Blog 6: Resolution of digestion issues under UC Specific, plus deductive vs. inductive science
Updated: Jun 9, 2021
Patients usually come to the office for headache, neck or back pain. However, because UC Specific restores function to the body and does not treat any one particular symptom or condition, they'll also report resolution of all kinds of issues, including digestive problems such as reflux, constipation, diarrhea or general indigestion. I hear this all the time: "I've been struggling with digestive issues for years and after my first adjustment they went away. I didn't tell you at first because I didn't think it was related to my other problems".
The digestive tract is innervated by the semi-autonomous enteric nervous system, which along with the sympathetic and parasympathetic, is a branch of the autonomic nervous system. If you've heard the expression "the brain in your gut", this is what that's referring to. The enteric nervous system is a vast and complex system of neurons embedded in the mesenteric and submucosal layers of your digestive tract and regulates processes like peristalsis, enzyme release and blood flow. And while research indicates that it's capable of functioning autonomously, in general it relies heavily on sympathetic and parasympathetic connections to the central nervous system. And it's the parasympathetic connection through the vagus nerve that we'll focus on here.
The vagus nerve is one of twelve cranial nerves. True to their name, cranial nerves come off the brainstem and are almost all contained within the head, except for a couple. But no cranial nerve is as long or meandering as the vagus nerve, which provides parasympathetic sensory and motor innervation to all of the organs in your thoracic cavity, including heart, lungs, stomach, pancreas and intestines, among others.
So what does parasympathetic sensory and motor innervation mean? If you've read my previous blogs, you know that the sympathetic nervous system is engaged during the stress response or "fight or flight" situations while the parasympathetic system offsets it with "rest and digest" functions. In the case of digestion, the vagus nerve, also know as Cranial Nerve X, sends sensory information from the digestive tract to the brain and also receives corresponding motor information thus helping the enteric nervous system carry out its digestive functions.
So why the focus on this particular nerve? Most of the time when we talk about nerve pressure and the upper cervical spine, we're referring to pressure inside the canal on the cord itself and the billions of afferent and efferent nerve fibers it contains. However, cranial nerves are not part of the spinal cord. But just like any other nerve that drops down into the body from the brain, it must bottle neck in the upper cervical spine as it makes its way back to the brainstem. In the case of the vagus nerve, it runs deep, up the side of the neck contained within a protective structure called the carotid sheath.
So far, every single patient I've seen with digestive problems has had an anterior C1 misalignment. Coincidence? No. That's because at the level of C1, the Vagus nerve stops its anterolateral ascent up the neck and instead must bend and twist backwards to make its way through a hole at the base of the skull called the jugular foramen. There's no slack in the nerves here. Everything is taut. And even a one or two millimeter anterior atlas misalignment is enough to push on the posterior-bending vagus, compromising nerve transmission.
In the last couple of decades, vagus nerve stimulation devices have become available for patients suffering from mood disorders, seizures, heart, lung and digestive problems. They're electronic devices that are implanted into a patient's body and send electric impulses to stimulate an under-active vagus nerve. This is the medical establishment's admission that it understands decreased nerve flow is a problem but doesn't know where or how or why. I've already had a patient with a nerve stimulating device implanted in her body be able to go back to her specialist and have it turned off and she won't be the last.
Which brings me to the notion of deductive vs. inductive approaches to healthcare. UC Specific and chiropractic put all their eggs in the basket of decreased nerve flow being the cause of dysfunction and thus sickness and disease -- UC Specific particularly, identifies the ultimate source of dysfunction as the Upper Cervical Subluxation Complex. Chiropractic professes to "get the big idea and all else follows". This is a deductive reasoning approach to science. It alleges that if a general idea is true, then any experimentation of specifics will prove its soundness and validity. In it's simplest form and organization, this is ostensibly what our current scientific method is designed to demonstrate. And can be used to test, if all variables are properly controlled, whether the "big idea" of UC Specific chiropractic holds up regardless of specifics tested.
The medical establishment relies more heavily on inductive approaches, which is the opposite. In its approach to treating pain, medicine resorts to a myriad of small ideas -- depending on symptoms or conditions -- and looks to generalize them. And we see it in the scientific method when extrapolating data and results. For example, a pharmaceutical product may show to be safe or effective on increasingly larger pools of people in controlled experiments. Eventually it's assumed to be effective enough to be mass produced and taken by people with said problem.
Each approach is important and necessary. However, I would argue that when most of this country's almost-four trillion dollars in annual healthcare spending is going towards treating chronic conditions, that is all the proof necessary that the small ideas of medicine are not working. Be it pills or implanted vagus nerve stimulation devices, you can't do the work of the body for the body from the outside in. It must come from above down, inside out.