The Sphincter of Oddi, named after Ruggero Oddi, an Italian anatomist who described this structure in 1887, is the muscle valve that regulates the flow of bile and pancreatic juice into the duodenum (beginning of the small intestine).
Regulation of the Sphincter of Oddi is accomplished through the nervous system and the blood by special messengers– digestive hormones. If there is no food in the intestine, the Sphincter of Oddi valve remains closed. Bile is retained in the gallbladder and pancreatic juice is retained in the pancreas. Spasms or blockage of this valve may cause bile and pancreatic juice to back up. If a tiny amount of bile gets into the pancreatic duct, serious trouble can ensue. Bile can activate digestive enzymes inside the pancreas and these enzymes start to digest their own pancreatic cells, causing pain, congestion, inflammation and even the death of pancreatic tissue. This is referred to as pancreatitis.
The blockages of the Sphincter of Oddi by tumors, large gallbladder stones, or scars after inflammation, certainly need surgery. The number of individuals with these problems is relatively small, but millions of Americans suffer from occasional transient spasms of the Sphincter of Oddi with pain, nausea and bloating. In most situations, their tests are normal and these individuals get labeled with acid reflux disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), stomach flu, food poisoning or other diseases. Many of those patients have type III Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction. A lack of proper treatment of Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction can later cause serious complications like pancreatitis and gallbladder inflammation.
Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction can affect children, adults after age 40, women, overweight individuals and people after abdominal surgeries. For example, statistics show that almost 20% of individuals after gallbladder removal have the Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction.
Why does the Sphincter of Oddi become spasmodic? The answer depends on many reasons if we put into account the very complicated regulation of this sphincter by the nervous system and special blood messengers – digestive hormones. Here are some examples of what can make the Sphincter of Oddi spasm:
- Stress, depression and anxiety
- Poor eating habits such as “eating on the go”, eating while watching television, irregular diets, dieting, fasting and wrong combinations of foods such as mixing fatty foods with starches and sugars
- Drugs, some medication, alcohol and nicotine
- Harsh, intensive and repetitive “liver cleansing”
- Hormonal imbalance such as lower thyroid function or menopause
- “Aggressive” acidic bile with sand, sludge, gallbladder stones and more
Usually we can see combinations of these factors in predisposed individuals with overweight issues, sedentary lifestyles and stress for long periods of time. The Standard American Diet, which is full of processed and acidic foods (meat, sugars, alcohol, animal fats, white flour, etc.), causes acidity in the whole body. The Standard American Diet leads to acidic conditions in the bile and pancreatic juice as well. The bile becomes acidic and the amount of bile acids in the bile increases as well. Bile acids are very aggressive substances; they irritate the wall of the Sphincter of Oddi causing muscle contractions – spasms.
3-4 liters of mixed pancreatic juice and bile travel through the Sphincter of Oddi daily. Acidification of these fluids makes them very “aggressive,” corroding and irritating for surrounding tissues, particularly the Sphincter of Oddi. Putting into account that bile is a vehicle for removing toxic chemicals such as bile pigments, heavy metals, drugs, medications and poisons from the body, and that bile ducts and the gallbladder often harbor parasites, there is no question that the Sphincter of Oddi is an easy target for irritation. Additionally, alcohol, unhealthy foods, irregular eating and improper food combinations cause chaos in the normal functioning of the Sphincter of Oddi as well.
The most common and prominent symptom of Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction is upper abdominal pain. This is often experienced as a sharp pain in the middle of the abdomen right below the rib cage. Pain can be severe in nature, bring people to the hospital and require pain medication. But in many cases, pain may be mild and usually does not need painkillers. Symptoms of Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction are divided as biliary pain and pancreatic pain.
Symptoms of Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction Biliary Abdominal Pain include:
- Biliary pain felt in the middle or right part of the upper abdomen
- Pain radiating on the back at the lower tip of the scapula or right shoulder
- Pain accompanied often by bloating, nausea and vomiting
- Pain precipitated by fatty food or alcohol intake
- Pain varying in intensity and lasting anywhere from 15 minutes to 4-5 hours
Symptoms of Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction Pancreatic Abdominal Pain include:
- Pain located in the upper abdomen on the left or right side
- Pain radiating directly through the abdomen to the back
- Pain accompanied often by bloating, nausea, and vomiting
- Pain precipitated by incorrect food combinations of protein/fat/starch/sugar food or consumption of alcohol
Non-drug holistic strategies may be helpful. Some holistic methods for healing of the Sphincter Oddi Dysfunction Type III are widely used in many countries throughout the world:
- Healing Diet
- Drinking healing mineral water prepared from genuine Karlovy Vary spring salt
- Anti-Candida Program
- Herbal Medicine
- Nutritional Supplementation
- Visceral Massage
- European Whole Body Cleansing through the Restoration of Friendly Intestinal Flora and Colon Hydrotherapy
- Chiropractic Manipulations
- Relaxation, Meditation, Hypnosis, Custom Hypnosis CDs
Healing courses of alternative and holistic medicine can be used separately or as complementary approaches to traditional medicine.
The information on this article is presented for educational, informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the diagnosis, treatment and advice of a qualified licensed medical professional.