Recently I’ve realized that the most popular search term that guides people to my website is “ileocecal valve” (and variations thereof). Because of this, I thought I should write a few more words about the significance of it. If you are not familiar with the ileocecal valve, please refer to this article first, which explains the basics.
As mentioned in the first article, the ileocecal valve can either be stuck “open” or “closed”. I put those words in quotes because that might not literally be the case; however, it gets to the point and keeps things simple. When the valve is causing a problem, it is usually found to be open about 95% of the time and closed about 5%. Symptoms of both can be similar, but constipation is certainly a hallmark of the closed variety.
The reasons for dysfunction are also similar, but a closed valve is basically caused a hypertonic or spasticity in the intestinal muscles. This can be caused by excessive abdominal workouts, especially if done isometrically (i.e.: simply contracting the muscles without moving the torso). The next most obvious reason is nutrient deficiencies that cause muscle spasms in the first place. Remember the intestines are made of muscle, not skeletal (or cardiac), but smooth muscle. The most common nutrient deficiencies would be magnesium, or lack of available/usable calcium, not necessarily a deficiency in calcium. Hypochlorhydria, or low stomach acid (and/or digestive enzymes) is also usually an issue. There may be other causes, but those are the ones I typically see.
Other issues that accompany (perhaps the result, not necessarily the cause of) a closed valve might be things like intestinal yeast overgrowth (or candida), parasites, protozoa, bacterial and viral infections in the intestines. This can be the cause or result of insufficient “good” bacteria in the gut. Think hypochlorhydria; excessive sugar, refined carbohydrate, and/or fruit consumption; food contamination, and drinking chlorinated water, when it comes to gut flora imbalances. Symptoms on the other hand would be anything that accompanies constipation, such as bloating, abdominal cramps, flatulence, fatigue, general poor digestion, headaches, halitosis, low back pain, etc..
An open ileocecal valve can be the result of poor abdominal or pelvic floor muscle tone, leading to a general ptosis (drooping) or flaccidity of the intestines because of lack of support. Usually however, this is also due to gut flora imbalances along with the presence of pathogens related to the reasons mentioned above. An open valve can also result from irritation to the lining of the valve and intestinal wall in general. This is mainly due to foods high in roughage such as: popcorn, chips, nuts, seeds, spicy foods, alcohol, and sometimes chocolate and caffeine. This is especially true if those foods are not chewed thoroughly. By the way, I’ve found an open valve in just about every person who adheres to a strictly “raw food” diet. Chew properly and thoroughly if this is you!
Symptoms of an open valve mainly include loose stools, bloating, flatulence, general poor digestion, low back pain and lumbar disc herniations (without an onset of obvious trauma – i.e.: not simply bending down to pick something up), fatigue, headaches, halitosis, etc.. Hmmm, sounds just like a closed valve right! Remember, this is essentially a digestive problem, just like the closed variety; with the main difference being a possible magnesium or calcium deficiency in a closed valve. Again, consider hypochlorydria and insufficient digestive enzymes as well.
Unresolved emotional issues should be ruled out in either case. And pelvic and lumbar spinal joint dysfunction must also be addressed because the nerves that control the intestines arise from those areas. The fist lumbar nerve root (or L1) directly innervates the ileocecal valve. But again, I would check the entire lumbar spine and pelvic joints, including the sacrum.
I hope this sheds some more light on the topic as it is an important one. I check it on just about every patient, every visit, and definitely in cases of low back pain, headaches, and digestive disturbances.
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology