Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects approximately 11% of the population. Only 30% of those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome will consult a physician about their symptoms, which leaves you to wonder how many people out there suffer from this condition undiagnosed. The average IBS sufferer experiences up to 4 distinct episodes of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms lasting up to 5 days. That’s 20 days a month! Those with irritable bowel syndrome have a higher prevalence of anxiety and a lower quality of life.
- Alternating constipation and/or diarrhea
- Persistent upper and lower abdominal pain and cramps
- Feeling very full (or bloated)
- Mucous discharge in the stools
Irritable bowel syndrome can take some time to nail down the exact triggers and time to heal. We will have another blog post specifically written about this. Symptoms and healing from IBS can be greatly helped with a manual therapy called Visceral Manipulation. Visceral Manipulation is a very gentle, very specific manual therapy for your internal organs to support optimal motion. That’s right, your lungs and heart are not the only organs that have a rhythmic motion. You can read more about this concept in our visceral manipulation blog.
When an organ is chronically inflamed, much like with irritable bowel syndrome, that organ tends to develop spasms within the muscle wall affecting its function. The small intestine is on average 20 feet long. There is a lot of potential for inflammation, muscle cramping and spasming which all affect the motion and function of this organ. With the primary responsibility of the small intestine being 90% of digestion and absorption, this is a problem. Your small intestine has a very extensive vascular supply, predominantly the superior mesenteric artery and vein. These vessels supply nutrition and oxygen to the organ as well as transport nutrients you consume to the other cells in your body.
People with restrictions in the first part of their small intestine experience:
- Tightness and discomfort in their mid back
- Tightness and discomfort near right middle rib region
- Deep, pinpoint midline abdominal discomfort
- Difficulty digesting fatty foods
- General digestive disturbances around 30 minutes to an hour after eating
The first section of the small intestine is called the duodenum and is the shortest section. The duodenum is centrally located just below the rib cage. It is the most fixed portion of the small intestine and is suspended in the abdomen by a ligament that attaches to the diaphragm. This allows for the intestines to elevate and lower with breathing. This portion of the small intestine is a little more muscular than the rest of the small intestine, similar to the musculature stomach. This is also where the common bile duct connects to the small intestine via the Sphincter of Oddi. The common bile duct is where the pancreas and gallbladder dump bile and enzymes to chemically break down your food. The duodenum can become spasmed around the Sphincter of Oddi and impede flow of these enzymes.
Symptoms of restriction in the remainder of the small intestine include:
- Lower abdominal distention
- Low energy and fatigue (due to impaired absorption of nutrients)
- Difficulty digesting raw vegetables
- Acute and chronic low back pain
- A weak or wobbly feeling in the legs during or after working out (due to interference of circulation to the legs).
The bulk of the small intestine, the jejunum and ileum, fill the majority of the abdominal cavity, and attach to the back side of the abdominal wall. The small intestine has a very extensive blood supply that can greatly impact digestion and absorption when restricted. Chronic spasms, fascial restrictions and fibrosis can alter the natural motion of the small intestine, impeding blood supply and slowing the transit time of your food.
When motion is restored to the small intestine it improves blood flow, digestion and absorption. This is very important in the recovery process. Just like a muscle or joint trying to recover from injury, your organs need circulation and proper nutrition in order to heal properly.