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Top Tips I've Learned in 6 Months Working with a Naturopathic Doctor

I am coming up on 6 months working with a Naturopathic Doctor for my chronic IBS issues. I would not say all my digestive issues are over yet, but I am more confident in my gut healing journey than I have ever been before.

I decided to work with a naturopathic doctor after three years of struggling with severe bloating, constipation, brain fog, fatigue, acne, and more - the list really goes on and on. I realized I was throwing money down the drain with conventional medicine, so I decided to turn towards an unconventional way of healing: a.k.a. working with a naturopathic doctor.

What is a Naturopathic Doctor?


Naturopathic doctors are accredited doctors who specialize in discovering the root cause of an illness or disease. They diagnose, treat, and prevent acute and chronic illnesses, such as IBS, through customized treatments involving diet and lifestyle changes.


Different naturopathic doctors will lean into different methods of healing. Some will use vitamin therapy, others nutrition, or homeopathy. What it comes down to is removing obstacles blocking your body from its natural state of health.


So, what does a “natural state of health” look like? It’s basically homeostasis: Harmony between your physical, mental, and spiritual body. So, when working with a naturopath, you should expect to work closely with your doctor to heal holistically. It’s very empowering to work with a doctor who will support a balanced diet, lifestyle, and behavioral changes to stimulate long-term health, and not just treat your symptoms individually.


You can learn more about why I decided to move in a holistic direction for my IBS and my IBS journey.

The Top Tips I’ve Learned


After my first appointment with my naturopath, I have been given a plethora of resources to start me on my gut healing journey. I am soooo excited to share these tips with you all because you best believe I WISH I had resource like this when I started my gut healing journey!


So, let’s get into it!


Tip #1: Detox, Detox, Detox


One of the biggest takeaways I've learned is that healing starts with detoxification in the body.


Since being diagnosed with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and gut dysbiosis, there was a lot of clearing out that we needed to do in my body. To ensure my body can properly get rid of the SIBO and other bacterial overgrowth within my gut, my detoxification pathways had to be in the best shape.

Now when I say detox, I am not talking about your mother's green juice cleanse. I am talking about supporting your detoxification pathways, including your liver, kidney, lymphatic system, lungs, colon, and kidney. These organs already help filter out daily toxins in our body. There is no need to do an additional juice cleanse on top of this to "clear everything out".


Yet, over time, our detoxification pathways can get blocked. Excessive inflammation from stress or a poor diet; a compromised immune system from antibiotics, or a severe bacterial infection like food poisoning can create blockages in our detoxification pathways. This leads to an imbalanced gut microbiome, severe digestive issues, and more.

What can reverse this damage and allow our body to properly open those pathways are simple diet and lifestyle changes. This includes incorporating liver-rich foods like antioxidants; adding Omega-3s to our diet to fight off inflammation and getting our bodies to sweat more.

Tip #2: Sweat your ass off


Okay, don’t actually do an intense workout and sweat your ass off every day BUT pay attention to how much you’re sweating! Sweating is one of the ways our body can detox. So, when we are clearing out bacterial/yeast infections like SIBO or Candida overgrowth, we want to properly support our detoxification pathways.


I tried an infrared sauna for a month per the recommendation of my naturopath.

Infrared saunas are amazing because they’re easier to tolerate than a dry sauna or a steam room. You can sit in there for 30-60 minutes and the infrared lights penetrate deeper into the tissue, allowing for greater detoxification, improved circulation, reduced stress, and an immunity boost.


I haven’t used the infrared sauna as much since the beginning of my healing journey, but now I opt for using a dry sauna 1-2 times a week for 20ish minutes. It’s really made a difference in how I feel post-workout – just make sure you hydrate well!


Tip #3 Learn How to Properly Hydrate


We’ve all heard about those people who carry around their gallon-sized emotional support water bottle (lowkey, I have one too). But drinking that much water in a day isn’t going to do much for you if it’s lacking minerals.


Without trace minerals, like sodium, potassium, and magnesium, the water will just pass through our body without doing much. We need trace minerals for the enzymatic functions of our cells!


My naturopath recommended I add sea salt and lemon to my water, drinking 60-80 ounces a day. I have noticed a huge difference in my energy levels, reducing my overall fatigue. Since dehydration can lead to constipation, adding minerals to my water has helped relieve my constipation.


When I am tired of the taste of water, I also love to opt for electrolyte mixses, such as Ultima or LMNT.


Tip #4 Understand your Trigger Foods


For the past few years, I was an on-again, off-again gluten-free/dairy-free girly. I would only do it when it was easy, like when I ate at home. But going out to a restaurant! Forget about it!! I am eating all the bread and butter.


The inconsistencies in my diet led to greater inflammation and more disruption in my body. Per my naturopath’s advice, I did the elimination diet for 4 weeks and it helped me to learn more about my trigger foods.


With gut health issues, there are certain foods that can “trigger” a gut flare-up. By consuming this food, you can have gastrointestinal issues immediately, or over the course of the next three days.


I tested for gluten, eggs, citrus, dairy, corn, and soy and found four out of the six irritated my gut. I have cut those out for the past four months and have already noticed significant improvements to how I feel post-meals.


Since then, I have also learned that I have fiber-sensitivity. Even though I removed gluten, eating foods rich in fiber, like oatmeal, chickpeas, rice, etc., hurt my stomach. By continuing to learn more about my trigger foods, I feel more empowered with each meal I eat. Plus, I know it’s not permanent! Once I get rid of my SIBO and rebuild my gut microbiome, I will begin to incorporate all the foods I once loved into my diet again.


Tip #5 24 -Hour Water Fasts


I thought my naturopath was out of her mind when she talked about 24-hour water fasts. Like no waaaay not eating would help my gut issues go away. I thought it would make them worse!


But, after doing my first 24 hour fast back in July, the benefits I felt were unreal. After 8 hours, our body starts to shift into ketosis, meaning we metabolically shift from using sugar as a source of energy to ketones. Ketones come from our liver after fat is broken down. We are sharper, more focused, and energized when our body uses ketones as a primary source of energy.


The 17-hour mark is where the magic starts to happen. We start moving into autophagy. Autophagy literally means “self-devouring” so it’s when our cells start clearing out old, damaged cells and creating new ones. The 24-hour mark is known as the “gut reset fast” and literally the terrain of our gut microbiome is changed. At this point, our body stimulates stem cell production, targeting the intestinal lining of our guts. This helps to reverse things like SIBO, leaky gut, Candida overgrowth, and more.


At first, your body may go through a detox, and you will be fighting for your life but after the initial 24 hours, it gets so much easier! I do a few 24-36 hour fasts a month- aligning them with my menstrual cycle - and each time it gets easier and easier. This may have been the best tip I have learned from working with my naturopath!


Tip #6 Bone Broth


Bone broth literally is a no-brainer. It has so many micronutrients and amino acids that we do not normally get from the foods that we eat, including things like zinc, selenium, and magnesium. It supports healthy digestion from the gelatin in the broth; binding to water to promote bowel movements. It is also anti-inflammatory thanks to the l-glutamine.


I drink 2-3 cups of bone broth a day before my meals and have also noticed a difference in how satisfied I feel after my meals. It has helped curb my sugar/carb craving as I am killing off the SIBO.


Tip #7 Apple Cider Vinegar


Our blood sugar levels play more into our gut health than we would initially believe. Having severe spikes and falls in blood sugar not only leads to fatigue, but chronic elevation of blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance and prolonged inflammation in our body. Not to mention the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.


Now – cue apple cider vinegar. The holy grail for helping to control your blood sugar when you eat a meal. Taking a diluted shot (about one tablespoon) of apple cider vinegar before a meal can reduce the spike of your blood sugar by 20%. That means the insulin released from your liver once you take that first bite will be released more steadily, and not as much.


This is key when you are struggling with fatigue after a meal, dips in energy throughout the day, weight loss, etc. My appetite has significantly reduced since being diagnosed with SIBO. I've noticed that the acidity and bitterness of ACV before a meal stimulates the enzymatic juices in my belly, and actually makes me hungry. It preps my body for a meal, helping me to digest it better, especially carb or sugar heavy meals. It also reduces my overall cravings and keeps me satiated.


Tip #8 The one supplement I will not skip…


I feel like naturopaths are known for the supplements they recommend. I am not an advocate for every supplement, and most I feel like we can get straight from the food source.


BUT -


If there was only one supplement my naturopath recommended that I would have on Amazon Prime's subscribe and save, it would be magnesium.


Magnesium is like the #1 mineral most of us are missing from our bodies. It’s essential for healthy muscles, nerves, and blood sugar levels. It is fundamental for our bodies, yet we typically do not have the daily dosage recommendations. Even the NIH says we don’t have the recommended amount of magnesium! As women, we should be taking 310-320 mg daily.


You can get magnesium from food, but I have found that taking magnesium glycinate at night before bed shuts off my brain, calms my nervous system, and lets me drift into peaceful and deep sleep. It’s way better than any melatonin or night-time supplement I’ve tried.


Also, being in a state of deep sleep allows our body to repair! Our gut would not be able to heal if we didn’t get proper sleep. Magnesium glycinate also helps to regulate our bowel movements, so if you wake up constipated, this is the one for you!


Tip #9 Lymphatic Drainage Massages


Again, this is another tip that I feel like naturopaths are known for, and it’s for a very good reason! Because of daily toxins and pathogens, we come across, our body’s detoxification system can sometimes be backed up. Especially when you mix in gut issues and chronic inflammation, there is almost nowhere for these pathogens to go.


Our lymphatic system is part of our body’s immune system to protect against illnesses. It’s connected through different lymph nodes, often found in our neck, chest, armpits, legs, etc. In these lymph nodes, fluids and bacteria collect to eventually be pushed out of our bodies. If this system is backed up from chronic inflammation, then those fluids/bacteria get recirculated in our blood. And get what that leads to? More illness (ugh).


Sometimes, your body needs a little extra love. Helping your lymphatic system by gentle massaging your lymph nodes, pushing those fluids out, will help your body fight whatever it’s got going on. Doing lymphatic drainage massages in the morning and at night has helped with detoxification; reducing the puffiness, bloating, and inflammation I feel from my gut issues. It gets everything moving, including my bowels!


I will do facial massages with facial oil to reduce puffiness in my face, essential oil massages on my abdomen to reduce swelling and dry brushing across my whole body. It makes a visible difference in the inflammation presented on my skin in the form of acne, and my bloated stomach.


Tip #10 Mindful Eating


This is another top tip I’ve learned working with a naturopath for the past 6 months. I don’t think I truly understood the importance of mindful eating, or how it pertains to digestion. After incorporating simple practices for my meals, I have seen a reduction in nausea, acid reflux, and just feel aligned with my body after I eat.


Mindful eating is just allowing ourselves to get into a “rest and digest” state, so that we can digest and absorb the food that we eat. The habits are simple, but super effective!


The number one thing you could do is eat without distraction. If I can, I opt to eat a meal with someone else, engaging in conversation. Or I will read a book while I eat which helps me to slow down. I never try to eat and multi-task anymore.


I will practice gratitude and pray before a meal, allowing my body time to transition from one task, like working or cooking, to the practice of eating. Deep, belly breathing is also a great way to slow down before you eat! I won’t eat on the go; I always sit down now.


I chew my food so painfully slow that it takes me literally a lifetime to eat. But, by the time I swallow I have done most of the work, so my gut doesn’t need to break down the food as much. Eating slower and chewing my food also helps me to not overeat, I will eat until I’m 80% full, instead of feeling absolutely stuffed (cannot guarantee I do this every time, but I try!).


Mindful eating is not just what happens while you’re actively eating, but it’s about your mindset before and after a meal. If I go into a meal thinking “wow, this is going to hurt my stomach and make me bloat”, 95% of the time I will feel that way.


The same goes for afterwards. If I finish a meal and feel nauseous or must run to the bathroom, I can ruminate in that feeling sometimes. Instead, I’ve learned to engage in gentle exercise, like a walk in my neighborhood, or drink some hot tea with ginger or peppermint to soothe my stomach. It really is a practice to eat mindfully, but I would suggest this as a key first step to anyone who is wanting to feel better after a meal!


Some other tips around meals are avoiding cold water and cold, raw foods. I find that chugging cold water during a meal nauseates me, making me feel full and bloated when I’m not actually full from the meal - I am just drowning in liquids.


In general, raw foods are difficult to digest. You will find most naturopaths recommend steamed/roasted veggies instead of raw salads. Ever feel more bloated after a big salad? It's probably too much fiber for your body to break down! So, I opt for all my veggies to be cooked in some way, and eating warm foods are more soothing on my gut.

 

I hope these tips help you on your own healing journey! Let me know if there is another tip you want to learn more about, and I also have plenty more to share!




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Welcome! If you made it here, you are probably looking for answers on where to begin your wellness journey. I'm Jessica, and I started my gut health journey over 3 years ago. As an avid foodie and wellness enthusiast, I hope to inspire you on your realistic wellness journey.

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