If you are experiencing any kind of gut issues like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, SIBO, leaky gut, or even upper GI issues like GERD then you should give this vagus nerve hack a try, the ileocecal valve release.
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What is the ileocecal valve?
The ileocecal valve connects the small intestine to the large intestine and prevents any backflow of nutrients and undigested food into the small intestine. The large intestine is where we have most of our beneficial bacteria. So, we don’t want to have a backflow of toxic material moving into the small intestine where it is not supposed to be. This can cause a whole host of issues such as SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The small intestine is where we’re supposed to be absorbing the nutrients from our food. Issues around this ileocecal valve can typically cause a lot of tenderness around the area.
How does the vagus nerve fit into this?
The vagus nerve modulates digestion through the migrating motor complex. This migrating motor complex is located in our small intestine and helps to move things through towards the large intestine. It can also affect the ileocecal valve. In essence, the vagus nerve influences our small intestine and ileocecal valve.
How do you perform the release?
While lying down, find your hip bone. Then, orient yourself to your belly button. From those hip bones, move 1/3 of the way up towards your belly button and that is called McBurney’s point. When you get to that area, sink your fingers nice and easily into the tissue. First, assess to see if it is tender? Does it feel restrictive? Once you’ve assessed the tissue on your bare skin, gently compress the tissue inward and then traction the tissue up towards the belly button. Try to hold gently anywhere from two to four minutes. You may feel a decrease in tenderness and/or some motility. Sounds are common and normal. This is a great technique to do right before bed. Try to perform on a daily basis for eight weeks.
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Is your anxiety and/or depression coming from your gut? So many people are suffering from anxiety and/or depression, so it’s important to look at the connections between the gut and the brain, and the gut’s influence on mood and behavior. This is an important aspect of looking at mental health and addressing some underlying physical causes.
The gut-brain connection is fascinating, and it is essentially our bidirectional communication between our gut and brain. It has multiple pathways, including the hormonal, immune system, and nervous systems. For the purpose of today, let’s focus on two aspects: the hormonal and nervous systems.
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The hormonal connection is based on neurotransmitters which are essentially chemical messengers; we also refer to them as hormones. They are signaling from the gut to the brain and the brain to the gut. We have 90% of our serotonin, which is our hormone that provides feelings of happiness, located in our gut. 50% is the dopamine in our gut, which is our feel-good hormone. We also have GABA, gamma amino butyric acid, which decreases feelings of stress and anxiety. All of these are located in our gut! Therefore, gut issues, infections, inflammatory diets can influence our mood and behavior.
Our gut bacteria form these neurotransmitters, so different strains of bacteria will influence these different neurotransmitters. For example, Streptococcus and Enterococcus produce serotonin. Escherichia produces norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Bacillus species also produce norepinephrine and dopamine. Bifidobacterium produces GABA. Lactobacillus species influence our acetylcholine, which is important for relaxation response, and GABA.
The nervous system pathways of the gut-brain connection, on the other hand, primarily exist through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve originates from the brainstem; it’s the 10th cranial nerve, and it’s actually a pair of nerves. It innervates muscles of the face, throat, heart, respiration, digestion, and our entire elimination track. It is one of the most important nerves of our digestive system. Therefore, we are influencing this gut-to-brain connection when we are either stimulating the gut from a viscera and/or probiotics or vagus nerve stimulation exercises such as breathing.
It is imperative that we begin to look more closely at these powerful connections and that we look beyond the genetic and environmental components to see why someone may be experiencing anxiety and depression or other mental health issues. Things such as leaky gut, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), systemic inflammation, inflammatory foods, and the standard American diet will undoubtedly influence these neurotransmitters and the vagus nerve. This attributes to changes in our serotonin, dopamine, and GABA levels, thereby impacting our mood and behavior.
What can you do about it? Find a functional medicine provider to help you navigate the physical causes of anxiety and depression. You could also start with testing: leaky gut, SIBO, stool testing to look at your microbiome.
You can also start by making small changes. Focus on eating an anti-inflammatory diet, optimizing your sleep, and working on stress reduction connections.
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Have you been experiencing abdominal symptoms? Bloating? Cramping? Indigestion? Abdominal pain? Or maybe you are experiencing anxiety and depression? If so, you should know about small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and how it is most often under-diagnosed as a source of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Many individuals have a diagnosis of IBS that they have been given at some point in their lives by a doctor, and they are just trying to manage it on their own with no real solution to addressing the root cause. In most cases, IBS is in fact SIBO.
SIBO is a serious condition affecting the small intestine and happens when bacteria that normally grow in other parts of the gut, grow in the small intestine. When you are diagnosed with IBS it’s really important to make sure that you get the proper testing and determine if this is one of your root causes. Let’s now talk about how you can tell if your IBS is actually SIBO.
If you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, bloating, digestive issues, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, overall puffiness and discomfort around the abdomen, and even such symptoms as heartburn and acid reflux, it’s really important to get properly evaluated.
You will have a breath test, which will determine if you have methane or hydrogen gas in your gut. The breath test will be over a series of a few hours. After you ingest lactulose, depending on how it ferments in your gut, will determine what type of gas is produced and this will indicate whether or not you have SIBO.
If you have a diagnosis of SIBO or IBS, and you’re in the process of trying to determine how you can feel better, it’s highly recommended to go on a low FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, and polyols) diet. These are hard to digest fibers and sugars, and therefore do not pass through the small intestine well. In the colon, the high FODMAP foods will ferment and cause gas, and in the small intestine, they will pull water causing bloating and stretch in the intestinal area.
The first part of the low FODMAP plans a complete elimination of any moderate to high FODMAP foods. After the elimination phase, which can be anywhere from two to six weeks, then you can begin a reintroduction. You would reintroduce one FODMAP food at a time and see how your body tolerates it. After you’ve done that you can personalize your plan, and determine what foods are aggravating you and contributing to some kind of bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, etc. The first goal of the program is to decrease inflammation and symptoms and try to settle your system down. Once you do that, you can begin to transition into the personalization of the food plan.
After you’ve determined you may have SIBO and you have initiated a low FODMAP plan, you want to follow a 5R protocol for restoration. So, that would be removing the inflammatory triggers, replacing the digestive enzymes, reinoculating with good bacteria, replacing any nutrients that you may be deficient in, and also rebalancing your lifestyle factors. After you have worked through a 5R protocol, there is a chance that you may need to take an antibiotic, whether that’s herbal or conventional. The research shows that both an herbal or conventional antibiotic can be equally effective. It does depend on if your body is ready to support it, and if you are well enough to be able to handle the antibiotic.
If you are a person that has had a diagnosis of IBS, or you’re dealing with a lot of abdominal symptoms and you really want to get to the bottom of it; it’s really important to consider SIBO as one of the possibilities. You want to make sure that you’re using this as a possible diagnostic tool to rule in or rule out, and to treat the root cause, as opposed to just treating your symptoms.
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Did you ever wonder if anxiety and/or depression was caused purely by psychological reasons or possibly from other causes? It absolutely can be caused from many different things such as systemic inflammation, leaky gut, hormonal changes, and your gut, specifically SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), which is what we’ll focus on today. Surprising I know! Let’s dive into the gut-brain connection, the bacteria and neurotransmitters in your gut, as well as what you can do to improve that neurotransmitter function in your gut and brain to really help you improve your mood, feel better, and move through your life with ease.
Other causes for anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression can come from many other physical causes. It can come from systemic inflammation or leaky gut. Leaky gut is where we have endotoxins released into the bloodstream coming through the epithelial lining of the small intestine and that creates an immune reaction. This can also lead to leaky brain. This is where those endotoxins cross the blood brain barrier and can contribute to things like mood changes and brain fog, etc. We can also have anxiety/depression related to hormonal changes. Last but definitely not least, we can have it from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). In essence, the altered microbiome can be one of the biggest contributors to anxiety and/or depression.
Typical course of action in America
The typical course of action in America is that when you present with anxiety and/or depression, you are prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRRI). This can be something like Prozac, Paxil, or Lexapro. The reason these are prescribed is for low serotonin, our feel good neurotransmitter. Serotonin is one of our key chemical messenger that signals to the brain. This is formed by the bacteria in the gut, and guess what, 90 percent of our serotonin is in our gut! So, now we want to ask ourselves, why is our serotonin low? We may want to dive into what may be happening in the gut that could be contributing to this.
SIBO, once again small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, can be one of the huge underlying factors in anxiety and/or depression. This is something that is definitely not looked at as frequently, and if you are experiencing something like bloating and other digestive symptoms, then this would be something to look into as one of the potential causes of your anxiety and/or depression. This happens when we have an overgrowth of the normal bacteria in the gut, and it creates a dysbiosis which means just an imbalance in the bacteria of the gut. This in turn will lead to things like nutrient deficiencies, malabsorption, and imbalances in the neurotransmitters. The gut-brain connection is a bidirectional communication between our gut and our brain. Our gut is our second nervous system. The bacteria in the gut is essentially what’s forming these neurotransmitters, our chemical messengers and communicators to the brain.
Testing for SIBO
Why is it so important to look at possible bacterial overgrowth in the gut and test it appropriately? When you are having any digestive issues like bloating, abdominal pain, any type of diarrhea, constipation, etc and it’s coupled with anxiety and/or depression, then you should absolutely be tested for SIBO. SIBO is tested using a breath test which is going to assess either hydrogen or methane gas. You ingest something called lactulose, and because it cannot be absorbed, it will be present in the small intestine. If it ferments with the bacteria in your gut, then you will exhale either a methane or hydrogen gas. If you’d like to order a test, click HERE.
Irritable bowel syndrome has been used as a diagnosis for many years, and now what we’re finding out is that IBS diagnosis is really SIBO in most cases. When you have this diagnosis, and you are experiencing anxiety and/or depression, it is going to be imperative that you address this as one of the potential root causes of your anxiety or depression because there’s no way that you can have the appropriate amount of serotonin, and even elements of dopamine if you are experiencing SIBO.
So what do you do about it?
1) The first thing is to make sure you get properly tested and evaluated.
2) Include a low FODMAP diet.
It is important to remove any type of inflammatory foods or triggers that could be aggravating this condition. FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols. Low fodmap foods are easily digested carbohydrates which is a really important aspect of a SIBO protocol. Also eliminate things like gluten which is found in wheat, a high FODMAP food, a big driver in leaky gut, a common complaint or comorbidity along with SIBO.
Typically, supplementation is going to be required because you will likely have malabsorption issues. It doesn’t mean that you definitely will, but there is a strong possibility, especially is this has been going on for quite some time. You may have to take specific highly bioavailable nutrient supplements until your body can absorb a more effectively and be able to repair the gut lining in cases of leaky gut. Glutamine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body for immune health and intestinal health. This will be one of the very important nutrients that you will want to ingest if you are diagnosed with SIBO. The recommendation is 15 to 21 grams a day.
4) You want to reinoculate with probiotics.
It is important to recognize that not all probiotics will work for every SIBO patient. Most commonly, spore-based probiotics seem to be best as some other probiotics could make you worse.
Antibiotics are typically used to treat the SIBO. There are different protocols and philosophies on when the appropriate time is to give the antibiotic. However, it is going to be necessary in most cases, whether it’s an herbal antibiotic or a conventional antibiotic to kill the bacteria.
In summary, hopefully you can appreciate that there’s way more to anxiety and depression, then simply only psychological reasons. We’ve only scratched the surface of just one part aspect of this, but I wanted share with you about neurotransmitters, introduce the gut-brain connection, and hopefully just have you think a little bit deeper about how can you begin to address some of the root causes of why this could be happening to you or someone you love.
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Disclaimer: This is not intended to treat or diagnose. Please check with your physican or functional medicine practitioner to determine a specific plan.