The following is a conversation I had with Dr. Ron Mariotti about the whether the colon can heal from chronic laxative abuse.  I studied Visceral Manipulation™ (levels 1-5) with Dr. Mariotti. He is a natural teacher and skilled therapist. Seriously, I’m in awe of this man’s proficiency and generosity.

I asked Dr. Mariotti if Visceral Manipulation™ could increase colon motility in someone who’s enteric nerve cells were destroyed through chronic laxative abuse and if the enteric nerve cells could be restored. What prompted me to ask, was that I had read in The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine (1998) by Michael D. Gershon, M.D. that in autopsies of chronic laxative users that they found the enteric nerve cells were destroyed.
Now, I have no way of knowing if someones enteric nerves have been destroyed or restored, but I do know many of my clients have restored their gut motility after years of struggling with constipation.

The enteric nerve cells are the nerve cells of the gastrointestinal tract. They are part of a complex system that detects the condition of the gastrointestinal tract and provides and receives signals that control gut movement, fluid exchange, and local blood flow.

Dr. Ron Mariotti:

“I love this question. Thank you very much for asking it because it brings up an entirely larger topic about what it is we are actually doing with our hands and what kind of changes we can make.

I love the quote from Jean Pierre; “You do more than you know.” I think about all the patients I’ve seen over these years I’ve been in practice, or my patients who have been told by some “specialist”; that nothing can be done to change their situation.

I think of all the patients who have been told that their sliding Hiatal hernia will never improve, that their gastroparesis will never change, that their pain pattern they are experiencing is something they will “just have to learn to live with”.

It seems incredibly arrogant to make the statement that nothing can change after certain types of damage have been done.

Now, if you were to lose a limb it is seriously doubtful that you will be able to grow it back. However, the tissues of the body are incredibly resilient and capable of changing… especially the nerve tissue.

A couple years ago I had the incredible honor to give a discussion to the Australian Osteopathic Association. The topic of discussion was the neural plasticity of the gut. I ended up writing a paper on this which I’m hoping to have out to the public soon.

The whole topic of study was quite fascinating. You can always see those videos if you want by going on to my website and checking them out. [see link below]

But in a nutshell… yes, I do believe that things can change, and no, I do not believe that abuse of certain medications such as laxatives is going to irreparably damage the tissues to such a degree that they will not be able to recover.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying this, but we have all seen patients who have “miraculously”; recovered in situations where they were told that nothing would ever change. To my mind, that is just simply ludicrous. Everything changes! From one second to the next nothing is the same and isn’t that the thing that makes our wonderful life worth living, always giving hope where there seems to be no hope.

More specifically to your question…Jean Pierre teaches us how to work on the Cannon Bohm area of the colon. This area is the border between the areas of SMA [superior mesenteric artery] and IMA [inferior mesenteric artery] and the tissues they supplied. It lies very close to the splenic flexure…maybe a bit medial from this along the transverse colon. It’s a site on the transverse colon that also marks the boundary between the proximal and distal territories of the autonomic nervous system.” Treat this and see what happens. You might be very surprised!!”

picture of Dr. Ron Mariotti

Dr. Ron Mariotti

Dr. Mariotti is a board-certified naturopathic physician who graduated from Bastyr University. He is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and the American Society for Nutrition. Dr. Mariotti has over 24 years of clinical experience and has studied extensively with Dr. Barral, the originator of Visceral Manipulation and Dr. Upledger, the originator of CranioSacral Therapy. Dr. Mariotti works with people of all ages, from newborn to the elderly. He is recognized as an expert in visceral manipulation by other physicians and practitioners who routinely seek him out to study and enhance their own skills in this work. Currently, Dr. Mariotti is working on the second volume in his three volume set of books to aid practitioners in the use of visceral manipulation in their clinical practice. Dr. Mariotti is a certified teacher for the Barral Institute and holds a Barral Institute Diplomate certification.

Dr. Mariotti’s website: Visceral Synergy

Dr. Mariotti’s lecture (video) Neuorplasticity, the Gut, and the Role of Visceral Manipulation in the Osteopathic Practice

To Find a practitioner trained in Visceral Manipulation™ visit the Barral Institute’s website.

Approximate area of Cannon Bohm area of the colon.

Approximate area of Cannon Bohm area of the colon. 


Colon image credit: © Can Stock Photo Inc./cgteam


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