The Connection Between the Spine and Digestive Tract
Last week we discussed the importance of regular bowel movements for happy hormones. This week we are diving into one of our favorite ways to promote healthy digestion and elimination: chiropractic care.
These days, you would be hard pressed to find anyone you know who does not suffer from some sort of digestive issue. Gas, bloating, acid reflux, gluten sensitivity, diarrhea, constipation, cramps, you name it, someone’s got it! And the most common ‘catch-all’ term for these conditions and their symptoms is Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS.
These digestive issues are most often attributed to poor nutrition. It’s a busy life these days, and with so many food options that fall short on the nutritional pyramid readily available, many of us forget to properly nourish our bodies, and the result is that our digestive function takes a nose dive. Lack of fiber, inadequate fluid intake, combined with too much caffeine and not enough rest can all contribute to these digestive issues. Let us not forget that the pharmaceutical companies are making a killing coming up with new meds every day to help treat these conditions. Antacids are a goldmine because they work in such a way that as long as you take them, your symptoms will abate, but the minute you stop, the symptoms return.
What most people don’t know is that there’s a whole lot more to digestive issues than just what we put into our mouths. And while changes in diet, and different medications can help with the symptoms, treating the underlying cause is vitally important to help us get off the hamster wheel of using medications to treat our symptoms while ignoring the source of the problem.
START AT THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM!
Let’s talk a bit about anatomy. The chest and abdomen are referred to as the ‘thoracic’ region in medical terms. The thoracic region contains the portion of the spine that is responsible for controlling digestion. Are you starting to get the picture? If the vertebrae in the spine are improperly aligned, it can cause a misfire in the signals they send to the nerves of the digestive system, including those in the stomach and intestines. The result is many of the commonly reported digestive ailments we hear about, or experience ourselves. It’s important to note that there are over a million nerve cells within the digestive system. This includes the stomach, intestines and esophagus. When these nerves within the digestive system are not sending the correct signals, combined with a poor diet that is most likely low in fiber, all sorts of things can go wrong. People can suffer from a vicious cycle of diarrhea followed by constipation, back and forth to the point where they don’t know which way is up! And of course, if you’ve ever suffered from either, you’ll know that the cramping can cause lower back pain on top of everything else. Yes, a vicious cycle!
The Natural Treatment Plan
The best way to treat digestive issues is to first ensure that the thoracic spine is properly aligned and sending the right signals to the digestive system. There have been many studies done that attest to the fact that patients who had regular chiropractic treatments experienced a reduction or a complete remission of all symptoms. There are two main players in the treatment plan: Regular adjustments to the thoracic spine, lower back and neck and a nutrition plan to ensure that once digestive function is restored, the patient maintains the results by eating a well-balanced diet that includes adequate fluids and fiber.
The end goal should be to reduce or eliminate the need for medications in order to keep the digestive tract functioning properly.
During adjustments, your Chiropractor will locate any areas of spinal misalignment (technically referred to as subluxations). Once these areas have been identified, adjustments will be performed over the course of the treatment plan that will help return the spine to optimal alignment, thereby enabling the nervous system to return to proper function.
It’s important to note – many of the subjects of the studies mention earlier reported an almost immediate change in their symptoms. For example, one patient who suffered from constipation with infrequent bowel movements, experienced an almost immediate need to use the washroom. Wow, that’s fast!
Food is the Real Medicine
When we are experiencing symptoms, our very first focus should be diet - not the medications that might help, not even the supplements we could take to make up for the lack of something. Just food. More veggies. More flaxseed. More water. More rest in order to digest those foods properly.
Proper digestion is crucial to feeling our best because digestion is connected to all parts of the body. If our tract is not on track we start to experience more than just discomfort but also inadequate nutrient absorption, hormone disruption, brain fog, higher risk of developing disease, low energy, and the list goes on. If you are suffering from digestive issues and would like to try a natural alternative treatment that will not only ease the symptoms of the condition but also treat the source consider starting at the root of this issue: the spine.
Dr. Cody Davis at Chiropractic First of Iowa