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Gut Health: It All Starts With Digestion

by Michelle Lui |

Wellness Series: Featuring Dr. Katie Schiavon, Naturopathic Doctor

Do you suffer from hormone imbalance like millions of other people out there? Well, thankfully we’re here to help shed some light.

Why does digestion matter? Because when it functions optimally it also usually means our bodies are in balance, our skin is clear, and we’re not overly stressed. Sounds great, doesn’t it? 

Today, we’re asking Naturopathic Doctor Katie Schiavon to share her knowledge on gut health, hormone imbalance, and some early warning signs to look out for. 

Why does it even matter?

Dr. Katie helped us understand that a healthy gut is needed to better help us absorb our nutrients. “Through the digestive system we absorb nutrients that become the cofactors and building blocks for hormone production. Knowing that, becomes clear that optimizing digestive function and microbiome health is an integral part of improving hormonal symptoms”

How do we know if we have a hormonal imbalance?

“When our hormones are not in balance, we start to see symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, or constipation - depending on what the imbalance is. One of my favorite things to discuss in the realm of hormones and digestion is how symptoms like painful periods and persistent bloating, are normalized. Although their symptoms may be common, there is a path to feeling better!”

What are some things we can do with our diet to have a healthy gut?

“Diet plays a huge role in our ability to maintain a healthy gut. Our microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria, so it’s important to set a really solid foundation for that bacteria to thrive!

From a dietary standpoint we want prebiotics, probiotics, and diversity. Probiotic rich foods introduce important bacteria into the digestive tract, which then need prebiotic foods to provide the “fuel” for it to thrive. When bacteria in the gut utilize these prebiotics, they produce compounds that have an impact throughout the body – supporting our brain health, immune system, cardiovascular system and so much more!

A great way to ensure you’re getting enough prebiotics in your diet, and to support overall bowel movements, is focusing on getting enough fibre”

Probiotic Foods

  • Yogurt
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Sourdough Bread (if made traditionally with fermented flour)

Prebiotic Foods

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Whole Oats
  • Flax Seeds
  • Cocoa

Can stress affect your digestion?

Now you know we couldn’t have an interview without asking this question. We know firsthand how stress can affect the body and skin but does it affect your digestion too? 

“This is huge! When we encounter a stressor, the body diverts energy away from digestion and other non-essential functions (reproduction, cognitive function, etc.) to deal with the active threat. In our ancestor’s time, this put us into survival mode, to run from a bear or acute threat. Blood and energy were diverted to the extremities to help us run or fight, and this was essential for our survival. But today, those stressors look a lot different. They are chronic (work, family, finances, etc.) and this can leave us stuck in survival mode. 

That all being said, one of the best things we can do to support our digestive tract is reduce stress. When we feel calm, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” side of our nervous system. This increases blood flow to the intestines, encourages release of digestive enzymes, enhances absorption of nutrients, and improves motility”

What does treatment typically look like?

I’m a huge proponent of testing to guide treatment. For example, I find that in the case of some chronic digestive issues, people go through standard testing which comes back normal, leaving them with what feels like no other options. However, naturopathic medicine provides many!

Comprehensive stool tests are incredibly helpful to understand the balance of bacteria, inflammatory patterns, sufficiency of digestive enzymes, and other markers to understand and assess the overall function of the digestive system. 

Although the specifics of treatment vary depending on what we are treating, diet and lifestyle interventions are the core of every plan.

On top of this I layer evidence based herbal medicine and supplement interventions. As part of a treatment plan, I may recommend IV therapy to maximize nutrient absorption or acupuncture to help address the nervous system’s role in healing.

My favorite part of being in naturopathic medicine is that through this process, we build a relationship and a personalized plan for every patient’s needs. 

How can people connect with you?

People can check out my website, Instagram @dr.katieschiavon, or book online through the clinic to see a full list of all the services I offer!