Ileocecal Valve Syndrome

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 ?

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33 thoughts on “Ileocecal Valve Syndrome

  1. Susan

    I have been diagnosed many years ago. I went to an orthopedist with shoulder pain I could barely dress myself and there was nothing visually wrong with the structure (had an MRI). Went to my chiropractor when visiting my mother and referred me to one in NYC. He did some muscle testing told me I had an incompetent ICV. He did the manuever and there was had immediate relief of pain! I had darkened eyes and other symptoms as well. After a month of a non fibrous diet , no problem after except after a colonoscopy.

  2. Carrie

    I was was thinking I had endometriosis or an ovary gone bad. A very painful ultrasound later and it checks out ok. I have no bowel issues just a constant feeling of sharp pain, back pain and a feeling of menstrual cramps for three months. It went away with an occasional small flare ups but tolerable. I read about massage and decided to try. This brought on a full force event like I had three months ago. I am miserable. Bloated, sharp pain and low back pain. I did start eating healthy around the same time this all started. Could this be my ileocecal valve?

    1. Barb

      I think if massaging is worsening then you have an open valve and try liquid chlorophyll as one suggested above. If it’s closed the massage helps. The fact it makes you worse suggests yo me that it is open.

  3. Lisa

    Is nausea and frequent vomiting related to ICVS? I’ve had an endoscopy and colonoscopy recently and a small bowel follow through scheduled tomorrow (at my request through research on the internet). I’ve had tons of blood work and stool samples taken with no results. I’m vomiting 2-3 times a week and becoming more and more disheartened everyday.

  4. Joy

    My ileocecal valve was removed when I had surgery for colon cancer. I have SIBO. I have taken a couple of rounds of Xifaxan and felt some better although I am on pain meds. Do I even have a hope of getting well?

  5. Laurel Ablett

    I was 14 when I was taken into hospital with suspected appendicitis and sent home a few days later after being told it was not that at all and given no more information. Now, after asking at least eight doctors to find the cause of the frequent sharp pain in my side, it was finally my chiropractor who told me it was the ileocecal valve that was the cause of my pain. I was 78 years old by this time !!! It was frequently closing and also, of course, causing constipation and the bad pain in my left hand side. I also had right shoulder pain and could not open top cupboards, very occasional sharp carpel tunnel pain, and lower back pain, not acute, but always there, struggled with bed making, gardening and housework. Best way to cope is the massage and find a diet to follow that is very important.

    1. robin

      Laurel, you sound like me! 25 years ago, out of the blue, I developed what I called diarrhea (but have since heard called “pencil stool) and VERY bad pain in the area of my appendix. Every morning I’d be doubled-over until I had a bowel movement. After two weeks I started getting terrible headaches, which would last for one to three weeks, non-stop, separated by a couple of days without a headache.
      I went to a doctor at that point, thinking that I had a brain tumor. Long story short, I saw at least seven doctors over the course of a year, and went to the emergency room twice when I was so sick that I thought I was dying. No doctor ran any tests, except for one blood test, and all told me it was stress, and recommended getting a hobby or getting away from the kids – I had a 5yo I was homeschooling, a 3 1/2yo, and 2yo twins.
      Anyway, after a year of doctor-hopping, a chiropractor told me that my IV might be inflamed, and not to eat anything raw for two to three weeks. I was better within a day or two! I only had flare-ups when I ate a lot of almonds or watermelon.
      Fast forward to three days ago – lots of organic low-fat popcorn and sprouted organic almonds and stress over an ill beloved pet, and I now have stabbing pains in my pelvic area. Not sure if it’s another flare-up, or diverticulitis/diverticulosis, since the pain is all the way across, not just on the right side.
      But, in either event, it’s back to a LOW fiber diet for awhile!

  6. Camelia

    Just wonder if with the colonic irrigation it won’t introduce the toxic fecal matter back into the small intestine hence exacerbating the symptoms for the people with closed IVS. Can you please elaborate?

    1. sue

      Basically it is all being flushed out anyway, but refluxing of bacteria into the small intestine with someone with a stuck open ICV could be dangerous

  7. Peter

    I learned about the ileocecal valve in 1980 from a prominent chiropractor in NE Ohio. If my IV was open or closed my back would go out and I would need adjustments to restore straightness. I especially found that when I would eat nuts, popcorn,or drink to much caffeine or alcohol my digestive system would bloat and the IV would be effected. Stress is a big culprit. I was a salesman on the road rushing and eating wrong which triggered the symptoms. He would have me massage the valve and use chlorophyll tablets to sooth the valve. The adjustments on the lower mid back also relieved the valve. I learned here that diet and adrenal activity and blood flow are all integrated in managing IVS. Thanks for info!

  8. Zippy

    If you have a closed pain will you have pain in the area or an irritable feeling? I have had constipation and an irritated feeling in that area for a year and a half. If I eat highly fermentable foods it is much worse and if I just eat protein and fat I can avoid it though that causes constipation.
    Its been a nightmare for me as every night when I lie down I have dull pain and irritation and pain killers don’t really stop the feeling.
    I am desperate for an answer

    1. K

      Hi I feel like you’re describing my symptoms too! Zippy have you tried a low FODMAP diet? It has helped reduce the pain for me significantly. I think my valve tends to be closed and eating any high FODMAPS increases the gas in the gut which then becomes trapped and causes pain. I also avoid gluten and my allergens

  9. Cassandra Gill

    My daughter had her ileocecal valve removed at 36 days old due to damage caused by necrotising enterocolitis she is now 15 months old and finally went for stomal reversal surgery a fortnight ago and now has an ileous of her small bowel so we have had 2 contrast studies up and down would like to know if there are anymore option we can try without getting another double barrel ileostomy. Thankyou concerned mum

  10. Susie Grace

    I recall being diagnosed by a chiropractor many years ago with a closed ICV and it has been a recurring problem throughout my life Initially I was instructed to massage the valve area downward several times a day and eat more roughage. Now I may do a colonic cleanse and massage, better nutrition and pray that will get my digestive system and everything else back on track. What do others think about the use of castor oil as a remedy? I wonder why most medical doctors do not acknowledge the importance of Ileocecal valve function when it seems to be vital to life itself. That to me is a mystery of life.

  11. Teresa

    Thank you for this informative article. I am being seen by a chiropractor for valve problems. I am always looking for other options. What is your treatment?

  12. Catherine McKay

    I found this article very interesting as I do suffer from abdominal pain a find it difficult to digest food. I had a radical hysterectomy and radiotherapy 30 years ago and have suffered with my digestion ever since. Could this have caused my ICV to malfunction?

  13. Kristen Fairman

    I have neurobechet’s disease. I have had extreme upper stomach pain and bloating on and off for a few weeks now. This article made me feel like I was being described perfectly ! I think I’m suffering from the closed one. My baby girl chihuahua Dot passed away suddenly a month ago. She was my heart and soul. My emotions have NEVER been this intense and terrible. I’m also suffering with constipation, and I sore neck. Thank you for this article. I’m wondering what I should do next ??

  14. tijjani yusuf

    Dear sir,

    my sister have been diagnosed with ICV and she is considering going for operation.according to the doctor the valve has eroded and does not close properly is it advisable to undergo operation or try and manage it.


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