A Two-Minute Practice for a Healthy Gut

By Catherine Gregory

Getting to the root cause of uncomfortable digestive symptoms can be tricky, but there is one simple technique that can benefit most everyone: ileocecal valve massage.

What Is the ICV?

The ileocecal valve (ICV) is a small sphincter muscle that connects the small intestine to the large intestine (colon), and when functioning properly, it opens and closes to release waste into the colon after the small intestine has finished its job of absorbing nutrients.

According to Dr. Frank King, author of The Healing Revolution: Eight Essentials to Awaken Abundant Life, Naturally, nearly 80 percent of the population has a problem with this valve, which he claims is the number one cause of “auto-intoxication” in humans.

“When the ileocecal valve loses its integrity,” says Dr. King, “it causes the poisons from the colon to back up into the small intestine and get reabsorbed into your body.” This can lead to a host of uncomfortable symptoms, including gas, bloating and abdominal pain as well as nausea, headaches, fatigue and achy joints.

Working as a holistic abdominal massage practitioner for the past thirteen years, I too can affirm that a large number of my clients have trouble in this part of their digestive tract.

What Causes ICV Inflammation?

From a mind-body perspective, I believe this valve is all about discernment. On a physical level, the ICV is responsible for keeping in nourishment and releasing waste. A useful mind-body practice for ICV imbalance is to contemplate your ability to discern what is nourishing you in your life (on all levels: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) and then making a conscious choice to “release” whatever is not nourishing to your well-being. My clients who explore this mind-body perspective are a step ahead of getting to the root cause of their physical-health imbalances.

On a physical level, the ICV is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system, which means high stress levels can disrupt innervation to the valve, causing dysfunction and inflammation that can lead to spasms and the valve getting stuck open or closed. King says roughage like raw nuts, seeds and popcorn can also irritate the valve as well as underlying food sensitivities.

Staying relaxed and well rested can help calm the ICV and entire digestive tract. And keeping a food diary to track symptoms after eating particular foods may reveal possible underlying food triggers.

How to Locate and Massage Your ICV

This simple massage from King can reduce inflammation and help to restore proper ileocecal valve function.

To find your ICV, lie on your back with your knees up. Find the top edge of your right hipbone. Draw an invisible line to your belly button from that point. The ICV is located about at the halfway point, or a finger width below that line. If inflammation is present, it may feel enlarged or tender to the touch. Press in with two fingers and pull up diagonally toward the belly button, holding for 30 seconds. If you hear gurgling sounds, this is a good indicator that you need the massage. Practice this 2–3 more times and then massage over the valve in small, clockwise circles. Massaging in a clockwise direction is important because that is the direction of elimination.