Integrative Manual Therapy and Nutritional Wellness for GI Related Pain
Food represents a strong focus in most cultures. Whether it is ‘inhaled’ or savored, in small or large quantities, it has been known to define us in many ways. “You are what you eat”—how many times have we heard that saying? But, how many of us actually feel good when we eat, or shortly following a meal? For many of us, we have attempted to ‘eat healthy’ from time to time, and it often helps us feel better for a short period. Many of us suffer from chronic or occasional abdominal pain and other symptoms, such as cramping, gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. These symptoms are often exacerbated with certain types of food. And for most people, it’s a constant mystery what foods contribute to how we feel.
Discussion about leaky gut syndrome has become more common in alternative as well as traditional communities. Leaky gut syndrome is when there is a loss of integrity in the wall of our digestive tract. This weakness in the wall limits our body’s ability to absorb nutrients and also creates a passageway for toxins to travel in our body.
There are several great ways to promote health in our digestive tract and help to reduce digestive symptoms such as pain, gas, bloating, and bowel irregularities. Here are two approaches.
Nutritional Wellness for the Gut
There are so many diets and cleanses out on the market today that are aimed at promoting overall health of the body. Commonly, when we experience pain or discomfort in our gut, it is secondary to unknown food allergies. A more simple approach that can lead us in the direction of optimal health is by discovering what foods we react to and eliminating them from our diet. In fact, when we have lower bowel discomfort such as bloating, gas, constipation, and pain, it can be because of certain foods that we eat. A great way to begin initiating a healthy diet, is by reducing foods that generally increase inflammation in our gut.
Let’s begin with gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley, and oat. It has been widely researched and found to be ‘pro-inflammatory’. This means that when we ingest certain foods that contain gluten, we contribute to more inflammation in the body. One way to reduce inflammation in our gut is to eliminate gluten from our diet. A gluten elimination diet is successfully performed by eliminating all foods that contain gluten from our diet. For more information and tools on how to perform a gluten elimination diet, visit www.instituteofimt.com/gluten-sensitivity.php. The best way to be optimally successful with this diet, is to embrace it as a family. You will be surprised with all the varied symptoms that this diet will help to correct. If a food is inflammatory, it can contribute to symptoms beyond the gut—it can lead to learning and attention deficits, headaches and back pain, fatigue, joint pain, mood disorders, neurologic issues, and much more. By eliminating inflammatory foods, especially gluten, we can see a change in all of these types of symptoms.
For many of us that experience gut related symptoms such as pain and discomfort, not only do we eat a lot of inflammatory foods, but also we don’t eat enough of the right kinds of food. For example, it is ideal for us to eat at least three servings of green, leafy vegetables daily to support elimination of toxins in our body. In addition, for many of us, we are dehydrated. Drinking juice, soda, and coffee throughout the day does not provide us with optimal hydration. In fact, a variety of body symptoms can be related to dehydration, including gut pain and discomfort. Drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water daily is a great way to reduce any symptoms in the body.
Integrative Manual Therapy for the Gut
Most of us know that good nutrition can help lead us towards optimal health and many of the above listed strategies can help to reduce inflammation throughout our digestive tract. But when the gut is weak, having other tools can be helpful to promote healthier functioning of our digestive tract. One such tool is Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT). IMT is a hands-on approach to healing. IMT Therapists (often physical therapists, occupational therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and body workers) use their hands to help reduce restrictions in the muscles and soft tissues of our abdomen. IMT can help to promote normal circulation to the tissues of the gut as well as drainage from these tissues to promote healthier elimination of toxins.
In addition to addressing the gut specifically, there are other reasons why we might be suffering from gut related pain and other types of symptoms. Our body’s ability to protect itself is remarkable. When there is an organ or tissue in the body that is compromised because of toxicity or a general weakness in the tissue, then our body will attempt to limit movement of that organ and around the organ to protect it from further compromise. In this scenario, the joints in the region can become compressed, the muscles can go into spasm, and the soft tissues or fascia in the region can tighten. Often, this lack of mobility and tension creates pain and stiffness, while underlying this process is a protective mode that is maintaining our ability to function.
To illustrate this common phenomenon, let’s consider the bowel and some well-known related symptoms such as diarrhea and constipation, bloating, and gas. Often, when there is inflammation of the bowel, secondary to a build-up of toxins in the body, irritable bowel related symptoms may manifest. The end of the colon begins at the left groin/hip region and travels from the left side into the inner pelvis. As a common protective mode, because the wall of the bowel may be weak and inflamed, the body will compress around the region to limit movement ‘on purpose’. This lack of movement may be achieved by a compression of the left hip, a tightening of the fascial tissues in the region, and even muscle spasm of the hip and pelvic muscles. All of this tension can create alignment issues with the bottom of the spine, at the sacrum. In addition to the bowel related issues, this compression and lack of movement may contribute to low back pain, hip pain, and overall stiffness in the region. By using IMT, gentle hands-on treatment can be focused on correcting the alignment problem, reducing the compression and tension in the region, and promoting normal circulation and drainage at the bowel, thereby, helping to strengthen the bowel tissues.
For some people, this protective mechanism by the body is not enough. Even with this lack of movement, the person may still experience many GI symptoms. In this common scenario, it is beneficial to have manual therapy to help create more movement in the region. When there is more movement in the body, there is a greater capacity for drainage of toxins. Integrative Manual Therapy is an advanced form of manual therapy that can get to the heart of the problem by localizing underlying toxicity and inflammation that may be a root cause. By using IMT to treat the underlying problem, and incorporating a healthy diet to help reduce inflammation and promote elimination of toxins, a long term answer can be reached.