A Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the conditions that I have found pretty challenging to treat. People would always walk out feeling much better after an acupuncture session but the insidious nature of this painful and potentially crippling auto-immune condition often meant the relief was short lived.

That’s why when I heard about the work of Australian researcher turned educator Clint Paddison who was having great success in helping people with RA I was very excited to find out more. Clint was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work and the secrets to his success.

Clint, you suffered from RA yourself, what did your own journey teach you about recovering from RA?

My early doctor told me "of all of the diseases that I would not want to get, RA would be at the top of my list". I thought he was being dramatic, but then I learned that RA really does create so much suffering. So I've learned to respect the seriousness of the disease and to apply great discipline to the parts of my life that can influence the disease outcome. 

How important is the health of your gut for healing from RA?

It is the most important thing. What we eat directly affects the joint pain. One time after a serious bout of food poisoning I didn't eat for over 24 hours. By the end of that fast I was almost pain-free, which made me realise how much of the pain had been coming from food. This started my intense research on the gut and RA.

Why do you think most doctors still say diet has no influence on RA?

1) Their patients keep doing small dietary modifications and getting mixed results, thus giving the impression that diet is hit and miss (or doesn't work at all). 2) It's easier to guide a patient solely into the pharmaceutical approach because it is accepted practice, despite it's shortcomings. 3) Many doctors are waiting on more trials or more data before making any changes to their approach - yet many smaller studies show clearly the direct impact diet plays in RA severity.

Can you be free of RA without drugs? 

In some cases yes, but there are many challenges. Firstly, many of the drugs used to manage the pain actually worsen the underlying cause. Drugs like prednisone, antibiotics and common anti-inflammatories have a strong negative impact on our gut health, which, in turn increases inflammation in the joints. Secondly, inflammation itself creates more inflammation by exacerbating 'leaky gut' so there is a snowball effect. It is therefore, imperative to keep inflammation low for internal healing to occur. Thirdly, gut healing takes a very long time. So remaining on somewhat restrictive low-inflammatory diet for many months is a challenge, along with the need for a solid amount of daily exercise. Despite the challenges involved, the benefits can be enormous. If someone with RA were to see even a partial improvement of their digestive health then this could enable a patient to require less medications to keep their disease under control - which would still be a valued outcome for many RA folks.

Given the difference between your approach and the prevailing medical protocols I’m sure there are some who would try and criticise or discredit your work, what do you say to them? 

Nothing beats results. If something is safe, natural, healthy and works then I'm thrilled to put it out into the world for people to benefit from. Most doctors want to see their patients improve, and are only happy for patients to do this Program in parallel to their medical treatment. In fact, many doctors and some Rheumatologists are now recommending our Program to patients in parallel to the pharmaceutical approach.  Everyone has to eat - so why not eat things that support digestive health and pain reduction? 

Is there a common emotional pattern you see with RA sufferers?

In my pre-program questionnaire, I find that 66% of RA sufferers describe themselves as 'very stressed' right before the first signs of joint pain. It's been shown that stress directly affects gut bacteria so it's plausible that stress could be a contributing factor to the onset of RA and stress management tools have been shown to reduce RA severity. 

Do the protocols you teach in your program have benefits for other auto-immune conditions?

Yes, we've seen great results from this program for psoriatic arthritis, Hashimoto’s, Sjogren’s, psoriasis, lupus and others. I believe that all autoimmune diseases have a similar underlying cause, and genetic predisposition dictates the body's target. Healing the gut will help the body overall, regardless of diagnosis.

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say to people suffering from RA who are reading this today?

Pain is a great motivator so use this motivation to continue to learn and take action now. My TEDx talk and dozens of training videos are on Youtube and my Podcast has over 30 episodes to inspire and educate people with inflammatory arthritis.

You can find out more information about Clint's program at paddisonprogram.com

Wes Smith

Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of meditatewithwes.com an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. Learn more about acupunctureherbal medicine and meditation.

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Arthritis friendly yoga – uniting movement and mindset with breath for better overall health.

Hi Lovely Live Well-ers!

After last week’s solstice we are well into the chilly winter season that means feeling regularly stiff and sore for some of us. If you suffer from arthritis - whether mild or severe, seasonal or chronic - I’ve got a few tips here on ways that yoga can help you improve or manage your condition in healthy, supportive ways.

What is arthritis?

There are almost as many types of arthritis and related diseases, as there are yoga poses and ways to practice.  This is lucky because that means that within all the many options there will be something that’s suitable for you!

Characterised broadly as an inflammatory response, predominantly of joints that causes pain, Arthritis sufferers can present with a wide range of symptoms from isolated pain, swelling and reduction of movement in one joint, to much broader loss of mobility, wider organ and nervous system involvement, and debilitating loss of physical function.

What is yoga?

Yoga is an ancient science that blends movement, breathing and mental concentration and contemplation exercises into a powerful self-care practice.

How can yoga help arthritis sufferers?

Physically, the practice of yoga postures (asana) can help build strength, develop balance and improve flexibility when applied safely. Gentle exercise that doesn’t inflame joints or aggravate pain has been shown to help improve joint health and prevent worsening symptoms that result from a sedentary lifestyle in people with arthritis.

Psychologically, the breathing (pranayama) and mindfulness (meditation) aspects of yoga can have hugely beneficial impacts in helping cultivate a positive mindset, managing pain, improving immunity and reducing feelings of stress and frustration that can be helpful for people managing a chronic condition like arthritis.

Move your body, change your life!  

Even when restricted, movement is so important to our overall physical and psychological health. Arthritis sufferers, regardless of the extent or severity of their condition, can benefit greatly from incorporating some of yoga’s movement techniques into their regular wellness routine.

Despite what you may think, not all yoga requires you to turn your body into a bendy pretzel, or being able to touch your toes! There are plenty of ways a physical yoga practice can be adapted to your individual needs so that you can stretch, strengthen and relax in ways that are comfortable and accessible to your specific condition.

If you’re suffering from arthritis and looking to begin yoga, you can practice gentle variations in each of the families of poses - forward bends, backbends, twists, balances, standing, sitting and lying – within the bounds of your pain tolerance and range of movement. Incorporating supportive tools such as blocks, straps, blankets, cushions and chairs are an excellent way to help modify and assist your practice.

Where do I start?

-       Talk to your doctor first. If there are any specific movements they recommend you avoid, have them write them down so you can pass them on to your yoga teacher.

-       Find a qualified teacher who you can talk to about your specific needs (pick me!). Individual sessions are an ideal place to start if you’re new to yoga. I’m available on Wednesday afternoons for private yoga consultations where I’ll create a program tailored specifically to you.

-       If you prefer a group session, choose a beginner’s yoga class, a chair-based yoga class or a slower, prop-supported practice where you can begin learning what feels right for you.

-       Always listen to your body’s signals and never push yourself into pain.

Breathe yourself to freedom

The way we breathe can change our body chemistry and how our brains and nervous system function. The beauty of a moving practice of yoga is that it is usually paired with the deep, controlled breathing. For arthritis sufferers, even if you’re very movement limited, breathing is a powerful self care practice you can do anytime, anywhere to help create a state of calm and relaxation…or even increased energy if you feel like it too!

Through breath we can create states of calm or states of anxiety. Learning to know what your breathing patterns are and creating for you and finding new ways to produce peace and balance through focussed breathing can help you transform your state of mind, manage feelings of anxiety or overwhelm and cultivate states of calm and relaxation - by choice when ever you want to.

Where do I start?  

-       Deep belly breaths are the fastest way to calm your nervous system. They help switch off our stress ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response that’s triggered in times of stress and help bring your back to a calm, healing, restful state of body and mind.

-       You can bring your attention to your breath anytime, driving your car, sitting or standing at work, or lying down in bed! Ideally you have good posture and an even, neutral spine.

-       First start to notice the quality of your breath; is it deep or shallow, fast or slow, laboured or easy?

-       Then on an exhale squeeze out as much air out as possible, including squeezing your belly and ribs down tight. Try to hold your breath out for one or two counts is you can.

-       As you inhale let your low belly relax and fully stretch out, followed by letting your ribs fully expand up and out.

-       Take another slow, deep exhale for the count of at least four. Continue making your inhale and exhale equal length, repeat for as long as you feel comfortable.

-       Return to normal breath and notice how you feel.

-       Be mindful to stop if breathing exercises make you feel anxious, dizzy or nauseas.

Cultivate a positive mindset

Some people call mediation the ‘art of attention’. Mindfulness meditation helps provide a pathway for creating a new relationship with your self by paying attention to where your feelings and thoughts begin, how you get caught up in them and whether, in fact, your thoughts are really true, or just bad habits you’ve become used to repeating and eventually believing.

Learning to flex our attention muscle can lead to positive psychological benefits such as reducing symptoms of stress including - importantly for arthritis suffers; inflammation, reducing the incidence or severity of anxiety and depression, assisting with conditions including insomnia, and of specific interest to arthritis sufferers, helping change your relationship with pain.

Living with pain can be both physically and psychologically debilitating and practicing meditation has been shown to create measurable improvements in quality of life for arthritis sufferers.

Because pain science has found that the experience of pain is both physical and emotional, sometimes meditation can help where medication can’t by teaching you to become aware of your feelings, manage your emotions moment to moment, be compassionate towards yourself, practice acceptance and choose positive thought patterns that can help you create a more contented life with your condition.

Learning meditation is a wonderful way to start actively changing your mind, and therefore your relationship with yourself, and your condition.

Namaste and be wild, be wise, be well!


Arthritis: movement beyond your joints

One of the most effective ways to approach dis-eases such as arthritis is to remind ourselves that we are more than just our physical body. As Aristotle so eloquently explained ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Eastern healing traditions such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and yogic-Chakra medicine have known this for hundreds of years and have always encompassed the mind, body and spirit. For Eastern medicine, the physical body is not seen as separate to our other ‘bodies’ such as emotional, mental and spiritual; together they create a blueprint of ‘energy’ that is unique to each of us. They’re intricately connected. Kinesiology draws upon both Eastern and Western healing wisdom and techniques in order to treat the whole person. And here’s why this approach helps those who suffer from arthritis - let’s explore this through two of the most difficult symptoms of arthritis: pain and lack of movement or stiffness.

Pain as stored emotions or thoughts

As a general rule, wherever there is physical pain in the body, there is an associated emotional and mental pattern and the same can be said for emotional pain being held in the physical body. So often we try to shift pain yet it continues to return. We question what it is that we’re doing to trigger the pain again and again. However, the answer lies not only within the structure of your joints, but within the life you have experienced. When you reflect on your life thus far, what emotions and moments did you try to ignore or put away as they were too confronting or uncomfortable? When you don’t resolve aspects from your life, it gets stored in your energy system and as it builds can create stress, dis-ease or pain within the body.

Stuck in body; stuck in life

This leads me to the next common symptom of arthritis which is lack of movement or stiffness. A common theme for people who suffer from arthritis, or have limited motion within joints, or painful areas within the moving parts of the body is their relationship with direction, change and flexibility. I’m not talking about the ability to simply freely move your hips or fingers, or to bend your knees and take a step. I’m talking about how you respond to the hurdles and challenges that life brings you. Do you go with the flow and adapt with the changes of the wind, or do you remain intent to hold onto your direction, views and behaviours? Your body can reflect your inner workings of feeling stuck with what to do next, how to move forward or how to let go.

Your body is your guide

In Kinesiology, we are able to get detailed enough to explore the different areas of your body that are inflamed or stiff and sore. For example, the elbows are a reflection of your ability to embrace life and to embrace others. Conversely, you could be holding your arms tightly and protecting yourself from the world around you. When we experience inflammation in particular part of the body, it’s an opportunity to listen to your body and understand what it’s trying to tell you.
By revealing what it is that we need to understand and accept and to then release this, we can begin to ease the inflamed response from your body. Essentially, flexibility in life brings a free flowing movement within your energy system and from this you can roll with the punches and feel peaceful, calm and centred. If you would like to talk to your body through Kinesiology and work to release the blocks, book in for a session with me, Live Well’s resident Kinesiologist.

Arthritis - the homeopathic & herbal approach

Homeopathy and herbal medicine can be simple and very effective therapies for people with arthritis. Well-known UK homeopath, Ian Watson, found homeopathy to be so successful in helping people with musculo-skeletal problems (including arthritis) in his clinic, that he published a book on the subject (Aspects of Homeopathy: Musculo-Skeletal Problems).

There are many types of ‘arthritis’, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis. There’s also rheumatism, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia, gout, gouty arthritis, Raynaud’s Disease. Then there’s “I have stiff knees”, “I’m aching all over but my Doctor says I’m fine”, “I’m not moving as well as I used to”, “the cold weather’s getting to me”, and so on.

What type do you have? Does it fit into a neat box?

To a homeopath or herbalist, a diagnosis of “arthritis” is just the start, not the end point.

There is no ‘medicine for arthritis’. Rather, the approach we take is to understand the unique physiological makeup of the person who has the arthritis and its characterising symptoms, as it uniquely expresses in that person. Bundled into this is assessing any causal factors: Is it an inherited familial trait? Is it the result of an old sports injury? Has it been triggered by hormonal changes during menopause? Does it happen before rain?

To illustrate the approach, imagine two people that have received a diagnosis of ‘osteoarthritis’. The first person experiences stiffness and pain in the morning upon waking, which gets progressively better throughout the day as he moves the joints and ‘limbers up’. For the second person, his arthritis symptoms worsen the more he moves; he only gets relief when he is still. This is just the start - the homeopath/herbalist then also looks for other unique, guiding symptoms and/or conditions that together define the overall pattern of illness. A medicine is chosen on the basis of this overall pattern.

For example, Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) may be prescribed for someone with rheumatic arthritis, who also experiences menstrual irregularities, faulty digestion and experiences migraines with changes in weather (especially before rain).

The following cases help illustrate how this works in practice

Years ago an old dairy farmer came in with debilitating arthritis in his spine. He was on a waiting list for surgery, scheduled six months down the track, but he was having great difficulty managing his pain during the wait (even with strong pain suppressant medication). His arthritis was the result of multiple old injuries, including a broken back, from earlier in his life. Homeopathic Symphytum, which is often indicated in injuries or trauma to the skeletal system (no matter how old), successfully provided the relief he needed to manage the pain until his surgery.

Another man presented to the clinic with painful osteoarthritis in his big toe joints, which had become progressively worse throughout his fifties. His toe joints had advanced osteophyte formation (bony bumps). He was worried because he had booked an overseas hiking trip with his wife later in the year, and already his movement was becoming restricted; was there anything that could be done? Conventional wisdom would say “not in such a case”; the advanced state of his joint deformation didn't fill me with hope that he’d be trekking ever again. His experienced of ‘osteoarthritis’ was as follows: pain and stiffness, worse in the morning upon waking, alleviated by heat and movement (gradually better as the day went on), much worse in cold weather and especially when it was cold and wet. His diet was good; there were no old injuries, no other major stresses in his life. I prescribed the homeopathic medicine Rhus tox to be taken daily. He came back to see me for follow a couple of months later and I don't know who was more surprised. Not only had his arthritis symptoms (pain & stiffness) considerably improved, but the osteoarthritic growths on his toe joints had reduced by 60%. He continued to take the medicine and comfortably completed his overseas trek later that year. I saw him again a couple of years later as the problem had started to worsen again - because he had stopped taking the medicine as he had felt so much better. Resuming the medicine got him back on track. This is a good example of how chronic conditions need to be worked with over time.

It's been cold are you suffering from Arthritis?

With a chilly -6 degrees this week, achy and swollen joints are all too common in these cold winter months. This is commonly referred to as Arthritis and is the major cause of disability and chronic pain in Australia with 3.85 million Australians affected at a cost to our economy of more than $23.9 billion each year in medical care and indirect costs such as loss of earnings and lost production.*

Arthritis refers to inflammation or degeneration of a joint.

Osteoarthritis, often called ‘wear and tear,’ is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by a process of inflammation of the smooth cartilage surrounding a joint. The surface becomes less smooth and eventually wears away.

Another common form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, occurs when your body’s immune system attacks the tissues of the body. 100’s of other forms exist including gout, reactive arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis etc.

With normal use a joint can last for a lifetime, however abnormal or excessive use, or having an injury to the joint can cause the wear to accelerate. Most types of arthritis are caused by many factors acting together. You may be naturally more likely to develop certain disorders as a result of your genetic make-up. Old football injuries to joints, car accidents, years of heavy lifting or doing repetitive activities such as squatting, kneeling, assembly line or even computer work that excessively uses joints can also accelerate the ‘wear and tear’ process. Being overweight puts strain on joints of the knee, hip and spine and is a big contributing factor to the pain of Osteoarthritis. However, it is not a purely mechanical issue, but can also be affected by diet and other aspects of general health.

The symptoms of arthritis tend to vary from day to day and from week to week. As an example, episodes of back pain or painful ‘flare-ups’ of rheumatoid arthritis are often short-lived, even though the underlying cause hasn’t changed. Other conditions, including gout, while typically relate to an exquisitely painful big toe can often be controlled by treatment. Many types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, are long-term conditions, where the disease cannot be cured. The symptoms of these conditions tend to vary over time. Your symptoms may go away for quite some time (remission) and there may be periods where they become worse. A good assessment of the situation is vital as the problem may not be arthritis at all, or it may be mild arthritis combined with muscle tension or other issues. Diagnostic tests such as X-ray, MRI, CT scans, blood tests, etc can help to diagnose the problem and the extent of it.

How can I tell if I have osteoarthritis?

Arthritis can start suddenly without any obvious cause, and at any age. Sometimes something in your lifestyle or medical history or a combination of these could be responsible.

With osteoarthritis the joints become increasingly painful when under load such as the knee or hip after walking. There may also be swelling in the joint. When the spine is affected it is painful to bend and your back may ache after long periods of sitting still.  You ache and feel stiff particularly in the mornings. It is worse in the winter because the muscles tighten up and circulation to the outer parts of the body is not so good. Your joints become less mobile and may become weaker as muscles may sometimes waste away around the joint.

Osteopaths spend a vast amount of time dealing with the pain and suffering caused by arthritis. Many people mistakenly assume that they must learn to live with their symptoms. In many cases, osteopaths are able to help considerably. Pain relief and lifestyle management can really improve the quality of life for arthritis sufferers.

*Painful Realities: The Economic Impact of Arthritis in Australia in 2007