Your body bugs may be causing your ill health

Have you ever thought about how your body bugs – that’s your good and bad bacteria, may be causing your digestive symptoms like constant bloating, irregular bowel movements, stomach cramps or symptoms like fatigue, constant colds or even problems with shifting those few extra pounds of weight.

gut flora







  • We have around 500 species of bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract, that is 3 metres long, and make up the “gut flora”
  • In the average adult the bacteria weigh about 1kg
  • We have 10 times more bacteria in the body than human cells

Like everything in life it is all about balance. We need the right balance of good and bad bacteria in our GI tract for good health.

These good bacteria are often referred to as friendly bacteria, intestinal flora, gut flora or probiotics, and mostly have names beginning with ‘Lactobacillus’ or ‘Bifidobacteria’. You probably already know that these are found in yoghurts as the food companies tend to highlight this in their marketing campaigns, but they are also found in a number of other foods which I have listed below.

Where do these trillions of bacteria come from?
Up until birth, we receive pre-digested foods from our mothers and are born with a sterile digestive tract. The trip down the birth canal initiates us into the world of microbes that thrive everywhere. Babies are exposed to bacteria in breast milk and formula and when sucking on nipples, fingers and toes. Within a week of birth, bifidobacteria and other strains of good bacteria are established in bottle fed babies. Breast-fed infants have increased numbers of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains.

bacteriaWhy do we need friendly/good bacteria?
These friendly bacteria have lots and lots of different functions. I have listed their main benefits below, but there are many more. We’re still learning with new research coming out every year on their health benefits.


They help to

  • Produce B vitamins (energy)
  • Produce Vitamin K (blood clotting, bone health)
  • Strengthen our immune system to help fight infection
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacteria increase the absorption of minerals that need acid for absorption, such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and manganese.
  • Digest lactose and dairy products
  • Regulate peristalsis (helps to move food down our GI tract) and bowel movements
  • Prevent vaginal and urinary tract infections
  • Prevent production and absorption of toxins produced by disease-causing bacteria, which reduces the toxic load of the liver.

Why do they become imbalanced?
The bad bacteria in your body will start to outweigh the good bacteria if you have a history of one or more of the following:

  • Antibiotic usage
  • Alcohol – consumed in large amounts
  • Constant high levels of stress
  • Poor diet
  • Surgery

Also there are theories that say that spending less time outdoors in nature means we are not exposed to the multitude of bacteria in our environment that help to strengthen our immune system. And there is the ‘Hygiene’ hypothesis which refers to the fact that we now live in environments that are too clean & hygienic. We need a certain amount of bad bacteria to strengthen our immunity.

During a consultation with a Nutritional Therapist, a full review of your health history, current health symptoms, diet and lifestyle is done to help identify if an imbalance in your gut bacteria is causing your health symptoms. A comprehensive stool analysis may also be recommended depending on the extent of your health problems.

Comprehensive Stool Analysis Test
Here is an example of a stool test result from a client of mine who had very low levels of good bacteria (beneficial flora). She had zero levels of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus strains, when they should be 3+. The test also checked for yeast infections and parasites for which she was clear. By changing her diet and boosting her good bacteria with a good quality probiotic for a set period of time her digestion improved and her energy levels returned to normal.

Doctors Data bacteria levels






Nutrition recommendations for healthy gut flora
Avoiding processed foods and foods high in added sugar is the first starting point as sugar feeds bad bacteria, yeasts and fungi causing them to increase. So if you are having constant sugar cravings, this is an area to investigate. Prebiotics work with probiotics and studies have found that prebiotics stimulate the growth of good bacteria, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, while promoting a reduction in disease-producing bacteria.

Foods to include in your shopping trolley for healthy happy gut flora!
Prebiotic foods: garlic, fruit, asparagus, peas, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, leeks, legumes
Probiotic foods: sauerkraut, cottage cheese, yoghurt, tofu, miso

Further reading

If you are interesting in reading more into how the health of your digestive system has an impact on your overall health, these are two excellent books worth reading.

  1. Digestive Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D (clinical nutritionist)
  2. Hard to Stomach, real solutions to your digestive problems by Dr John McKenna (trained medical doctor practising nutritional medicine for over 25 years)

Caroline Seale BA Hons DipNT mNTOI

Is there a cure for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)?

Is there a cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common intestinal health condition that I come across in my nutrition & health clinic. I know it far too well as I was personally diagnosed with it by a gastroenterologist in 2008. Not happy just to live with the symptoms I was keen to find a route to reaching my optimum health.

The news you might not want to hear is that there is no quick and easy magic cure for IBS. However there are many routes to explore to get to the root cause and if you get there, you will learn so much more about how to reduce the risk and prevent the flair up of symptoms. The changes are nutrition and lifestyle based and once embraced, will really benefit your overall health, joy in living and longevity.

So what is IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
It is characterized by recurrent irritation and inflammation of the large intestine, resulting in abdominal bloating and pain that is relieved by bowel movements.

Cause/Risk factors

  • Disturbed bacterial microflora as a result of antibiotic or antacid usage
  • Laxative abuse
  • Stress and emotional conflict that results in anxiety or depression
  • Food intolerance
  • Carbohydrate maldigestion &/or malabsorption
  • Disease promoting diet
  • Refined sugar intake – leading to bacterial overgrowth
  • Stress – disrupts digestive enzymes that are released to breakdown food
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Genetic link
  • Candida
  • Parasites
  • Metabolic disorders, such as adrenal insufficiency, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism
  • Mechanical causes, such as fecal impaction.

As you can see from the above list, many of these causes are interrelated, and often there’s no single root cause of IBS. Because getting to the root can be complex, I recommend that you find a Nutritional Therapist in your area to help uncover the root cause and support you through the various stages to help you reach optimum health. I’m a fully qualified and experienced Nutritional Therapist based in Kilkenny city. I also do skype consultations for clients who may not wish to travel.

NB. It’s important that you have consulted your GP first to properly diagnose IBS and to rule out any other condition that may mimic IBS e.g. cancer, diverticular disease, inflammatory bowel disease.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Cramp like pain in the middle or to one side of the lower abdomen
  • Pain usually relieved with bowel movements
  • Loose or more frequent painful bowel movements
  • Diarrhea or constipation, usually alternating
  • Symptoms of upset stomach: flatulence, nausea, loss of appetite
  • Headache, backache
  • Rectal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Varying degrees of anxiety or depression
  • Excessive secretion of colonic mucus

Did you know?
A Nutritional Therapist can recommend and interpret the following functional tests (to help uncover the root cause of your IBS symptoms). The type of test recommended is based on a comprehensive review of your health history, current diet and symptoms.
– Comprehensive Stool Analysis + Comprehensive Parasitology
– Small intestinal bowl overgrowth (SIBO) test
– Food intolerance tests
– Adrenal stress tests

Preventative Measures

  1. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and simple sugars (refined foods)
  2. Get adequate sleep (8 hours nightly). Poor sleep quality correlates with an increase in both the severity and frequency of IBS symptoms
  3. Don’t smoke.
  4. Learn to deal with stress constructively. Meditate, pray, learn stress reduction techniques, exercise. Take the time to discover which practices help and build them into a lifestyle to improve your overall health.
  5. Choose a health-promoting diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods.
  6. Under supervision of a Nutritional Therapist, identify and eliminate allergenic foods as the majority of patients with IBS have at least one food allergy. It is also important to follow a protocol to heal the gut lining once foods are removed so that the immune & digestive system can be restored to optimum health and where possible the foods can then be re-introduced. Nutritional Therapists are well trained to support here.
  7. FODMAPs help but are they the solution? FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-,Di and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols) are a collection of molecules in food, that can be poorly absorbed by some people. If these molecules are incompletely digested they can be fermented by gut bacteria causing some of the main symptoms of IBS(1). It is accepted as an effective treatment for IBS and provides relief for about 75% of patients (2) but the effect is reversed with re-introduction. So is this getting to the root cause or just a sticky plaster? A nutritional therapist is trained to look for the root cause as mentioned earlier.
  8. Eat 4 hours before bedtime sleep and no later.

For a comprehensive nutrition and health consultation, contact
Caroline Seale, Nutritional Therapist Kilkenny, BA DipNT, mNTOI
On 087 1266525 or 056 7780658

1. Gibson R & Shepherd S Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2010;25.
2. Rangnekar AS et al Gastroenterology 2009;137