Bridge to Health Blog
Bridge to Health Blog

Can osteopathy positively affect acid reflux and high blood glucose/cholesterol? (case study)

Written by Rob Allport   Posted in:Osteopathy   February 2, 2009

Chris A. (not his real name) is a 60 year old college lecturer from Ruislip, who visited our clinic six months ago for a knee injury following a long walk on uneven terrain. Beyond this injury, he had two other overriding health concerns: he had been suffering for over a decade with acid reflux due to a diagnosed hiatus hernia (for which he took medication), and was very worried about recent high blood glucose and cholesterol readings, and associated risks of diabetes and cardio-vascular disease.

On the first appointment, it was obvious that these concerns were causing a serious strain on Chris’ well-being, as he appeared both anxious and depressed about these issues, and his general outlook on the future was over-cautious and pessimistic. Further, his body was untoned, stooped and defensive, displaying how poor posture can both embody the cause and the outcome of poor health.

Planning a Course of Action

Chris and I agreed early on that we would attempt to tackle all of his health problems head on (accepting in doing so that it would require far more than a few weekly osteopathic treatments to achieve this goal).

  1. Fixing the Knee Injury:
    The osteopathic treatments focused on the rehabilitation of his knee sprain on the one hand, and the improvement of general posture and rib cage mobility on the other. Rehabilitation exercises, contrast (hot/cold) hydrotherapy and tissue frictions at home aimed to accelerate the recovery of the injured knee tissues.
  2. Combatting Acid Reflux:
    Chris was also given some further home exercises to tone up postural muscles, improve the flexibility of his spine, and tone up his diaphragm, a key muscle for good breathing, digestion and containment of acid reflux symptoms.
  3. Targetting high blood glucose and cholesterol levels:
    Chris also agreed to record a diet diary over two weeks, which he proceeded to do with rigour and precision. Once the diary was analysed, the findings and conclusions did not make good reading – specifically, they highlighted:
  • Very insufficient levels of fluid intake (other than tea and coffee!) promoting waste elimination and tissue repair
  • A predominance of high glycaemic index, acid forming foods (mainly refined starch in white bread, pasta and rice);
  • Too large an intake of red meat which has an inflammatory and detrimental impact on both the cardiovascular system and the colon; and proportionately little cardio-protective fish protein;
  • A very insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables, providing essential dietary vitamins, minerals and digestive fibre.

Put simply, Chris’s diet pointed to many factors increasing the predisposition to acid reflux, high blood glucose and high cholesterol readings; with this in mind, we agreed a set of simple – but fairly radical – changes to his diet to be urgently implemented if he was to head off the risk of being put on anti-diabetic and hypertensive drugs.

The diet is an emotional topic, and many patients might have prevaricated or tried to water down the recommendations; not so with Chris and his wife Tessa (not her real name): they quite simply cleared their kitchen of the “offending” foods, and took it to heart to implement all of the nutritional recommendations within the shortest period possible.

As the exercise, lifestyle and dietary changes progressively came on board, so the osteopathic treatments were spaced out to provide more of a health support and maintenance framework to proceedings.

Has it worked?

Six months into this process, the results speak for themselves:

  • The two most recent blood tests have shown levels of blood cholesterol and glucose that are back within the upper reaches of the “normal” range;
  • Chris’s knee has recovered well, so that he can now enjoy his long walks again;
  • His posture has radically improved, he now stands almost a head taller, his muscle frame is toned and balanced, his skin tone is rejuvenated, and he actually looks significantly younger than his age;
  • His breathing, stamina and life outlook have all improved radically; and
  • He recently informed me that for the past couple of months – and the first time ever since diagnosis – he has experienced several long spells of complete relief from his acid reflux symptoms – he specifically ascribes the relapses to stress, and is looking forward to a near future where his new lifestyle may free him from this condition.

The factors underpinning this success story are worth highlighting:

  • The holistic – or multi-modular – approach to treating Chris’s conditions has clearly been critical to a successful outcome – the downside in a world focusing on evidence-based treatments is that it is very difficult to determine which treatment method has been the key to success: in effect, success hinges on the combined and cumulative effect;
  • The treatment and advice provided by the osteopath are clearly important but, but the will, organisation skills and staying power displayed by the patient and his wife in changing their dietary habits and doggedly sticking to daily exercise and hydrotherapy were just as key to a successful outcome.

The final note belongs to the hero of the tale: on our last appointment, Chris informed me that although he has never travelled further than neighbouring European countries, and is afraid of flying and “foreign food”, he has recently volunteered for a short-term stint teaching English in a village deep in the Kenyan countryside – he views this as his personal bid of gratitude for this new lease of health.

Please contact Marcus or me with any questions raised from this case study. The Bridge to Health Osteopathic Healthcare clinic is 4 minutes walk from Uxbridge station one stop down from Hillingdon, Ickenham (2 stops) and Ruislip (3) on the Piccadilly and Metropolitan underground lines.



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