The Nature of Natural Medicine, with Kayla Szampruch

| Episode 22

With the rising costs of healthcare and concern for the safety of certain medications, the search is on for natural ways to heal. Many people are turning to Naturopathic Doctors to guide them on their holistic healing journey.

On today’s episode, we’re chatting with Naturopathic Medical Student and Wellness/Life Coach Kayla Szampruch. Kayla shares more about healing from a Naturopathic perspective and also dives into the topic of menstruation (her specialty!) and how it ties into gut health.  

Click the play button above to listen to our conversation with Kayla Szampruch.

Highlights from Today’s Episode

  • Defining the role of a Naturopathic Doctor and how the training is similar and different to that of a Medical Doctor
  • The ties between gut health and menstrual health
  • Suggestions for improving gut health and symptoms from a Naturopathic perspective 

Industry Spotlight: Kayla Health & Wellness Coach

Spiro Koulouris will help you understand more about healing from a Naturopathic perspective and also elaborates into the topic of menstruation and how it connects into gut health.

Colon Health Podcast with Dr. Dac and Ariel Bridges

About the Colon Health Podcast

Co-hosted by Dr. Dac Teoli and Ariel Bridges, the Colon Health Podcast features guest interviews with expert physicians, leading researchers, nutritional scientists, integrative health specialists, and other foremost experts in colon health.

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Episode Transcript

Ariel: Hello everybody. And welcome back to another episode of the “Colon Health Podcast.” I’m your host Ariel Bridges. And today, we have the lovely, Kayla Szampruch with us. Hi Kayla, how’s it going?

Kayla: Hi, I’m doing well. How are you?

Ariel: I’m well, thank you so much. And thank you for being here today. Can you please share what it is that you do with our audience?

Kayla: Yeah, certainly. So, right now I am a wellness coach primarily for women and focusing on women’s health. I’m also a naturopathic medical student, so in a few years, I’ll be a naturopathic doctor. So this is a little bit of how I’m preparing for that in the future.

Ariel: And can you share a little bit about your particular story and what led you to pursue naturopathic medicine and health coaching? It’s nice for our audience to hear the backstory of our guests because they can often find little pieces that they relate to and things of that nature.

Kayla: Yeah, certainly. So growing up, my father was really into health and wellness. And so growing up, I was kind of already aware of some ways that we can support our bodies a little bit more naturally. But when we all moved from the East Coast out to California, my father was kind of in the midst of a health crisis. So he had a few things going on that we didn’t know, one thing was chronic fatigue syndrome in the last few years he was diagnosed with Sjogren’s and that’s a pretty rare autoimmune illness he and my grandmother both have that. So he was going through these downward spirals of symptoms that the emergency room was telling him were panic attacks. And he would end up in the emergency room multiple times. And even in a day, sometimes he’s with an operating room nurse.

So it was an easy trip there, thankfully, but because of that and his experience in the medical system, not really being properly diagnosed kind of being written off, I think people call that gaslighting now, that whole experience had kind of turned me off of traditional medicine for a while as a young adult. And it wasn’t until he started working with a naturopathic doctor that he was able to one, get appropriate treatment, get some answers to what was going on, and actually be taken seriously that his symptoms weren’t just mental, emotional while that has an interplay I believe in a lot of chronic illnesses. Making sure that a patient having their concerns addressed appropriately is a really important process. Having that be acknowledged. And so there was a naturopath who I was working with at the time who helped a little bit, but she wasn’t in practice. And so she had pointed to him to someone who was in practice and that really kind of helped my father turn the corner in his health.

So going from someone who really couldn’t even get out of bed, who was out of work for about two to three weeks at a time per month, every month for almost a year, at least to be able to start going back to work and going back and having improvements in his energy. And the symptoms that he was having really was something that I was experiencing as an 18 or 19-year-old. And to see that type of change through things like diet change, nutrition, some supplementation, and some of those changes along with some behavioral modification, as well as mental health support and things like that, but that really changed my perspective of how medicine can and should work, I think in my opinion.

And so that put me on the career path of being interested in naturopathic medicine. And Bastyr University is where I’m a student and they started building a satellite campus out here around that time. And so I started working on my prerequisites to be able to go there. So I’ve just started. I’m in my first year, but it’s an intense and very, very challenging but inspiring journey right now. So that’s kind of what led me to naturopathic medicine, health coaching because right now I personally am in a little bit of a transition. I’m not practicing medicine, but I have a lot of experience and knowledge in natural nutritional areas. And I still wanna be able to help support people where they are and where I am right now. So health coaching is one of the ways where I can provide a lot of education, support people in things that I personally have experienced.

So, like I had mentioned, I’m working a lot with women. And part of that is because of my own experience with hormonal birth control. And my own experience I share a little bit of that…maybe a lot bit of that on my YouTube channel, but I had a really poor reaction to hormonal birth control. And so because of that, I am working on educating more women about hormonal birth control options, some of the side effects that might go along with that, and how to recover from that afterwards, as well as how to make a choice on birth control options that someone might wanna consider their efficacy, what effect that has on our body, long-term, short-term. So that’s part of where I’ve gotten into health coaching is because I wanted to be able to share that with people now I have an innate desire to serve. So I think that’s how I can do that right now while I’m in medical school.

Ariel: You just said so much stuff that I wanna chat with you. I could chat with you probably all day, but we’ll keep it reasonable. Everybody that’s listening, we know that you have other things to attend to. But first things first, your dad, oh my goodness. I’m first off so glad that he finally was able to chat with someone that was able to finally give him the help that he needed and actually listen to him and address his symptoms. I’m not sure if I’ve ever spoken about this on the podcast yet, but maybe eventually, but a couple or a few years ago now I was hospitalized for Shiga toxin, which is this poisonous toxin that is related to E. coli. And I was hospitalized. At that point, I’d been working in healthcare as, like, a medical assistant in a scribe for five years. And I too, like your dad, was being gaslit. Like we’re not just average patients, which average patients shouldn’t be gaslit ever. But to have that sort of already medical background to knowledge and still have people not take you seriously and understand where you’re coming from must have been so incredibly frustrating for him on top of already just feeling terrible.

Kayla: Certainly. Definitely wasn’t. I’m sure you can relate, but feeling like you’re in this medical industry and if you start feeling not so well, and someone says, maybe it’s a mental illness, you know, people can look at you differently. And so that can affect your work environment as well. And so I think that that’s something that I hope will change in coming years because there are, you know, our physical health can certainly affect our mental health and it’s determining maybe like which one is affecting which more. In neuropathic medicine we call it, finding the root cause [inaudible 00:07:47]. And so how you can start finding that so you know a little bit more about what maybe the focus of a treatment needs to be, rather than telling someone that they’re having panic attacks, giving them an anti-anxiety medication and maybe band-aiding things that are a little bit more serious and having years go by that someone might be left with an undiagnosed illness. So I think that it’s an unfortunate scenario that I think plays out a lot more than people might realize.

Ariel: Yeah, which is such a bummer, to say the least, it’s very frustrating, but that also leads me to the second part of what I wanted to say is it’s so amazing that people like you and other physicians and coaches out there are willing to step up and advocate for patients in these different ways. I also separately have dysmenorrhea which is just basically a fancy word for painful periods, which caused me to be on birth control really since the beginning of…since I’ve had my period. And there were so many other side effects and things that I experienced along that journey where it was frustrating. And again, it would’ve been so nice to chat with someone like you who has the knowledge and some alternative options to explore to try and start feeling better. So I guess just thank you for your advocacy and the work that you are doing.

Kayla: Of course, and like I said, I’m doing it in part because I think someone like you or someone like me, we might not have known that there were resources or people who had other experiences out there. And so I’m glad that we can maybe start to open up that type of conversation with young women because I felt like it was something that I primarily had to deal with alone. And so that’s part of where I wanted to step in as being a wellness and health coach because young women might be making this choice. And some people don’t have a background in biology, so they can’t understand how a medication will work in their body. They need an interpreter for that. And so that’s why I said I really feel like this health coaching is something where I can, in the meantime, be able to use the knowledge that I’ve gained through studies, but also my own experience in order to help people to make a choice that might be right for their body and at least be educated no matter what that choice is.

Ariel: Yes, we are so here for making health information more accessible. Wow. Can we just back up a little it, and can you share a definition for our listeners, what is a naturopathic doctor, and how is the preparation to become one different from the typical, like, Western medicine doctor? Because I know I’ve heard people in the past be like, “Oh, is that like a real doctor? Is the training the same? So I’d love for you to shed some light on that.

Kayla: Certainly. So a naturopathic doctor is going to go through similar but slightly different training than a medical doctor. For example, a medical doctor’s gonna receive a lot of training in pharmacology. So they’re gonna understand a lot about how medications work in the body, how they are metabolized, how those things are going to affect our tissues and our cells. And so a naturopathic doctor, first of all, they have a different set of guiding principles. They’re called the six principles of naturopathic medicine. And they are, first do no harm, the healing power of nature, identify and treat the causes, doctor as teacher, treat the whole person, and prevention. And so while some of them are a little bit similar to medical doctors, there are certain things that are definitely very different where you’re going to identify and treat the root cause. And then how are you going to do that? You’re gonna use the healing power of nature. And so that dictates a different standard of care that a naturopathic doctor will be able to follow than a medical doctor.

And so some of these things also include, like I mentioned, prevention. So a naturopathic doctor might help someone more preventatively where the medical doctor is going to be more treatment-focused after an event has already occurred or some pathological illnesses started to develop. So it’s a little bit of a shift of a different in philosophy to start with it, and then also the modalities that are used. So, for example, if a patient comes in with high blood pressure to a medical doctor that medical doctor has a certain requirement in order to uphold their standard of care to probably treat that high blood pressure with a medication. Whereas a naturopathic doctor, they will be able to work with that person wholly.

So whether there’s stress going on in their life that’s contributing to high blood pressure work on preventative measures to help reduce that use supplementation, nutrition, and other modalities in order to help restore that. And so that’s part of a little bit of the difference there. So the other difference with naturopathic doctors is that because they’re not a federally regulated designation, like a medical doctor is, their ability to practice is gonna vary, but from state to state. So, for example, in Washington and Arizona, they have a much larger scope of practice than in some other states. And so it depends on where someone is, what modalities they might be able to use. So in those states, there’s a lot of freedom in practice. So I think that one of the few things that we wouldn’t be able to do as a naturopath is prescribe opioid pain medications or that type of class of medications.

But we can do a lot of other things. We can do acupuncture, chiropractic, nutrition. So there’s a very wide range. Whereas in states like California, our scope is a little bit more limited just on some of the medications that we can prescribe. And some of that can shift if there is a medical doctor practicing with that naturopath. And then there’s even unlicensed states. So that would mean that a naturopath would be kind of on the same class as a health coach where they might not be able to make outright recommendations for that patient. They might not be able to do certain modalities like acupuncture or certain physical medicine. So that includes chiropractic, hydrotherapy, and things like that. And so it depends on where that practitioner is also what modalities they have at their disposal and where that patient is located as well. So virtual medicine is existing now, and it’s a little bit more prominent than it was in earlier years. So where that patient is might also limit the modalities that naturopath can use in that case. So those are a little bit of what might differ, especially in someone’s experience, working with a naturopathic doctor.

Ariel: Okay. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me because I have a friend who is a naturopathic doctor as well, and she is out in Oregon. So she’s in that area where you said things are able to be done a little bit differently, at least compared to California. And she’s able to see her own patients regularly like some people would think of seeing a medical doctor regularly.

Kayla: Certainly. Yep.

Ariel: And I wanted to ask you too, with your specialization in menstrual health and women’s reproductive health, what kind of ties, if there are any, are there between menstrual reproductive health and GI health for women?

Kayla: That’s a really great question. I personally have experienced some of this. I think most women have where when our period is coming, we have what some people call period poop. And I hope people are not made uncomfortable by that, but it’s something they can talk through with us.

Ariel: No. Talk about period poop. Bring awareness of the period poop.

Kayla: So part of that is usually having things like loose stools as a premenstrual symptom that someone can have just before their period or during their period. And what I’ve learned is that we have this ebb and flow of a lot of hormones as women on a monthly basis. And so part of that is happening because we have this extreme dip in our hormones around the time that our menstrual cycle is going to start. So because of that, our body gets rid of a lot of hormones, which are fat-soluble through our liver, through bowel movements. And that’s one of the main ways that we remove them from our body. And so when you have this crash and that’s part of what signals for our endometrial lining to be released, then you have this whole situation where your body is trying to get rid of those and move them out very fast.

So how does it do that? By creating a lot more bile in the liver, having looser stools, and moving things out very quickly. So that is part of what I had experienced especially as a teen and young adult for how GI health had influenced menstrual health. But when you start to look at it even a little bit layer deeper, you know, if we don’t have a diet where we are supporting ourselves with enough plant fiber, or if we’re having a lot of foods that take a long time for our body to break down, that means that our hormones, things like estrogen, and progesterone, and testosterone are going to possibly build up in our body and not be able to be removed as quickly as needed. And so some of those are gonna be playing a role in what our hormones look like inside our body, and that can affect when we ovulate. It can affect when we have our period. It can affect if we have our period.

You shared that you have struggled with dysmenorrhea. And so some of those things can be factors in how our symptoms present if we have a lot of cramping if we don’t…And so I started to look at some of that and how we can eat in order to help support our body for having a healthy menstrual cycle. So, I started with myself as one of my fellow students said, we’re usually our own first and best case study. So, I started with myself. I’ve done some of these things for a while before I started taking hormonal birth control things like a little bit of seed cycling and supporting my body with a primarily plant-based diet. But then when I went on hormonal birth control, I personally was rather shocked at the reaction that my body had.

It certainly affected a lot of my mental health as well as my physical health. So, I learned personally that progesterone is a hormone that signals for your body to maintain the endometrial lining in early pregnancy. And so, because of that, when you take a birth control that is primarily progesterone based, you are mimicking early pregnancy and all of the things that come along with that nausea, moodiness, weight gain. And so some of those things are affected by how well our body can remove hormones from it. And so, if someone has a synthetic hormone, such as progesterone, specifically, synthetic progesterones are more likely to be removed through liver detoxification. And they’re a little bit more lipophilic, which means you are going to remove them through our bowel and our digestive tract rather than our kidneys, which has water-soluble medications removed from it that way.

And so for me, I had started to see that my digestion maybe being a little bit compromised ever since I was a child had slowed things down. And so maybe my body wasn’t able to process that progesterone as well and remove it. And so I started having a lot worse symptoms than other people. That’s part of it. I love talking about this. I have quite a few videos on how we can support the removal of different hormones or support the production of different hormones with foods that we eat. So that’s part of the picture. And then I’m recently learning about how bacteria are actually part of what helps with bilirubin being removed from our body.

When we don’t have a diverse set of bacteria in our intestines, that’s going to affect our body’s own ability to detoxify and get things completely out so where we’re not continually reabsorbing things. So even though it’s an eternal learning experience, but I think that a lot of these things we’re still learning. Women haven’t been as much of the research realm until recently in both being subjects or being researchers. So, I’m hoping that as that tide starts to change, that we’ll be able to have more studies to show even more connections to our gut health and our menstrual cycle.

Ariel: Yeah. This is really fascinating to me because I feel like there’s so much of what you mentioned that is just not discussed. Someone I knew also had a similar reaction to their birth control, where they were experiencing a lot of mental health symptoms. And I know they went to their doctor and I think really the explanation that they got was just, “Okay, well, we’re going to take you off of this particular pill.” But that doesn’t give you the understanding that you provided like, Okay, my body is reacting this way because of this effect of this particular hormone and understanding just the entire system, like you were saying with a lot of naturopathic doctors and really looking for the root cause I feel like it all comes back to that.

Kayla: I agree. And sometimes that root cause is our genetic predisposition. And so then we have to consider, “Okay, so how am I going to adjust my life to make sure that that root cause is not debilitating or I can preserve my health regardless of that?” And I personally don’t think that our genes are…we have done a lot of studies in epigenetics. What that means is we have a lot of plasticity in how our genes are being read, which ones are being read. Are they being read for illness or for health? So that’s part of where, what I’ve seen in myself and other people is when you put different foods in our body to support gut health, to support overall nutrient absorption and erect deficiencies, we really can help with the overall function, natural systems. And so I do think we might wanna consider that. I’m very thankful that birth control in a lot of different forms exists, but we are putting a stop to a natural process.

And so we do need to consider what comes along with that consequence of trying to stop a natural process of reproduction. And so I’m glad that me as a woman, I have been able to pursue a doctorate degree in part because I’ve chosen not to have children yet in my life. And so, but at the same time, I think there are better fits for each woman in their body. So, like you said, having a naturopath who might be able to better assist you in making that decision running tests to see maybe you are or aren’t more susceptible to certain side effects with certain types of birth control options is something that I hope the future will hold.

Ariel: Yes, it’s all about having education on all of the information so you can make the choice that’s best for you.

Kayla: Certainly.

Ariel: And you mentioned before some YouTube videos. As always, for whoever’s listening, I’m gonna drop links to those in our show notes so you can just go ahead and scroll down and have easy access to those because they sound like some pretty good and helpful information. And also you briefly mentioned epigenetics. I love epigenetics for our listeners that know, you know that I love epigenetics. We have another episode with Laura Martin. If you’re interested in learning more about epigenetics or hearing more about it. I had her define them and having us chat about those, make sure you go back and check out that episode that’s episode 19. But one final question for you, Kayla as our time is ending, what are some of your favorite things or the things that you find suggesting the most often when people are coming to chat with you to improve GI health and symptoms?

Kayla: I’m a big proponent of everyone has to eat so let’s start with food. So I really like things like the Whole30, if someone’s never done an elimination diet. It’s going to put parameters around someone’s eating habits in order to kind of, you know, trap them into, but, you know, encourage them to be eating a lot more plant-based fiber-rich food. So I think that is a very simple way that people can start to make diet changes and then reintroduce foods that they could see if they are having any sensitivities to or not. I think that it’s pretty straightforward. Most people are able to start that and do that on their own, which I think is really helpful. And then I also find myself recommending a lot of things focused around the liver. One of my favorite things is dandelion root tea. And dandelion root tea is a kind of multi-faceted herbal component.

And so it has both ways that we can support phase 2 liver detoxification, which is going to help with like I had mentioned, removal of hormones, primarily estrogens, and making them a little bit more water-soluble so they can both leave our body in any way, whether or through our kidneys or through our digestive tract and liver. But also a really great prebiotic. I personally haven’t eaten it. I haven’t found any in a local store to be able to cook. But the dandelion root tea is pretty widely available and that can be used even as a coffee replacement. And so it can provide some prebiotic factors that will help encourage our GI health in order to promote our estrogen removal. And specifically for myself, I really like that for things like PMS symptoms.

And the other thing that I really find myself going to is [inaudible 00:22:56] cysteine, that is, again, something that’s going to be a precursor to glutathione which helps the liver. It’s an antioxidant. So it’s gonna have multiple uses both in reducing things like inflammation, aiding improper hormone metabolism, and then also for kind of buffering some of those effects. If someone is on hormonal birth control, that is something that can help with maybe managing a little bit more of the symptoms that they might be having. And/or when they discontinue hormonal birth control, encouraging removal of those synthetic hormones that they were exposed to. So, I really like those. And the last thing that I really, really enjoy is seed cycling. And that’s because as I’ve mentioned, I really like going to food. So seed cycling helps support proper hormone production. The seeds in seed cycling are used for the first half of the month for 14 days. And then the second half of the month for 14 days. There’s two different types of seeds in each half of the month that you would use.

And so the first half is really helping to promote estrogen production and that will help to lead to proper ovulation and regulating someone’s menstrual cycle links. And then the second half will be a kind of a reverse of that. So there are things that are going to prevent estrogen production, help with its elimination, and progesterone production, which is our hormone that helps keep us calm and happy. And so having more of that produced means that we’ll have a little bit lower PMS symptoms, things like bloating, breast tenderness, moodiness can be buffered a little bit easier. So I really like those. I think that they’re fairly simple. There is a company called Funk It that has some seed cycling kits if people are interested in that. And they kind of have the mix as pre-made so you don’t have to worry about going out and finding them, making sure it’s the right amount. So I really like some of those things for people who might be just getting started.

Ariel: Amazing. Thank you for all of these incredible resources and suggestions. What about if one of our listeners wants to work with you directly? How would they go about doing that?

Kayla: Oh, certainly. So they can go to my website, which is My last name is polished, so it’s got a lot of consonants in there, but it’s spelled S-Z-A-M-P-R-U-C-H. So And I actually give free initial consults. So if someone wants to have a little bit of a coaching session, they can sign up for that. They can also find me on YouTube. So not everyone is ready to make that next step, but I’d love to speak with anyone who is open to it.

Ariel: Wonderful. And again, I’ll have that listed directly in the show notes below, so you can just click away. And that’s it for our time today. Kayla, thank you so much. I learned a ton.

Kayla: Well, I’m glad. That’s my goal is to be able to help people be able to understand their bodies better. So thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. And being able to get to talk to people about health and supporting their bodies.

Ariel: Yes. And as I always say, at the end of the podcast, we all have colons, we all wanna live healthy symptom-free lives. So do your research and ask questions and chat about it. All right. I’ll see everybody next episode. Bye.