Gut & Digestion Issues: Tips from an Ottawa Naturopathic Doctor

Gut issues are one of the most common reasons why patients come to see a naturopathic doctor.

And we always start by asking about their digestion in detail.

Meet our Bright Moon Wellness hypothetical client Susan, a 42-year-old female who had a history of obesity until she cleaned up her diet. Susan was still suffering from bloating after eating and loose bowel movements despite her healthy diet. In addition, she also had brain fog when she woke up and an itchy rash on parts of her body. These systemic symptoms prompted her naturopathic doctor to further evaluate her for leaky gut syndrome. When trying to understand your gut issues and your digestion we make sure to ask about your whole body since our organ systems are connected and communicate with each other.

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Chronic Digestion Problems: The Root Cause

After we have had a thorough conversation of your current digestive symptoms we ask about your past medical history. This is very important because a lot of the time important information can be missed.

In Susan’s case she had a history of heartburn when she was eating more fried foods late at night and she also had a history of untreated food poisoning before the onset of her current bloating. Since the symptoms of the food poisoning resolved on their own, she did not seek further testing or treatment.

This past medical history that Susan had may have been overlooked by her previous practitioners, but it can point us to the root cause of her current gut issues. Both heartburn and past infections can influence our gut’s good bacteria levels. Susan was also experiencing issues with her digestion when trying to include more fibre in her diet in the form of beans, chickpeas, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. This was all important information for us to know because there are specific sugars and compounds in some “healthy foods” that can contribute to bad gas producing bacteria or a condition known as Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO is common after bouts of food poisoning and can be diagnosed through a hydrogen breath test
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Diet Overview and Food Intelorance Testing

Part of Susan’s visit included us discussing her diet in detail and during this we were able to identify some but not all foods that triggered her bloating. One of the major foods was cow’s milk and dairy products like cheese which she had already cut out of her diet in the past. Since Susan was still experiencing issues with her digestion her naturopathic doctor suggested doing a food intolerance test to specifically identify which foods were causing inflammation and contributing to leaky gut syndrome. The food intolerance test identified additional foods that Susan’s unique body was reacting to and after elimination of these foods she noticed some of her milder symptoms like rashes, joint pains and headaches resolved.
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What’s Going On Inside of Your Gut

After doing Susan’s abdominal exam where her naturopathic doctor looked, felt, and listened to her stomach they recommended some bloodwork and ordered her a take home stool test. Susan had never had a stool test done despite her digestion history of food poisoning. The stool testing ordered provides a snapshot of Susan’s gut microbiome and shows bacterial, viral, fungal or parasite infections still present in her gut.

If there is an infection present, the stool test provides your naturopathic doctor with herbal treatments the infection would best respond to. In addition, this test would tell us the types and amounts of specific good bacteria’s that are in Susan’s gut. When we have bad bugs that have taken host in our gut it can displace the good bacteria that is essential for not only digestion but many other functions for our body.

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Your Individualized Naturopathic Treatment Plan

Hydrogen breath testing, food intolerance testing and stool testing are all extremely helpful in identifying which factors are influencing Susan’s digestive system. Susan opted to do all the testing options for a comprehensive analysis of her gut issues. Even though testing is helpful, it is not a requirement to start a naturopathic treatment plan. Lab results plus the detailed health history assessment, dietary assessment and physical exam findings guide your naturopathic doctor in providing you with an individualized naturopathic treatment plan.

After Susan’s lab results were in, we started her on a 3 month plan broken down into smaller phases with specific treatment goals in mind. First, herbal antimicrobials were prescribed to get rid of the bad bugs she had in her gut. Next, we added temporary food restrictions that were feeding yeast in her gut. Yeast taking up host in the gut is common when the good bacteria is displaced. The next phase of our plan was providing Susan with supplements that would heal the lining of her gut which had been damaged and inflamed by bad bacteria, certain foods, and chemicals. Once her gut lining was healed and the bad bugs were gone, Susan’s bloating, loose stools, brain fog and rashes had resolved and she felt like a new woman! Client’s often notice improvements in the first 2 weeks of treatment, however this process can take 3-6 months to complete the digestive healing process.

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Ongoing Care with your Naturopathic Doctor

In our example of Susan, she met with her naturopathic doctor once per month for 3 months for guidance and support in the treatment phases. After her symptoms had resolved, the focus shifted from treating digestive issues to maintaining gut health and preventing future digestive issues. The maintenance and prevention phase can include prescription of specific strains of probiotics based on her stool test and more foundational nutrition and lifestyle support focusing on prebiotic foods promote healthy probiotic bacteria, choosing chemical/pesticide/antibiotic free foods to lower inflammation, stress management support and exercise options to support gut health going forward.

At this point, Susan’s leaky gut syndrome was healed enough that she was able to incorporate her food intolerances and continue feeling excellent. The result was a symptom free Susan with a new sustainable lifestyle that would prevent her from having these gut issues in the future. Connect with us to start the process of having your own gut specific treatment plan today!

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MEET THE AUTHOR: Dr. Sandip Oppal, ND


After completing his Bachelor of Science in Cell Biology at the University of British Columbia Dr. Sandip attended the allopathic medical school and noticed the lack of emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion in patient care specifically using nutrition and exercise. While completing his training at Wyckoff Heights Medical Centre in Brooklyn, NY Dr. Sandip was able to make this sustainable lifestyle change in his own life; this was the driving force for him to pursue Naturopathic Medicine.

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