The cause of IBS is not well understood, and a range of causes is suspected:
- A brain-gut dysfunction: signals from the gut are ‘misinterpreted’ by the brain, leading to a hypersensitivity of the large intestine, so that, for instance, contractions of the colon are felt painful by IBS sufferers that would be easily tolerated by ‘normal’ people.
- Low-grade inflammation of the colon, which cannot be detected with colonoscopy, has been found in a considerable number of IBS sufferers.
- Mast cells, which play a role in inflammatory processes and influence smooth muscle function, are found to be more abundant in the cecum of IBS sufferers, but not in the colon.
- Many IBS sufferers link a treatment with antibiotics or a stomach upset to the start of their IBS. This is supported by the fact that probiotics can sooth IBS and that it can be aggravated by antibiotics.
- Food intolerance is suspected to cause some cases of IBS.
- An overpopulation of the small intestines with gas-producing bacteria can also cause IBS symptoms. A problem with the ileocecal valve could cause reflux of these bacteria from the colon into the small intestines.
To explain the importance of the ileocecal valve, this sixth possible cause of IBS, we are going to look at the path food takes through the intestines.
Food enters into the mouth, gets chewed, and swallowed down the esophagus. It passes the hiatic valve at the entrance to the stomach, the first of a row of internal valves that control the passage of food. After a digestion time of two to four hours in the stomach, the food gets released through the pyloric valve, at the bottom of the stomach, in controlled amounts into the small intestines. Digestive enzymes and gall are added; the food passes along while the nutrients get absorbed through the wall of the intestines.
In a healthy person, the small intestines are usually quite free from bacteria. The food then passes through the ileocecal valve into the large intestine or colon. The large intestine is full of bacteria that break down the remaining constituents of the food and concentrate everything into a semisolid matter.
The food remains in the colon for several or many hours. The bacterial breakdown of fibre can sometimes cause considerable amounts of gas in the colon. A last intestinal valve, the Houston valve, separates the colon from the rectum, where the stools get stored waiting for disposal.
All these intestinal valves are supposed to work as a one-way system.
Unfortunately, stress and other causes can irritate and disturb the function of any of these valves. A dysfunctional hiatic valve for instance leads to acid reflux.
If the ileocecal valve is dysfunctional and unable to close properly, bacteria from the colon can flow back into the small intestines and feed on the amounts of sugars available which are not yet absorbed. This can lead to gas and cramping in the small intestines. Or the food can pass the small intestines too quickly and carry un-absorbed sugars into the colon – same result, excess gas. And the colon may get irritated and inflamed, too.
On the other hand, if the ileocecal valve is closed shut, the small intestines cannot easily empty into the colon and get stressed as well.
In a similar way, a dysfunction of the Houston valve which either does not close properly or is closed all the time, can lead to diarrhoea or constipation, respectively.
Luckily, the function of the intestinal valves can be checked – and corrected – using the method called applied kinesiology.
Let me explain: kinesiology is muscle testing and is used to assess many health aspects of the body. The client is usually asked to hold one arm up and ‘resist’ against the therapist pressing down. First step is to test ‘strong’ by focussing on something positive. Then the focus gets shifted towards the body part that gets examined, and the test gets repeated. A ‘strong’ result means generally that the body part is functioning well and is healthy – depending on the question. A ‘weak’ response indicates some sort of trouble with the tested body part.
In this way the Applied Kinesiologist can test the function of the intestinal valves, including the ileocecal valve. The ileocecal valve is located in the lower right part of the abdomen, about 2 inches in and down from the hip bone. Simple manipulation of the valve, through the skin, with massage techniques, like pressing, pulling, pushing in certain ways, can relax the intestinal valves and reinstall proper working. This treatment may need to be repeated over a few sessions. The same method and can be used to treat the other intestinal valves, and may also be useful in the healing of a hiatus hernia, for instance.
For the treatment of IBS, applied kinesiology should be followed by the normally recommended changes in diet and lifestyle to keep the intestinal valves working properly in the future.
Disclaimer: This article is not designed to provide medical advice or professional services. It is intended to be for educational use only. The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. If you have, or suspect you may have, a health problem you should consult your doctor.