Ane* has Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and was looking for additional lifestyle modifications she could make alongside her clinical treatment plan to manage her symptoms. She reached out to us at Arthritis NZ wanting to know more about the Paddison Program as she couldn’t find in-depth reviews to her satisfaction.

The Paddison Program claims it can reverse RA symptoms, but it is not an evidence-based diet recommended for any condition by Arthritis NZ. Rheumatologists in Aotearoa New Zealand follow The American College of Rheumatology guidelines which released the 2022 Integrative Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Guidelines recommending the Mediterranean diet against any other diet. 

Even so, Ane wanted to explore the diet in more detail and give it a go based on the possibility that it might make a difference to her symptoms as other people, including the program’s founder, Clint Paddison, have experienced. 

Ane decided she would like to keep a record of her journey, so that others in her position, who want to know what it’s like before trying, can read about her experience. 

Arthritis NZ provides information for people to make educated decisions when experimenting with ways to manage their symptoms that aren’t in line with international guidelines to help keep our community safe and to be a service for everyone with arthritis. RA is managed first and foremost with medication which prevents further permanent damage to your joints. Other therapies can be explored alongside medications and in the safest possible way by letting your GP and specialist know before you start as Ane did. Consult a registered dietitian if you want to make diet and lifestyle changes outside the American Rheumatology Guidelines. 

This story is written by Ane.

My RA journey 

My journey began in late 2022 when I was diagnosed with RA. When I started my hands were both sore and I was having difficulty brushing my teeth, carrying groceries and sometimes getting dressed and showering. At times I could hardly walk. Initially, I was put on Prednisone and seduced into a false sense that this was going to be an easy ride – while this drug reduced my pain to zero, its long-term effects are terrible. I began tapering off this around 1-2 months after I started as I wanted to see if the Methotrexate I was also on was working. But around 6 months in, a lot of pain had returned, especially hand pain. I also had pain in my feet, significant thoracic pain, and neck pain which caused constant headaches. They suggested the next step was additional drugs. 

Discovery of the Paddison Program

Not content with the idea of more drugs with more side effects I began researching my condition, the long-term damage and complications that can happen. I read books, scoured the internet and started educating myself. It wasn’t long before I came across some success stories – people who “cured” themselves of RA and have gone on to lead happy, healthy pain- and drug-free lives. I was unconvinced but I kept digging and eventually stumbled across the Paddison Program. It was founded and created by Clint Paddison, a fellow RA sufferer who, amid severe pain and not happy with the prospect of a lifetime of drugs and more surgeries, leant on skills he acquired during his physics degree to look into the science of lifestyle behaviours and RA and subsequently ate and exercised his way into remission. From here, wanting to help others, he created the Paddison Program. I struggled to find any reviews on the programme and I was sceptical – was I wasting my time and money? Was this just someone using my disease to push their agenda, market some new products, or look to make a quick buck off my misery? But I was desperate, I wanted to do something. 

I must say I did my due diligence before starting the programme. There was little support from my Rheumatology team, but they were happy for me to try it out although they didn’t believe diet would help. I met with my GP and had my blood levels checked. These were all good except for my Vitamin D levels which I started taking supplements for and now have healthy levels. 

My main concern was around losing weight as I was already skinny and the nutritional content of the diet, or what I thought may be the lack thereof. But 9 months on and my blood tests for nutritional levels are still healthy. 

What is great about the programme is when I ask a question through the forum I am given personal strategies by Clint to assist with any issues that crop up. Additionally, there is a comprehensive online library of videos and documents designed to tackle almost any question or issue. Once a month they host a live Zoom call for members where you can ask questions directly to Clint or a guest speaker such as a Functional Medicine Dr, a Rheumatologist, a physiotherapist or other expert. 

The cost

I initially joined the “Paddison Program” only – it has an annual membership which at the time was US$147. The website states “The Paddison Program is a step-by-step guide for adults with autoimmune arthritis. It includes comprehensive details on diet, exercise, supplements, and stress reduction based on published scientific evidence.”

Essentially this is access to the programme itself. The dietary plan, strategies, exercise, supporting documents such as daily videos talking you through each day of the cleanse and baseline phases, about the food and how to prepare it, energy levels, Q&A, goal setting, and more. It also includes a huge amount of educational resources around RA.  

Not long after I started, I upgraded to “Rheumatology Solutions” – also an annual membership. This is the same programme but includes a support forum where members can ask questions directly to Clint Paddison himself, or a Functional Medicine Dr, a lifestyle coach etc etc. It’s a wonderfully supportive network of people all sharing their struggles, questions and journeys through the programme and their experiences of life with the disease. Every question you ask is personally responded to – with words of encouragement. I would recommend anyone wanting to do this programme sign up for “Rheumatoid Solutions”. 

Lifestyle changes and challenges 

Plant based food The Paddison Program is just that – a programme. It’s not just a diet, it’s a way of life. It consists of an elimination “diet” which starts with a 2-day “cleanse” followed by 2 weeks of “baseline” eating before beginning re-introducing foods (I believe this is now only one week). Its focus is plant-based eating to heal your gut and cutting out inflammatory foods like meat, dairy, oil and processed foods.

The baseline phase was the most difficult. I was already vegan before starting, but I struggled with the volume of leafy greens that needed to be eaten with each meal. I also struggled with the limited foods I could eat and, for me, the blandness of the food. Social events were particularly difficult. I had to watch my family eat a double chocolate raspberry and walnut cake I had baked, eat salad at restaurants while watching everyone else eat delicious meals and I had to learn to get creative with few ingredients. As I work full time it also requires a lot of planning and food prepping. I lost a few kilos and had my first “flare-up” about 6 weeks in. 

Surprising benefits  

I’ve had surprising rewards along the way. On around day 5, my headaches disappeared. I have had neck pain and headaches for several years prior to my diagnosis and have spent years trying to rid myself of them with expensive physio. The thoracic pain started when I was partway through tapering off Prednisone early last year and has prevented me from sleeping and made dressing/showering etc challenging. It also started to get better around day 7. These 2 issues I understand are age-related changes to my spine but have impacted my sleep and mood – I didn’t need any additional pain on top of my RA so this has been a very welcome result! – I believe the improvement has come from not only my diet but the additional exercise I now do.

Around day 10 the pain in my right hand disappeared although not the muscle weakness – I still work on that daily. The pain in my left finger and wrist disappeared on occasion but came back when I used the joints. The pain was noticeable but not at rest, only when I used it.  

My blood pressure usually sat around 130/70 or 80 which is classified as normal to high and I was getting it checked regularly. It’s now consistently in the “ideal” range, around 117/64. I attribute a lot of that to the exercise along with a lower heart rate. Remember that the program is not just a diet, it’s exercise and stress reduction. 

I stuck to the elimination and reintroduction diet very strictly. After 4 months my Gerd (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) disappeared completely.  

I had no real inflammatory reactions to reintroducing any foods except anything with loads of oil. Once I was past the first month of this programme it became easier and more natural and I began to view food as a way to nourish and heal the body and mind. 

6 months in 

After following the programme for 6 months, my diet is more varied than before I started.  I’ve been able to reintroduce most fruits and vegetables without issue. I lost almost 10kgs in the earlier days but have managed to put a lot back on with healthy fats from nuts and seeds etc. I exercise an hour a day and work on building muscle strength. 

exercise lady with weights I looked back on my initial self-assessment and was surprised to see how much pain had gone or reduced. While I still have some pain in my left hand and muscle weakness in my right, I don’t have any difficulty with the things I used to like brushing my teeth, carrying groceries, getting dressed or showering. I also still have a little pain in my back when I go to bed and some neck stiffness (it is likely the increased exercise that has helped) I no longer need to take PPIs (e.g. Omeprazole) or NSAIDs (e.g. Ibuprofen). I exercise regularly now – 30 minutes on my exercycle before work, squats while brushing my teeth, 1/2 hour walk during my lunch break and stretching throughout the day. I do still have a way to go on stress reduction, but I am now 90% pain-free and full of energy. I get out of bed effortlessly, I feel happy and positive about my future. My most recent Rheumatology appointment a few weeks ago confirmed no current inflammation and x-rays confirmed no changes to my joints.  

While I’m not reducing my meds, I’m also not needing to change or increase them. I am still on Methotrexate and I have no intention of going against my specialist’s advice, but now I feel armed with the knowledge and confidence to question my treatment when I need to and am hopeful that one day my medical team will advise me to reduce my meds because of my clinical improvements. 

For me, as my diet was already 100% plant-based, exercise has been one of the biggest game changers. The exercise programme and access to a functional movement coach who provides individual support are excellent.  You can also have one-to-one sessions with the coaches, I don’t know what the cost is as I’ve not needed to use that but the feedback within the forum is positive.  

Things to consider 

Don’t be under any illusions – this programme is a journey, not a destination. It is a “lifestyle, lifelong approach to inflammation reduction.” It requires hard work, determination and dedication to the principle that ultimately you are in control of your health. You have the ability to help yourself get better.  

stress ball This programme doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be drug-free or necessarily completely pain-free. It offers you the opportunity to educate yourself about healthy life choices, heal your gut, improve your health, get fit, and strong, and in the process become happier and in a large number of cases, like mine, mostly pain-free and off painkillers.  

This doesn’t happen straight away for everyone. It can take months or longer to see results – everyone is different, but you can be sure that what you are doing for your body and mind will help your overall health and strengthen you for the years ahead.   

Food was the most difficult part of the programme initially as I had to eliminate everything for a while. And I love to eat! 

9 months on 

The “programme” is now just “me”. I am still a member, I still follow the Paddison Program but it is now just me and who I am. I know what works for me and what doesn’t. I am food conscious, I am health conscious and I now exercise between 1 and 1 ½ hours a day (don’t worry, I take Sundays off!). I check in with the forum when I need answers or support from Clint and the team or other members. I check in when I need some inspiration and feel a little isolated.  

I now basically eat a normal balanced vegan diet, just no oil, refined sugar, no coffee and cook everything from scratch. I indulge in going out for meals from time to time and I bake, but adapt my recipes to have little or no oil or sugar. I have about 15 coffee alternatives I love including barley coffee! It’s great stuff, don’t miss coffee at all, only the convenience of it. 

My Rheumatologist advised me that the pain in my hands is most likely not RA, and again that I have no active inflammation. I have already signalled my willingness to reduce my meds – when they say I can. So I am hopeful, and grateful 9 months on to have had this opportunity at the beginning of my disease rollercoaster. It’s been around 18 months since my diagnosis and I feel I’m coming out the other end and can carry on where I left off.  

Looking ahead 

I’m at the beginning of my journey and I’m committed to the ride. Before my diagnosis and before starting the programme, I took my health for granted and considered food as a source of fuel and indulgence, I now see it as a way to nourish and heal the body and mind. I have loved some of the baseline meals so much I still eat them every day – I look forward to my buckwheat and quinoa at lunch (with a salad – every meal with a salad!) and I love this new way of eating. 

I feel energised, educated, in control, strong, healthy and largely pain-free. But I’m also realistic – I know there will still be bad days, there may be days when I slip and reach for the cake! But I feel I have the tools to tackle flare-ups, to heal myself. The support I gained, the encouragement and the hard work that has gone into this programme is quite something and Clint never stops researching – there are adjustments made, new content and videos regularly. 

For me, the Paddison Program is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

*Not her real name

Read more:

Healthy Eating Patterns – Nutrition and Arthritis

Putting Rheumatoid Arthritis into Remission | Clint Paddison – The Proof

MyRA image

Translate »