During the last couple of months I have treated a lot of people with problems with their ileocecal valve, so in this month’s article I will feature this condition. The ileocecal valve (ICV) is the joining point between the large and small intestines.
The valve has two primary functions. The first is to control the flow between these two areas to serve as a barrier to prevent the bacteria laden contents of the large bowel from contaminating the small intestine. The second function is to keep the contents in the small intestine long enough for all digestive processes to be completed.
Control of Valve Function
Both open and closed ICV syndromes are recognized. In the open ICVS, there is regurgitation of colon contents into the small intestine; in the closed or spastic ICVS, material fails to pass from the ileum (end of small intestine) to the colon (large intestine) with open ICVS causing Diarrhea and the closed ICVS causing constipation.
Several factors control the ICV opening and closing: (1) a difference in the pressure gradation between the ileum and cecum, (2) neurological (nerve) imbalance from subluxation (spinal misalignment), or (3) neurohumeral causes. (Chemical effect on nerves).
The structural, chemical and mental sides of the triad of health have been found to be causes of iliocecal valve dysfunction. It is generally considered that the valve is opened by parasympathetic (PSNS) and closed by sympathetic nervous system (SNS) action. People with hypo (low) adrenal action and hyper (high) adrenal activity have open and closed ICV respectively.
What does this mean? Basically we have two major influences of the nervous system, the SNS, which is our “fight or flight” response, or stress, rushing about – the exercise side of the nervous system where the majority of our blood is shunted to the organs and muscles of movement such as the arms, legs, heart and lungs, robbing blood from the other areas of the body.
Then there is the PSNS which controls digestion, assimilation and elimination where a good deal of the blood is in the digestive organs. In SNS dominance we also have a release of adrenaline (hyper adrenal), so this is why stress can not only rob blood from our digestive system and shut its function down but also closes the ileocecal valve so we don’t release our wastes. Long term stress fatigues the adrenal glands causing hypo adrenal function and then we have the reverse situation of the ICV being open and releasing the contents too fast.
Symptoms of ICV dysfunction
Many symptoms of ICVS occur as a result of absorption of toxic products by the ileum that has been regurgitated from the colon. As the skin and lungs take over detoxification, there is usually a fetid breath and possibly body odor. In an open ICV there may be the combination of dehydration and fluid retention. Fluid retention is the body’s natural method of attempting to reduce the effects of the toxicity by diluting it with water. There will often be evidence of liver problems in severe conditions.
The symptoms of an open or closed ICV are very similar. Some of the symptoms that may be caused by an ICV problem are palpitations and feeling of the heart fluttering, chest pain with activity, migraine headache, edema, right shoulder pain simulating bursitis, neck stiffness, mid-afternoon dizziness, tinnitus, nausea, faintness, sinus, sudden thirst, dark circles under eyes, and general achiness.
The closed ICV posses an exception to the similarity of symptoms in that symptoms arising in the morning ease with movement. When the person becomes active, headaches and other symptoms improve, but are much worse if they sleep-in. The type of food an individual eats may help create or irritate ICVS.
In my clinic I have noticed that wheat and sugar seem to be the biggest culprit. The glutinous nature of wheat can appear to stick the valve either shut or open. For this reason colonic irrigation is employed as a mode of therapy as well as dietary modifications and addressing any adrenal/stress situations.
I like to use colonics to un-stick the valve, as well as employing a massage technique to facilitate this process. A nutritional factor that has been found effective for an open ICV is liquid chlorophyll, given to help soothe and heal the bowel. Calcium is used for the closed ICV, and often Betain hydrochloride as well as adrenal herbs. Also there is often the need to correct any acid alkaline balance in the gut. In the open valve the gut is often too alkaline and the closed valve is often too acidic, and here digestive enzymes can also be of help.
Psychology of ICVS
Getting back to the nervous system, adrenals and stress connection side of ICVS, it seems to be quite common that the closed ICV relates to where there are emotions being held in. As the bowel is considered to be the seat of where we hold our emotions, it is very common that during a colonic irrigation that people experience an emotional release to varying degrees, and those with the closed ICV have very deep seated emotions that can take some time to surface compared to the open ICV people who freely release pent up emotions.
The body language of the closed ICV person is often considered “closed”, whereas the open ICV person exhibits open personality and can often be considered very extreme. This is not true in each and every occasion however. Apart from the above symptom pictures and body language, ICVS can be picked up easily during a colonic, as massaging the IC valve area usually gives discomfort in the epigastric region (just below sternum).
Do you have ICVS ?