Stomach and Back Pain – Can they be related?

Can my back pain be related to my gut?

In this month’s blog we aim to give you just a little insight in how your back pain may be related to your Digestive tract (gut) and ways you may be able to help it.

We first will show you how close your lumbosacral nerve plexus (Back and leg nerves) sit to your gut.  Most people don’t realise that these important organs sit write on top of these nerves.

We’ll introduce you to what is “Intestinal permeability” or “Leaky gut syndrome” and the many things that can cause this.  We then touch on how leaky gut syndrome can lead to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) toxicity and how this causes inflammation of the gut lining, which can then affect your lumbo-sacral nerves.

We finish our series on some possible mediation strategies to address this using diet, stress reduction, lymphatic clearance techniques and ANF Biofrequency therapy.

Of course this blog is meant as information only and is not intended to diagnose or offer treatment solutions if you have this conditions.  We recommend you seek treatment for any symptoms from an appropriate medical professional.

Where does the Gut / Stomach sit in relation to my back?

If you log into our Instagram page in the first video you will see the relationship between the location of the digestive tract and the lumbosacral nerves.   Most people are not aware of just how close these structures are.

Whilst there are many causes of back pain that can be unrelated to the digestive system this video illustrates the close proximity of the digestive tract to the lumber nerves and the possibility that this should always be considered as a contributor to dysfunction or a source of pain. 

What is Intestinal Permeability or Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Intestinal Permeability, also known as Leaky Gut Syndrome impacts the gut lining integrity. In healthy people the lining is made up of tight junctions. When the intestinal barrier becomes swollen and damaged it allows undesirable larger particles such as undigested foods, toxins and bacteria to leak through the gut lining into the bloodstream causing inflammation.

Depending on the severity of Leaky Gut, a person may experience symptoms including increased and unpredictable reactions to food, alternating diarrhoea and constipation, chronic fatigue, pain, depression and auto-immunity. 

While the mechanisms of developing Leaky Gut are multifactorial, stress and diet are the most prevalent. 

Diet 

Potential dietary causes include; gluten and casein (in diary) particularly when genetically modified, processed and fast foods, excess sugar, seed oils, preservatives and alcohol. In excess, these foods are harmful as they are difficult to break down and cause intestinal dysbiosis. They feed the bad gut bacteria causing damage to the intestinal wall and permeability to and accumulation in the bloodstream of endotoxins, that is, lipopolysaccharides (LPS).

Stress

High or prolonged stress situations caused by emotional, physical, chemical stress can also contribute to Leaky Gut. When the stress hormone cortisol is elevated it induces inflammation and becomes catabolic, that is, it wears down protein in our cells, including the gut lining. Cortisol supresses our barrier defences and ability to regenerate. It also reduces our intestinal immunity resulting in potential intestinal bacterial overgrowth, infections and LSP which increases intestinal permeability further.

How does inflammation in my gut get to my nerves?

inflammation in gut to nerves diagram
Picture reproduced from Pajaras et al. (2020).

When inflammation happens, chemicals from your body’s white blood cells enter your blood or tissues to protect your body from invaders. This raises the blood flow to the area of injury or infection.  Some of the chemicals cause fluid to leak into your tissues, resulting in swelling.

Inflammation of the local nervous system can occur due to the presence of local toxins (LPS) as described  previously and/or part of neurological mediated response to address the inflammation.

This picture demonstrates ongoing cross talk amongst the cells to control an inflammatory response between the tissue and the specialised nerve cells.  

This results in localised neural inflammation from the reactions of the glial and astrocyte cells.  For further reading on this I recommend the article by Pajaras et al. (2020).

This nerve inflammation may lead to ongoing local or peripheral nerve pain until the inflammation is stabilised.  This may be located and reproduced with specialised palpation techniques or via clinical deduction.

How can we address Gut Inflammation?

Diet

diet and gut inflammation

There are many strategies to combat gut inflammation associated with leaky gut, the most common being to invest in digestive health. This involves reviewing diet, detecting known food sensitivities and eliminating known dietary causes of inflammation. But following a gut healthy diet is just as important as what you take out. This includes, but limited to:

  1. High fibre foods including coloured vegetables, seaweed, flax and chia seeds are a great source of pre-biotics and bulking agents assisting toxin elimination and microbiome balance.
  2. Short chain fatty acids make up 70% of our microbiome. Include foods such as resistant starch in your diet and switch saturated fats for healthy ones! Omega 3 fats found in oily fish, green leafy vegetables and chia seeds lower endotoxemia.
  3. Superfoods such as berries, avocado and olive oil are anti-inflammatory and dampen LPS endotoxemia.
  4. L-glutamine, found in bone broth is vital to repair the gut lining. 
  5. Supplement with Fulvic Humic Minerals, Codycepin, Curcumin and Vitamin A. They inhibit endotoxemia and strengthen the intestinal barrier. 

Vagus Nerve

Another way to combat Gut inflammation is via the Vagus Nerve; our rest, heal, digest, calming parasympathetic nerve. The Vagus Nerve connects the brain to many organs and is responsible for many bodily processes. 

the vagus nerve

Up-regulating our Vagus Nerve improves Leaky Gut by:

  • Calms the stress response by regulating inflammation and limiting the catabolic impact of cortisol on the gut lining
  • Keeps anxiety and depression at bay
  • Improves the gut brain connection
  • Improves gut motility resulting in improved digestion and toxin elimination
  • Regulates appetite, food intake and weight via hormones ghrelin and leptin

The good news is, loving up your Vagus Nerve is easy! Practice regular diaphragmatic nose breathing, yoga and meditation, sing, chant, hum and gargle, hug humans and pets, play and laugh, smile more and get out into nature. There are also a number of hands on techniques within an appointment that help make this shift.  

As aforementioned, LPS endotoxemia is a major component that is caused by and causes a Leaky Gut situation. Research shows an elevation of LPS in the blood can trigger chronic inflammation and chronic pain and illness.

There are numerous reasons and mechanisms for endotoxemia including:

  1. Unhealthy lifestyle habits: smoking, heavy drinking (alcohol), stress and a poor diet high in saturated fats increases LPS. 

A diet high in saturated fats creates endotoxins, causes gut dysbiosis leading to permeability and increased LPS transport through the gut wall into the blood as LPS binds to fat and cholesterol. In obese people, this process results in higher LPS levels than those of normal weight. 

A single smoked cigarette contains high levels of LPS due to the bacteria on the tobacco leaves thus leading to increased LPS related inflammation. 

  1. Gut Infections: when we have too many bad bacteria they enter the blood and secrete LPS to form gut colonies causing an imbalanced gut microbiome. This leads to an inability to absorb and eliminate toxins leading to permeability.
  2. Leaky Gut: when the gut wall is damaged and bigger gaps arise, LPS can pass through the “leaky gut” into the blood.

If not all blood LPS is detoxed quickly by the liver they bind to immune cells that stimulate the production of inflammatory cytokines. This is how a gut issue can become a systemic issue causing problems in every tissue in the body such as depression, insulin resistance, autoimmunity, obesity and fibromyalgia.

Lymphatic System

The video on our Instagram page shows the extensive network of lymphatics and lymph nodes (shown in green) within the gut.  

The lymphatic system plays a major role in removing inflammation and toxins plus mediating the immune response from the gut.

(Cifarelli and Eichmann, 2019)

Therefore if we have inflammation in the gut (often seen as bloating, tenderness, gas) addressing the gut lymphatics is an important step to reducing gut related back pain.   One of our physios, Steph did a great video on self-lymphatic treatment which can be seen on our IGTV channel that you can do assist.

ANF Discs (Aminoneurofrequency)

ANF discs are a non-thermal EMF emitting device that when placed over targeted nerves and lymphatics may assist in reducing localised inflammation and pain (pic 2).  

The discs must be worn for a minimum of 72 hours and then replaced every 3 days for 2 weeks for best results; failure to stick to this protocol or follow the practitioners instructions on hydration and nutrition strategies will significantly affect the results.  Results may differ from patient to patient, but implementation must only be performed following a thorough holistic assessment from one of our ANF Practitioners.   

Look through our previous posts on ANF or follow the link on linktree to learn more about this brilliant modality, or contact the clinic directly.

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