our squatting. But other than that, I would do that. Here in Australia, the supplement industry is so outstandingly regulated and has high quality. Go and get some bioceuticals vitamin C and then 1 gram tablet at a time. Our kids even eat them because they have a nice and pleasant flavor. Do a couple of them at breakfast, or at lunch, or in the evening. I’m sure the studies would indicate that also therapy like you’ve been through depletes vitamin C. I mean, I’m going to state that without even checking the studies at all and it’s got to be the case.
Clint – Yes, so I would add C and Zinc. Try that as you were trying to do. Build up your antioxidant enzymes, glutathione, catalyze, and your real powerhouse of antioxidants, which are going to also maintain those energy levels via exercise. It is the best way to get them back up. Obviously, your doctor would have given you guidelines about how aggressive you can be with your exercise. What I mean by that is, is it ok to say? For instance, try and get your heart rate up a little bit or walk a bit quicker some days? I guess the answer is maybe not necessarily with the doctor, but with how your body feels the next day and if you get flattened from it or not. I think keep trying to get a little filler.
Jennifer – Well, I just want to say. I do what I can, when I can. But if I can’t, then I can’t. I’m lucky that I’ve got placement walking roundabouts, and it’s not hard to go out. You’ll just get lucky to see an old kangaroo or a koala and that’s a good incentive to get it.
Clint – That’s right. Do you got koalas near you?
Jennifer – I haven’t seen one for a while, but yes.
Clint – It’s been probably 12 years since I’ve seen one. The day will come when we’re all saying we haven’t seen them except in zoos. It’s just a very sad thing.
Jennifer – It’s been a bit more building and I think that’s just maybe.
Clint – Right. Well, thank you! This has been, as I said at the start, something that you don’t do regularly. I think this is the first time you’ve sort of done this kind of interview style and zoom. I’m very grateful and it was just lovely to have this conversation. Thank you for sharing and it’s just been really lovely to get your message out.
Jennifer – I’m very grateful for the program that you developed. It’s because it kept me in a very good place and I’m very grateful indeed.