Do you have what it takes to get healthy?

By vegan naturopath Robyn Chuter.

On Tuesday 12 April, I had the enormous pleasure of attending the seminar ‘How to Reverse Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms’, which featured the inspirational plant-based doctor Michael Klaper and Clint Paddison, developer of The Paddison Program.

Dr Klaper has been a hero of mine since I watched his video – yes, video, as in VHS!!! – A Diet For All Reasons, when I was a naturopathy student in the early 1990s. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can now just watch it online.

Can you imagine how excited I was when I met him at the 2nd International Plant-Based Nutrition Conference in San Diego in 2014, and ended up sitting at his table for lunch? (I briefly thought about asking for his autograph, but he’s such a humble and self-effacing man, that I didn’t want to embarrass him ;-).)

Dr Klaper recapped some of the material he presented at the San Diego conference (which I summarised in my International PBNHC Round Up video – the section on Dr Klaper’s presentation begins at 1:44:05) and updated it with some new and fascinating research on the impact of diet on the human microbiome, which is now recognised to play a driving role in the development of all autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis.

I’ll sum up his part of the presentation by simply stating what I’ve confirmed in my own practice:

  • A wholefood plant-based diet, with some judiciously-chosen supplements including probiotics, will rapidly reduce joint inflammation, fatigue and other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the vast majority of cases.
  • An elimination diet followed by careful reintroduction of foods, to identify food triggers, may be necessary for complete relief in some individuals.
  • A water-only fast may be beneficial to resolve persistent inflammation (see my client Dennis’ story), or to achieve immediate relief from severe pain and inflammation at the beginning of the healing process.

Clint Paddison is a former RA sufferer who stumbled across nutritional treatment of RA after using conventional therapy (antibiotics, prednisone and methotrexate) for several years, only to see his symptoms worsen and overall health deteriorate. (You can watch his TEDx talk for the full story.)

The program he has developed for reversal of rheumatoid arthritis is very similar to the way I approach RA and other autoimmune disorders.

What particularly fascinated me though, was what his talk revealed about the psychological characteristics which allowed him to regain his health. It gelled with my observations of clients, friends and family members over the years, as I’ve pondered the question ‘Why do some people succeed at regaining their health, while others don’t?’

Now obviously there are many non-psychological factors that influence an individual’s outcome too, such as their diagnosis, the stage of their disease, and possibly genetic factors too. But there are certain mental attributes or features that appear to be indispensable for recovery. Here’s my first attempt at summarising these… and I’m sure this will be a work in progress!

Intense frustration with being ill.

My clients report this in terms of ‘being at the end of my rope’; ‘I’m just fed up with this’; ‘I can’t take it any more’; and even ‘If the rest of my life is going to be this way, I don’t want to live’. People who have resigned themselves to their fate are generally not good candidates for recovering their health.

Intolerance for further suffering.

At this point, the person perceives that the pain (physical and psychological) of being sick outweighs the pain of change. Many people fear changing their habits more than they fear continuing to suffer from their illness. This fear of change can prevent them from undertaking the degree of diet and lifestyle change that is necessary for overcoming chronic illness and restoring vibrant health.

Willingness to change.

This follows from the last point. It has always amazed me that some people value the fleeting pleasure of eating certain foods, or smoking a cigarette, more than they value the enduring experience of enjoying vibrant health and boundless vitality. Yet many people do, and if they refuse to even entertain the idea that healthy living provides more pleasure than self-destructive habits, I can’t help them.


There must be some vision of a better life that the unwell person holds, and believes is possible for them. Whether it’s simply the restoration of their former capacity, or going on to achieve even more than they did before they got sick, hope provides the incentive to change. People who’ve lost all hope of ever getting better simply won’t be motivated to change.


People who recover their health become intensely curious about their illness – what caused it, why did it happen to them, what are the processes involved, how have other people with their condition recovered, what is the latest research on their condition. They turn their illness into a research project and commit themselves to learning and experimenting until they achieve recovery. In contrast, people who ‘check out’, try to ignore their condition or avoid thinking about it, aren’t likely to recover.

Taking responsibility for one’s own health.

All of my clients who have recovered from illness have taken responsibility for their own health. They treat their medical and health practitioners as resources, guides and mentors, not gurus or saviours. They question what they’re told, want to know the rationale behind the treatment plan, and recognise that having the right information, while absolutely critical, is a small part of success; what makes the difference is implementation. People who relinquish responsibility for their health to their doctor, naturopath, ‘healer’ or some self-styled ‘expert’ on the Web, aren’t likely to see real and lasting improvements in their health.

Relentless commitment to do whatever it takes to get better.

The process of recovering from chronic disease can be long, slow and frustrating, with many setbacks along the way (although sometimes it’s not, as Dennis’ story demonstrates!). People who give up easily are not good candidates for recovering from chronic illness and building vibrant health.