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Visceral Manipulation & SIBO

Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a common dysfunction found within the digestive tract that results in widespread gastrointestinal symptoms. This blog post is going to dive into what SIBO is, what happens in the body when you have SIBO, and how visceral manipulation can help.

So, what is SIBO? SIBO refers to a condition where bacteria that shouldn’t exist in large quantities is overgrowing in the small intestine. It is important to understand that bacteria normally exist within the small and large intestine but the levels of concentration are different between these two organs because of their functions. The small intestine typically contains relatively small numbers of bacteria (very small in the first portions and then slowly increases as you get to the end) while the large intestine contains very high amounts of bacteria (home of our gut microbiome). This allows the small intestine to be the primary site of digestion and nutrient absorption while the large intestine is primarily responsible for water reabsorption and the breaking down of indigestible foodstuff. When bacteria starts to overgrow in the small intestine, it interferes with digestion and absorption of nutrients, resulting in the typical symptoms of bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea, and various food reactions.

There are many other details associated with SIBO including the type of bacteria present, whether the individual also has leaky gut syndrome or not, and the diagnosis of co-infections that can be very common. We won’t be going into detail about those details in this blog but just know there are many things to consider when treating and healing from SIBO.

When evaluating and treating SIBO, especially from the visceral manipulation view point, there are many inherent reflexes and mechanisms that need to be considered. There is typically a breakdown in the motility of the small intestine (migrating motor complex) meaning that the inherent cleaning mechanism that we need within the digestive tract isn’t working properly, allowing bacteria to thrive. It is also important to assess the tonicity and function of the terminal ileum (end of the small intestine) and the cecum (beginning of the colon) because dysfunction within these organs creates a disruption of ileocecal valve (ICV) function. Dysregulation around the ICV has widespread implications that involve the neural system, hormonal system, and immune system.

Where does visceral manipulation fit into this? The gentle manual therapy techniques used in visceral manipulation can create neuroplastic changes within the digestive tract to assist in the retraining of the neural regulation of the impacted organs. We use our hands to improve muscle tonicity, reduce adhesions or restrictions limiting movement, and increase proprioception of the treated area. The techniques have a direct and indirect impact on the function of the vagus nerve which allows for improved central nervous system and enteric nervous system control of the digestive tract and associated organs. This ultimately allows for improved function of the ileocecal valve and migrating motor complex to help improve healing and reduce symptoms.

Whether you have SIBO or any other gastrointestinal dysfunction, visceral manipulation plays a crucial role in your body’s ability to recover. If you have any questions about how visceral manipulation can specifically help you, please reach out!