resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
The Art of Listening
One of the most important clinical concepts for me was voiced by the legendary physician William Osler. "Listen to your patient, he/she is telling you the diagnosis." After treating literally thousands of patients, it can become almost second nature to quickly discover clues which reveal the underlying diagnosis.
The Value of Melatonin in Breast Cancer Prevention and Adjunctive Treatment
Although melatonin (MLT) is best known for its sleep-aid properties and as a natural remedy to prevent jet lag, extensive experimental studies suggest it possesses anticancer activity through several biological mechanisms.
Specialized Pro-Resolving Mediators: 21st Century Inflammation Fighters
Specialized pro-resolving mediators, or SPMs, are a portion of the omega-3 fatty-acid spectrum that have been shown to have a powerful effect on reducing inflammation.
Day in the Life of an Advanced-Practice DC
Can you tell us a little about your background in the profession? Why did you want to become a DC? I studied at Boston University from 1968-1972 as a pre-med student majoring in biology.
The Rest of the Patient Story
I've written previously about allowing a patient to tell you their story – about taking the time to listen and engage all the aspects of their case history, the injury in question, and the related issues.
Health and Wellness Partnership
Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and The Wellness Center at the LAC + USC Historic General Hospital recently joined forces to extend care to the residents of Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles.
News in Brief
Northwestern Student Honored for Addressing Concussions Head-On; Northwestern Announces New CFO; Life U. to Provide Unique Opportunity.
F4CP Launches New Social Media Campaign
The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress has launched a new service to help member doctors: a social media campaign called "Accelerator."
Transparency is Key at ASA First Annual Meeting
On March 4th and 5th the American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA) held a successful first annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Constructing Our Reality: The Primary Channels and Perception, Part 1
My favorite topic of discussion within Chinese medicine is the acupuncture channel systems. First of all, each of us have them. They are part of our bodies; not something external to us. To learn about the acupuncture channels is to learn about ourselves.
Let's Streamline Your Front Desk
Your front office can be your greatest source of efficiency or a constant bottleneck. Increasing the productivity of this area without sacrificing the quality of patient interaction can be a little tricky.
Asking Patients the Right Questions
When was the last time you asked a patient a question? Maybe 30 seconds ago? But, are you asking the right questions to elicit valuable and useful information? As a healthcare provider, you've likely spent hundreds of hours learning to ask the right questions to gather critical health information from your patients.
Misconceptions & Opportunities With Medicare
As I speak around the country on how to properly document Medicare patient encounters, I get questions regarding opting out of Medicare. There are many misconceptions about opting out of Medicare, including just what it means to opt out.
An Interview with Amanda Shayle
JW: Can you share with us some of your history and how you became an acupuncturist? What did you do prior to becoming an acupuncturist? Where did you go to school?
How Many of Your Patients Have Sarcopenia?
Figure 1 demonstrates the typical appearance of sarcopenia in the paravertebral muscles. Have you considered evaluating your patients for this problem? Sarcopenia is the progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and function that affects the older population.
NCCAOM Launches New Membership Organization
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) recently launched a new national membership organization, the NCCAOM Academy of Diplomates.
Designing a Fitness Plan (Part 4): Blending Pain Relief With Healthy Aging
Pain relief is still the No. 1 reason patients come to my office. However, most of my patients have other goals as well, such as: "I want to lose 10 to 20 pounds"; "I feel old and want to slow down the aging process"; "My doctor says I am becoming a diabetic and need to exercise"; or "I'm tired and want more energy."
Identify & Adjust the Apex Posterior Sacrum
Low back pain involving an apex posterior sacrum (+θX-axis misalignment) typically presents with signs of lumbosacral joint impingement or facet syndrome.
Building Relationships and Referral Networks with Allopathic Practitioners
Dr. Doug, an orthopedist of 20 years, had heard stories from patients who tried acupuncture. While he was able to address many of their complaints effectively, some appeared to gain additional benefit when their care included TCM.
An Alarming Lack of Accountability
Accountability seems to be a lost quality today. The simple act of taking responsibility and doing the right thing just doesn't happen as often as it should. Maybe it is the litigious nature of our society.
Energy: For Life and For Death
Energy is a deep topic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Qi is understood to underlie all of existence, animated or not, and the qi of the living is studied with special attention.
Excited to Share the Science of Chiropractic: An Interview With Dr. Heidi Haavik
Dr. Heidi Haavik has become known in the circle of chiropractic researchers as not only a rising star, but also one willing to do research that can have a major impact in the scientific world and how chiropractic is perceived.
Filling the Gap: The Role of Alternative Practitioners in a Broken Health Care System
I have been asked many times what got me into alternative medicine. My answer is simple: I want to truly help and make a difference in people's health.
July, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 07
Part II: Chronic Problems Related to Gallbladder Dysfunction/Disease
By Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD
In part one of this series, I encouraged you to hold in the forefront of your awareness the implications of the gallbladder's anatomic centrality, its tendency to become chronically inflamed, and its capacity to subtly progress in dysfunction toward disease over the course of many years.Also, to refer your clients when you suspect its relevance to their somatic complaints. In this article, you are invited to take a more speculative leap into functional physiology.
What is so important about gallbladder dysfunction along its continuum of progression is that it simultaneously can reduce the efficiency of the gastrointestinal tract and slow the venous and lymphatic drainage back to the heart from all parts south of the diaphragm muscle.
Nature has provided the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract with two important aids to assist its crucial activities of digestion: assimilation of nutrients and the excretion of wastes. These aids are bile from the liver/gallbladder complex and pancreatic juices and enzymes. These fluids share a tube, the common bile duct, which ends in the duodenal portion of the small intestine. I encourage you to seek out an anatomical drawing of this relationship between the liver/gallbladder, pancreas and duodenum.1
Consider what might happen down the line within the rest of the length of the small and large intestine should these digestive aids be omitted or significantly reduced. What effect might this have on our ability to assimilate nutrients and eliminate waste? Also, consider what might happen to the functioning of the pancreas should its juices back-up within the organ.
In many medical textbooks, you will find the two most correlated conditions associated with pancreatitis are the progressive effects of alcoholism and the presence of bile sludge or small gallstones that occlude or reduce the capacity for bile and pancreatic juices to reach the duodenum through their common opening, the papilla of vater/sphincter of oddi.2
When I first read this many years ago, my hands tingled in a composite kinesthetic memory of thousands of clients. Then a central question emerged: What effect might the backflow of pancreatic enzymes have on the overall function of that same organ? Most of the clients I remembered had reported blood sugar irregularities including some officially diagnosed with diabetes. After checking my written notes of these sessions, there appeared a constellation of impressions of what might happen inside the small intestine and the large bowel as food transits the GI tract with little or no bile and pancreatic enzymes.
Immediately, I began to wonder how this might be related to what I repeatedly had experienced as a generalized congestion within the abdominopelvic cavity: food going down, while simultaneously blood and lymph needed to return upward to the heart. There seemed to be a connection. Researching further, I was gratified to discover that the backflow of pancreatic enzymes into the organ had been identified in the general medical literature as one of the contributing factors in the emergence of diabetes mellitus. The literature also confirmed my speculation that chronic pancreatitis occurs more commonly than most practitioners realize.3,4 Pancreatic stone formation also is possible when this occurs.4 I would further propose that chronic inflammation eventually could spread throughout the remaining length of the GI tract.
Let's remember that "itis" infers inflammation. When an organ is inflamed, it occupies more space and may influence the rate of flow, not only within its own vascular tubes, but also its neighboring low-pressure lymphatic and venous vessels. More specifically, due to its swollen size, an inflamed pancreas could mechanically block the flow of surrounding vessels and may contribute to ischemia within these vessels as a result of their reduced rate of flow. It also is possible for the entire pancreas to go into relative states of contracture or even spasm.
We would all feel an acute spasm, yet nature did not endow the smooth muscle of the cardiopulmonary organs, gut tube or the urogenital organs with the same broadband of sensory nerves as it did for the musculoskeletal system and the skin. This is the basis for my postulation that many organ dysfunctions along the continuum of progression toward pathology, often go unnoticed until a critical threshold is reached.
"Many visceral ailments cause no other signs except referred pain. The brain does not know from firsthand experience that the different organs exist and therefore, any pain that originates internally can be localized only generally."2 There is no high-grade sensibility in smooth muscle fibers and inflamed abdominal viscera are not necessarily tender on palpation.5
I propose that the body uses its complex neural net to both express and distribute its internal tensions to the musculoskeletal system, as has been described in previous articles. The body is signaling from the inside out that something needs attention. Let's consider that many of our clients who come to us with chronic somatic complaints reflect the early stages of such physiological progressions long before they could be identified clinically by medical testing procedures.
Continuing with the same example of a partial or complete obstruction of the sphincter of oddi, which prevents both pancreatic and bile fluids from reaching the duodenum in a timely fashion - what are the implications for small intestine's absorption of nutrients? Might this be correlated with the commonly seen swelling along the length of this organ within our bellies as the small intestine attempts to create more surface area in order to do its job of assimilating nutrients without the needed raw materials for digesting fats, proteins and carbohydrates?
My research also revealed that bile salts are considered to have bacteria reducing properties, thus "bacterial concentrations in the small bowel increase with lack of bile salts."4 This might be one of the mechanisms by which inflammation may spread throughout the rest of the GI tract. Infections also might find their way upward into the gallbladder and liver. Interestingly, these seem to be more often associated with partial obstructions than complete obstructions.4
Many clients have brought me their films of barium swallows from upper and lower GI medical testing. In composite, it is common to see portions of the small intestine dramatically narrowed while others are expanded along the many feet of its length. What is happening neurologically at these narrowed portions of the tube? What are the effects of a substantially reduced rate of flow? What are the effects upon the complex web of physiology and internal homeostasis? Might seemingly unexplained weight loss be correlated to this or, for others, part of their subconscious drive to grab for more food, resulting in additional weight gain further straining the function of the pancreas? Many nutritionists have proclaimed we are a nation of malnourished individuals despite our agricultural plenty.
My next speculation proposes that as the small intestine struggles to assimilate nutrients, its abnormal rate of transit becomes a significant factor influencing the timing and full expression in amplitude and force of peristaltic waves within the GI tract. The timely discharge of waste also becomes variable instead of regular. Swinging between constipation and diarrhea is much more of a weekly reality than most people are willing to notice, much less admit. One physician who reviewed this article suggested this description reflects a functional definition of irritable bowel syndrome that afflicts about half of the adult population.6
Now, let us shift our attention more specifically to the venous return system from the lower extremities and the pelvic floor. According to Dr. Barral, the developer of the visceral manipulation approach, the venous blood returning from the left lower extremity has a slightly longer route back to the heart than does the right side venous return.7,8
My clinical experience over 20 years since first beginning to study with Dr. Barral supports this premise of vascular asymmetry and has correlated left leg/foot edema, left hip problems and the presence of hemorrhoids as part of the profile for the progression of gallbladder dysfunction/disease.7 In fact, I've lived it.
Two years ago, I experienced a gallbladder episode in response to multiple family illnesses only to look back over the previous year to remember that I had had the first hemorrhoid in my life six months prior to this episode coupled with occasional bouts with left hip problems and minimal edema in my left calf over many years. My more acute episode reflected Dr. Barral's additional clinical postulation that the gallbladder is the most reactive organ to emotionally charged events outside of the brain and spinal cord.7
In researching anatomy books to explore the venous drainage of the pelvic floor, there is common agreement that "any obstruction in the return flow toward the portal system within the liver causes veins to become varicose," contributing to the development of internal and external hemorrhoids. Another anatomical fact is that many of the rectal veins do not possess the valves that most other veins do, thus they are more susceptible to the effects of muscular straining during defecation.9
However, it is my postulation that relative states of visceral swelling and disturbed peristalsis related to the sigmoid and transverse colon, the small intestine, the pancreas and the gallbladder have a cumulative effect that contributes more significantly to the development of hemorrhoids. Muscular straining just adds overexpansion of the already overfull and overstretched venous vascular walls.
Let's remember that the gallbladder sits in fascial communication with the portal vein of the liver, just anterior to the transverse colon and in approximation to the abdominal confluence of lymph trunks, often referred to as the cisterna chili.10 The gallbladder is the gatekeeper to venous and lymphatic drainage back to the heart. The net effect below the muscular diaphragm is the creation of a bog of swollen and constricted tubes, a damming of venous and lymphatic fluids.
Does everyone have gallbladder dysfunction that will lead to a diseased state? No. However, I have palpated its inflamed state and contracture of the common bile duct, pancreas, small intestine and large intestine across the human life span from babies to clients in their eighties. It is one of the most common progressions I have experienced in 27 years. It is the linkage between these organs and the anatomic centrality of the gallbladder that implicates its participation in so many disturbances of functional physiology. When one considers that "more than half of our blood, 65 percent, may be in our veins"11 on a moment by moment basis, the clinical importance for us to attend to assisting its systemic return to the heart becomes clear.
I would propose that nature does prioritize physiologic function in its survival orientation. Specifically, the assimilation of nutrients is its primary task to keep us trucking with the prime directive of perpetuating the species. The neural priority that the brain gives to recognizing the body parts involved in locomotion over the internal organs derives from the same priority. Difficulties with elimination and venous and lymphatic drainage simply are collateral strains that often lead to unintended damage and the reduction in the quality of our lives.
"We are perfectly adapted to a world that no longer exists."12 I would propose that elements of consciousness and identity consolidation form the modern foundation of our capacity to adapt to a rapidly changing environment within our nervous system. To date, 100 percent of the clients who have come to me with reported or medically diagnosed anxiety problems, all have some degree of gallbladder and other visceral involvement described in this article.
Survival v. quality of life is an ongoing paradox that confronts our species with all of its diversity. Nature's endowments of fight, flight and freeze are the shadow elements of our collective need to create ways to cooperate with one another.13
In order to be thorough, I have decided to extend this series beyond the proposed three. In the next installment, we will explore the relationships between gallbladder/pancreatic dysfunction to how alternate routes of the venous return system may influence cardiac efficiency, blood pressure and the competence of the hiatal junction.
Click here for more information about Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD.
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