Can you explain what the digestive system is?
Virginie: The digestive system, which can also be called the “digestive system”, is made up of several organs that contribute to the digestive function, i.e. to the fact that the food we swallow is transformed, destroyed, and assimilated by the body and the metabolism, through the bloodstream. This work starts with the mouth, obviously, we eat through the mouth, and ends with the anus.
During this journey, we meet several organs which contribute to this function: the mouth, the pharynx, the esophagus, the stomach. Then come the devices that will secrete small liquids to help destroy all this, which are the liver and the pancreas. Then it goes into the small intestine, where the big sorting and assimilation will take place. What has been sorted out but not absorbed will be evacuated through the large intestine, the colon, then through the rectum and the anus.
Claire: I really want to insist on the role of the mouth and chewing. We don’t think enough about it, it’s something that we can control very easily, only by thinking about it. This chewing is extremely important because it comes upstream. It is one of the first organs that will facilitate digestion. Chewing, through its mechanical and enzymatic action, will help us to digest behind. It will really “chew up the work” of the digestive system.
This digestive system can sometimes fail and create discomfort. What types of discomfort do you encounter daily with your patients?
Virginie: It’s quite broad, ranging from small things to more important things. To be quite pragmatic, it can range from swallowing problems, we have difficulty swallowing, to reflux which we call “gastro-oesophageal reflux” or GERD, the acronym, which is the rising of acidity or gas that goes back to the mouth and comes from the stomach or the esophagus.
Sometimes there are appetite problems, nausea, vomiting, and disgust. A little lower down you can have bloating, where you feel your stomach all swollen and hard, inflammatory reactions of the intestine. The great classics are constipation or diarrhea. And then if you go a little further, you can also have bleeding in the stools or hemorrhoids. That’s really about the digestive system itself and the discomforts, the symptoms that you can feel. Around all that, there can be related things like back pain for example, which is often related, or breathing problems. It’s quite varied and not necessarily exhaustive what I’m explaining, but these are the great classics.
Claire: Yes, there is a whole range of symptoms that can be occasional or become chronic, and that can become very annoying in everyday life. For example, something simple that we often encounter is the sensation after eating of having a sort of brick in the stomach and intestine, which often leads to fatigue after the meal. This is called post-prandial fatigue. In professional life, for example, this also leads to a drop in efficiency at work, that over the long term can ultimately lead to chronic fatigue.
It seems that eating poorly, chewing poorly, or not really knowing which foods are right for us, can lead to other pathologies. It’s a pity because there are natural solutions, mechanical solutions, such as in osteopathy and naturopathy, which can avoid all these discomforts and inconveniences in the first place, and allow us to recover a much greater vitality.
What causes intestinal discomfort?
Virginie: Obviously, there is the lack of hydration, the sedentary lifestyle, and I think that each of us has experienced this to a greater or lesser extent during confinement, where we can see that sitting for a very long time and not going out to walk causes digestive discomfort of various kinds, but in general we feel a bit bloated. Then there are obviously possible infections, whether viral or bacterial. A great classic is gastroenteritis, where we are even beyond the trouble and discomfort. You really have disabling and functional symptoms. There are also bacterial infections, which Claire knows well because she works every day, which cause the bacterial sphere that is already present in the intestine to migrate, which is called…
Claire: … Intestinal dysbiosis, with other related pathologies such as SIBO. It’s simply an imbalance of the intestinal flora, and we work a lot on this in natural medicine, whether it’s osteopathy or naturopathy, because we’ve realized that this is fundamental. The balance of our intestinal flora is extremely important. The whole digestive and intestinal sphere is of great interest to us because it is almost one of the most important systems in our body.
Virginie: Yes, it is almost always “in the picture”. Indeed, when there is an infection or beyond that (side effects of certain drugs, or worse obviously, cancers or very serious things) we have pathologies, diagnosed as pathologies, that is to say, chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as hemorrhagic rectocolitis and Crohn’s disease, which are chronic and auto-immune pathologies, again this creates very uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
There is also something that concerns us both in the possible causes, it is the state of general health, and when we talk about general health, because we have two disciplines that are holistic and very global, obviously the state of health of the body is always related to the state of emotional and mental health. Indeed, when we experience stress, annoyances, and relatively negative emotions of all kinds, this can also have impacts on certain organs of the digestive system, or at least how they will react to this. When things go wrong, the body sends messages.
There are two major very acute crises of the digestive system:
- “Acute cholecystitis”: if you visualize the gallbladder and the bile ducts of the liver, we have a small canal that sends this bile liquid into the digestive system, and sometimes we have small clots that have difficulty in passing. This is an acute cholecystitis attack. This causes very acute pain, and it is absolutely necessary to consult the medical profession.
- “Renal colic”: it’s more or less the same thing, except that it’s on the kidney and the ducts that come out of the kidney. You have to go see the doctor or go to the emergency room. The same goes for appendicitis, another major cause of acute and painful crisis which is located in the right iliac fossa, therefore in the lower right-hand corner of the abdomen. Yes, doctor too.
Claire: These are extremely urgent cases, we don’t mess around with this type of pain. Whatever happens, the intensity of the pain sends us a message.
How do naturopathy and osteopathy intervene in these digestive discomforts’ management?
Claire: In naturopathy, I’ve insisted on the diet. We will do what we call a health check. We will explore, through a questionnaire, all the systems of your body. We will also spend a lot of time on your diet, to give you advice and encourage you to make what we call a personalized dietary rebalancing in relation to what we have perceived during this interview. We will also give advice on detoxification to clean up your digestive system when there is a problem linked to this system. We will use natural food supplements, plants, phytotherapy, essential oils…
We will also, if necessary, advise you to have blood tests or analyses in relation to allergies or food intolerances, analysis of the intestinal microbiota, to go further and provide really precise support. We can also give advice on how to get back into physical exercise, adapted to what we observe. We will obviously also deal with the emotional system, as we have seen that the body and the mind are linked, and the cause is often intrinsic.
Virginie: Indeed, Claire’s part is really about metabolism, so i’m going to work a bit more on the container. I’m going to act locally, on one organ or another, because each organ, and each thing in your body, moves! I will try to test, by palpatory tests, to perceive that it moves, that it does not move well, or that it does not move at all.
Obviously in your body, everything is connected. There are fascias, in other words, membranes, connective tissue. This membrane carries the vascularisation, the nervous commands, etc. If the relationship between the organs does not move well, is not well elastic, it has repercussions and it is the butterfly effect on certain organs in the neighborhood. My job is to re-mobilize all this, so that each one next to the others moves well, each one of them and each one in relation to the others so that the vascularisation happens well. This is still regional.
Afterward, if we integrate this into the system of the human body, as everyone knows, the brain sends nervous, electrical commands, and as Claire was saying, the intestine is full of neurons, and it also has the capacity to send information to the brain. This exchange of information is also essential to function well.
Claire: Whether in osteopathy or naturopathy, we advocate a return to balance. Our role is to give techniques, and act in relation to your body, to find this balance.
A final word for people who suffer from digestive discomfort?
Claire: Every time there is pain, it’s because the body is sending us a message, and if we ignore these messages too much, it can turn into something more serious, even a pathology. So it’s really important to ask the right questions and to come and see a doctor beforehand, as a treatment, but also as a preventive measure, because this is what will prevent the condition from deteriorating. In any case, in our medicine, taking care of the ground, the foundations, will really consolidate your base, so that the tree that you are will develop in the best possible way and will flourish.
Virginie: Exactly, and the natural capacities you have for this return to health!
This information is not a substitute for medical advice.
You must seek the advice of your doctor or another qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health condition.