NAVIGATING THE LOWER GI MAZE

NAVIGATING THE LOWER GI MAZE

Does your stomach still hurt? In last week’s blog, we discussed digestive distress, mainly focusing on upper GI conditions. In this week’s blog, we are going to finish last week’s topic on digestive distress and talk about lower GI conditions that lead to bowel changes. Lastly, we will discuss how chiropractors can help. 

Anatomy and Physiology of the Lower GI Tract

The lower GI tract organs include 2/3 of the small intestine, the large intestine, rectum, and anus. At this stage, digested food is nearing completion and where remaining waste is turned into feces for expulsion from the body.

When the lower GI tract runs into problems, symptoms may include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea. The two symptoms that are most common are constipation and diarrhea.

Connecting the Lower GI Tract to the Nervous System

Remember, the anatomy and physiology of the lower GI tract is just a brief description to reach our point. Each digestive organ has its own anatomical variations and physiological function that plays a part in successful digestion.

 When we look at the lower GI tract in relation to the nervous system, remember that the nervous system is why our organs function properly. If you recall our blog from a few weeks ago, we reviewed how the Autonomic Nervous System is responsible for organ function and showed a diagram of what nerves innervate different organs.

If you refer back to the diagram, you will notice that the organs of the lower GI tract have nerve innervations coming from the lumbar spine. When nerve interference occurs in this region, if no treatment is performed, the organs begin to fail and further complications are likely.

How Can Chiropractors Manage Lower GI Problems?

There are many different conditions that affect the lower GI tract, but there are only three that we want to discuss because they are far more common than other conditions. There symptoms are so alike that in most cases, they are hard to identify.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a common condition that causes abdominal discomfort and changes in bowel habits. Those who have IBS complain of prolonged episodes of diarrhea, followed by waves of constipation. Some individuals may experience both diarrhea and constipation or only one. 

IBS is caused by several factors including intense muscle contractions in the intestines, nerve interference, severe infection, early stress in life, or changes in gut microbe. The most common triggers are certain foods and stress. Different foods may trigger some individuals, whereas other foods trigger other individuals.

There are medications that help relieve IBS symptoms, but there is no cure. The best treatment is diet modifications and lifestyle changes. 

Crohn’s Disease & Ulcerative Colitis 

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both considered Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The difference between IBD and IBS is that the digestive tract is inflamed with IBD whereas no inflammation is present with IBS. 

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis collectively have many similar symptoms. However, the biggest difference between the two is that Crohn’s disease can affect both the upper and lower GI tract, whereas ulcerative colitis is exclusive to the large intestine. 

When symptoms occur, both conditions create abdominal pain and fatigue, but the classic sign is diarrhea with blood and mucus present in the stool. 

There is no cure for either condition, but there are medications and in rare cases, surgery to help manage symptoms. The best management, however, is changing diet and lifestyle factors. 

After reading this section, it sure seems like it’s hard to distinguish these conditions, and honestly, it is. A series of physical exams, laboratory tests, and imaging may be required to confirm a diagnosis.

Regardless, all three of these conditions can be co-managed with chiropractic care. The nerves of the lower GI tract have nerve interference that needs addressed. Studies show that providing adjustments to the lower thoracic and lumbar spine have significantly reduced symptoms of lower digestive distress. 

At our office, we use a specific technique that helps with constipation and diarrhea regardless of a digestive disorder being present or not. Applying a series of spinal manipulation to the lumbar spine and sacrum along with specific trigger points to the sacrum helps get the digestive tract back on track.

Conclusion

Realize that we are not gastroenterologists. If you have a true medical concern, please contact your primary care physician who can refer you to the appropriate specialist. Once a diagnosis is confirmed we can co-manage your care and help remove nerve interference. 

If you have any questions about how we can help with certain digestive problems please call us at (724) 547-3377 and check out our website, www.drlarrywilkinsspinalcare.com for more information.

Yours in Health,

Larry E. Wilkins, D.C.

Brian M. Steinert, D.C.

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