The sphincter of Oddi, named after the Italian anatomist Ruggero Oddi who described the structure in 1887, is the muscular valve that regulates the flow of bile and pancreatic juice into the duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine). Regulation of the sphincter of Oddi is accomplished through the nervous system and blood through special messengers – digestive hormones.
The sphincter of Oddi valve remains closed if there is no food in the bowel. Bile is kept in the gallbladder and pancreatic juice is kept in the pancreas. Spasm or blockage of this valve may result in backflow of bile and pancreatic juice.
If a small amount of bile gets into the pancreatic duct, it can cause serious problems. Bile can activate digestive enzymes inside the pancreas, which begin to digest its own pancreatic cells, causing pain, congestion, inflammation and even death of the pancreatic tissue. This is called pancreatitis.
If the sphincter of Oddi is blocked by a tumor, large gallstones, or post-inflammatory scarring, surgery is definitely required. The number of people with these problems is relatively small, but millions of Americans experience occasional brief spasms of Oddi’s sphincter with pain, nausea, and bloating. In most cases, their tests were normal, and these people were flagged for acid reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stomach flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses.
Many of these people have type III sphincter of Oddi dysfunction (SOD). According to statistics, the prevalence of Oddi’s sphincter dysfunction in the general population is 1.5%. This could mean that 4.5 million people in the United States have SOD.
Lack of proper treatment of Oddi’s sphincter dysfunction can lead to serious complications such as pancreatitis and gallbladder inflammation.
Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction affects children, women over 40, people who are overweight, and people after abdominal surgery. For example, statistics show that nearly 20% of patients with post-cholecystectomy pain have Oddi’s sphincter dysfunction.
Why does the sphincter of Oddi spasm? If we take into account the very complex regulation of this sphincter by the nervous system and by special blood messengers – digestive hormones, the answer depends on many reasons. Here are some examples of what can cause a spasm of the sphincter of Oddi:
• Stress, depression and anxiety
• Poor eating habits such as “walking and eating”, eating while watching TV, eating irregularities, dieting, fasting and wrong food combinations, such as mixing high-fat foods with starches and sugars
• Drugs, some drugs, alcohol and nicotine
• Severe, intensive and repetitive “liver cleanses”
• Hormonal disorders such as hypothyroidism or menopause
• “erosive” acidic particles containing sand, sludge, gallstones, etc.
Often, we see a combination of these factors in susceptible populations with overweight issues, sedentary lifestyles, and chronic stress.
The standard American diet full of processed and acidic foods (meat, sugar, alcohol, animal fats, white flour, etc.) can lead to acidity throughout the body. The Standard American Diet also results in acidic bile and pancreatic juices. The bile becomes sour and the amount of bile acids in the bile increases. Bile acids are very aggressive substances; they irritate the walls of the sphincter of Oddi, causing muscle contractions – spasms.
3-4 liters of mixed pancreatic juice and bile pass through the sphincter of Oddi each day. The acidification of these fluids makes them very “aggressive”, corroding and irritating surrounding tissues, especially the sphincter of Oddi. Considering that bile is the vehicle for removing toxic chemicals from the body such as bile pigments, heavy metals, drugs, medications, and toxins, and that the bile ducts and gallbladder often harbor parasites, there is little doubt that the sphincter of Oddi is an easy target for irritation. Additionally, alcohol, unhealthy foods, irregular diets, and poor food combinations can disrupt the normal function of the sphincter of Oddi.
The most common and prominent symptom of sphincter of Oddi dysfunction is epigastric pain. This usually presents as a sharp pain in the middle of the abdomen just below the ribs. Pain can be severe in nature, bringing people to the hospital and requiring pain medication. But in many cases, the pain may be mild, and pain medication is usually not needed. Symptoms of sphincter of Oddi dysfunction are divided into biliary pain and pancreatic pain.
Symptoms of sphincter of Oddi dysfunction biliary abdominal pain include:
• Pain in the biliary tract in the middle or right side of the upper abdomen
• Radiating pain in the lower part of the shoulder blade in the back or right shoulder
• Pain often accompanied by bloating, nausea and vomiting
• Pain from fatty food or alcohol intake
• Pain of varying intensity and duration ranging from 15 minutes to 4-5 hours
Symptoms of pancreatic abdominal pain from sphincter of Oddi dysfunction include:
• Pain in the left or right upper abdomen
• Pain that radiates directly from the abdomen to the back
• Pain often accompanied by bloating, nausea and vomiting
• Pain from incorrect food combination of protein/fat/starch/sugar food or alcohol consumption
A holistic, non-pharmacological approach may be helpful. Holistic therapy for type III sphincter of Oddi dysfunction is widely practiced in many countries around the world.
A treatment plan for type III sphincter of Oddi dysfunction may include actions such as:
• Healing custom diet
• Drink healing mineral water made from real Karlovy Vary spring salt
• European body cleansing with restoring friendly gut flora and colon hydrotherapy
• Anti-Candida Program
• herbal medicine
• Nutritional supplements
• Chiropractic care
• Relaxation, meditation, hypnosis, custom hypnosis CDs
Therapeutic courses in alternative and holistic medicine can be used alone or as a complementary approach to traditional medicine.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for diagnosis, treatment and advice from a qualified licensed medical professional.