Chiropractic and Diarrhea
This is a personal story, because it happened to me this past month. Most of the best medical stories are anecdotes rather than research papers, so here's an anecdotal case study for you!
Just like many people in the Peoria area and around the country, I had a case of the flu in January. It involved several days of feeling exhausted, achy, and feverish, so I spent a couple days laying around without much energy to move. That's pretty typical for the flu, and there were no other health escalations or worries.
However, I noticed that as soon as I started feeling better I had diarrhea with early morning and late evening abdominal cramps. This is unusual. Many times people will talk about the "stomach flu", but the truth is that real influenza does not cause gastrointestinal problems. If you're nauseated or throwing up, you probably don't have the flu. Influenza is an upper respiratory illness only.
I had never experienced this pairing of symptoms, so I thought I'd keep an eye on it. So I noticed that the diarrhea just did not improve at all over the next couple weeks. Frankly, I had thought that once my body recovered from the flu, then it would work on healing whatever it was that was causing my diarrhea. But it now didn't seem so simple.
So I embarked on what I consider to be a fairly typical way to address diarrhea using non-pharmaceutical methods. First, I drank plenty of water to make sure that I didn't dehydrate. Then I started changing my diet, one item at a time. I started eating more fiber like bran cereal, then stopped when it made no change. I went several days without drinking a beer. I increased my intake of whole fruits and vegetables like bananas. (I do not drink coffee or cola so I didn't have to change my caffeine intake. I had not recently taken any antibiotics.)
But, nope. Nothing was making it better. It was now about four to five weeks of diarrhea, loose stools. There was no blood in my stool and I didn't have a fever, so I assumed that my colon was still healthy and I didn't have an infection. This was just flat-out mysterious.
There were other remedies that I was ready to try, such as a 24-hour liquid diet to rest the bowels, neutroceuticals, and pharmaceuticals.
But then I remembered something important, which made me feel a bit foolish. I hadn't yet tried chiropractic care. And I'm a chiropractor! Sometimes we all miss what's right in front of us. So, I started looking at my own symptoms in a whole new light, and tried to process my case as though I was a patient.
My diarrhea had begun after the flu, but what if it wasn't related to the flu at all? What if it was caused by simply lying around in a bed and saggy couch for several days in a row? What if that poor posture for several days had affected my spinal lumbar curve? What if, even though I didn't have low back pain, the lumbar curve problem was irritating the nerves that leave my spinal cord to tell the colon what do?
We know that the nervous system acts as a muscle inhibitor. In other words, when the nerves are functioning properly, they tell muscles NOT to contract. And when the nerves are not functioning properly, the muscles will contract on their own just because that's what they like to do. We also know that people can have spinal problems without having pain, because pain is a poor predictor of low-level nerve irritation.
So, I now theorized, I might be experiencing a chiropractic problem, where my nerves were inhibited due to a postural problem, allowing the muscles of my colon to move the food through WAY TOO FAST instead of compacting the foot into nice, proper, solid stool.
I received an Activator Methods chiropractic adjustment, and the diarrhea cleared up, like magic. That night I had no gassy feeling and the following morning I had no diarrhea at all. Just a perfect bowel movement.
The diarrhea returned the following day, as sometimes happens with longstanding problems. Spinal or muscular habits don't usually disappear immediately, but take a couple of repeated reminders to form proper habits. So I returned for a couple more Activator Methods chiropractic adjustments, and I'm happy to state that the diarrhea has now cleared up entirely.
Some might say that's coincidence, but mild cases of diarrhea don't typically linger for 5+ weeks, and more severe cases of diarrhea don't typically respond to chiropractic care alone. So I think it's very likely that my current theory is correct (even though it took me far too long to think of it!). I think my poor posture initiated a cascade effect where my spinal problem gave me no pain but only one symptom: diarrhea. And rather than treat it with drugs, I only needed to treat it with chiropractic care after all.
Chiropractic and diarrhea. They might not be unrelated after all.
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Unless otherwise attributed, all content is written by Kyle Johnson, DC, of Johnson Family Chiropractic of Peoria.
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