As far back as I can remember I suffered with digestive upset and as a very young baby had breathing difficulties. As my mum puts it I was “just not a happy baby”. Even as a very young child I still have memories of lying on the floor and crying in pain. No one could figure out what was wrong with me.  At one stage, a doctor gave me a diagnosis of growing pains in my stomach! Through my teens and young adulthood, nothing much changed apart from the addition of a few more ailments to my ever growing list, ranging from eczema and severe migraines to sinusitis, joint stiffness and a noticeable deterioration in my digestive symptoms. After another battery of tests in my early 20’s specialists decided it was IBS coupled with a hiatus hernia. I was prescribed Losec (a proton pump inhibitor) and a number of antispasmodic drugs to help ease my symptoms…but I didn’t see much improvement.

In March 2007 I gave birth to my first child. My symptoms seemed to fade away during my pregnancy and it remained this way for a while, but by the following year the pain was worse than ever and I was finally given a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. By February 2009 I had undergone a right hemicolectomy which resulted in the loss of the whole right side of my bowel – but I was alive and I was extremely lucky.

Following this, my reality was looking like a lifetime of immunosuppressants and full on biological warfare on my disheveled body. As I looked at my recommended diet of cornflakes and tea with milk and white toast with marmalade, I wondered how I was ever going to heal my body with what was in front of me. I had a “light bulb” moment. It was that day I made the most important decision of my life: to take control of my health and not become another statistic.

I started by reading every journal article on Crohns I could find and it was during this time that I stumbled across a book called “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” – written about healing the intestine through diet. It seemed almost too good to be true but as I turned every page I could feel something well up from deep inside me. I wanted to learn how to be healthy, happy, strong, and live a long life full of vitality once again – herein began my nutritional rebirth. With the help of my sister in law (a UK based Naturopath) we put a plan together that involved a complete dietary overhaul. As the weeks went on I was starting to feel stronger and I was able to wean off my medication – 5 weeks after surgery I took my very last steroid and as time went on and my gut began to heal from the changes I was making in my diet. I had really rediscovered my love of food and cooking and I literally felt like I was cooking my way out of this awful disease. I felt strong – I was on a mission and nutrition was at the center of it.

I realised there was nothing restrictive about this new way of eating, in fact it was quite the opposite and I couldn’t remember when I had last felt so excited about getting into the kitchen. I went from strength to strength. I didn’t however want my suffering with Crohns to be in vain. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the condition, and the role food could play in both driving and helping to prevent the condition. If I could help just one other person, or help prevent anyone in my family from developing this horrible condition then it was worth it.

Karen and Kids
Karen Ward Optimum Health

It was my chance reading of a newspaper article for studies in Nutritional Therapy with the College of Naturopathic medicine that changed my life forever and I embarked upon my 3 year Nutritional Therapy course with CNM in Cork. As of today, I have successfully managed my own IBD symptoms since 2009 and I am recognised as one of the leading nutritional practitioners in my field.

In my clinic, I work regularly with really complex health conditions. Many of my clients, will have previously seen a whole host of other practitioners and specialists and they are still symptomatic. My unique expertise is in piecing together all the different factors that may have led someone down the path of ill health. As a self-proclaimed nerd, I have a passion for analysing tests and data!

Some of the most consistent feedback I get from my clients is that they have never had someone explain what’s wrong with them in a way makes so much sense and makes them feel so seen and heard.

I know from personal experience how overwhelming ill health can be and I really want to emphasize that there is so much you can do to change your health in a positive way. I want everyone to experience what Optimum Health feels like and I am here to guide you on your path.

Education, Training and Experience:

click below to see media appearance and publications