Sunday, July 9, 2017

Spinal Galant Reflex and Its Effects on Bedwetting and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

In previous articles I have described the challenges resulting from incomplete progression of infant reflexes, and how “retained” reflexes are at the core of many academic and behavior issues. Here I have refreshed a story from some years ago, about a client who experienced a profound shift through integrating a key infant reflex.

Annie was in my office for a session because she wanted to resolve her digestive issues.

She suffered from “irritable bowel” syndrome, periodically experiencing extreme pain and bloating in her lower abdomen, along with diarrhea and nausea. Bouts would last for days, during which she was miserable and sometimes had to stay home from work.

After a particularly intense series of bowel attacks two years ago Annie’s doctor put her on a program that included a very restricted diet, prescription drugs to relieve bowel inflammation, and colon hydro-therapy (colonics). Her diet included only the most basic, bland foods. She could eat no starchy vegetables, no grains or flours of any kind (which meant no bread, pasta, rice or millet), and especially no processed foods, onions or raw garlic. This regimen helped a lot, but she had to stay on it very closely. If she nibbled on something outside this limited diet (especially her favorite — ice cream) she experienced extreme symptoms that would last for days.

Annie’s story raised my curiosity. I knew that bowel issues are closely associated with retained “Spinal Galant” reflex. In children this often manifests as bed-wetting or bowel incontinence. In adults it may manifest as irritable bowel syndrome.

I asked Annie if she had had bed-wetting issues as a child. She shared that she had not only wet her bed until age twelve, but had also had incidents of uncontrollable bowel movements that had even occurred at school. She described the shame and embarrassment of this (and the subsequent teasing from her peers) when the school nurse had to call her mother for clothes in the middle of the day.

Unfortunately, her parents chose the “ridicule and anger” route to deal with this issue. At the time of my session with Annie she had already been through years of therapy to weave back together the shreds of her self-esteem.

“Can Brain Gym help me?” she asked.
 

I’m not a doctor, so I’m not trained in diagnosing and treating medical conditions. However, the Brain Gym system helps us gently and powerfully shift the ways we’re living life, the ingrained patterns behind how and where we hold tension. And when those things shift, sometimes “conditions” shift, as well. 

So I explained this, and then asked her this question: “How would you phrase what you’d like to be true? Her answer: “Living comfortably in my body.” That was the goal toward which she moved in her session.

As it turned out, the protocols for integrating the Spinal Galant reflex did, indeed, come up as a priority in her session. I explained to Annie about retained infant reflexes, and the specific symptoms associated with Spinal Galant.

The Spinal Galant reflex is this: when one side of the low back is stimulated (touching, stroking, etc.) it will trigger an involuntary lifting of the hip on that side, jerking the torso in the opposite direction: touch the left side, and the left hip rises, the torso jerks reflexively to the right, and vice versa. 


This may be nature's way of supporting the infant in wriggling through
the birth canal: the left side is stimulated and the infant’s torso jerks to the right, which causes stimulation to the right side and a reflexive jerking to the left, and so on throughout the birthing process. Under normal circumstances this reflex simply falls away three to six months after delivery: after that time a touch to the lower back no longer results in a reflexive jerking to the side. A person of any age with Spinal Galant strongly “active” will typically be very sensitive in the lower back area.  


To check this reflex I used the eraser end of a pencil and stroked up her back, two to three inches from the spine, from just below the waist to halfway up her back — one side, then the other. She was highly reactive on both sides: hip rising, torso jerking to the other side. And when I stroked both sides at the same time, she said she felt like she wanted to “climb out of her skin.” (With younger people I would have them in the all-fours position on the floor for this pre-check.)

Caution:
If you try this, always ask the person being checked to use the toilet first, especially if you suspect that they may have Spinal Galant reflex strongly “on.” Simply performing this both-sides-at-the-same-time check can cause a person to spontaneously urinate. Doctors sometimes use this test with infants to take urine samples! 


This reflex is strongly associated with bed-wetting: perhaps these areas along the lower back are stimulated by contact with the bedding as the person sleeps. 

I find it interesting to note that individuals who have Spinal Galant reflex still “on” frequently had Caesarean section birth or very rapid vaginal delivery, requiring either little or no use of this reflex in the birthing process. My own belief is that, if this reflex is not called on in the birth process, the body is still “waiting” for it to be used, and so does not allow it to fall away. When this is the case, Spinal Galant reflex is left “on” throughout one’s life, causing all sorts of sensitivities.

Adults or children with Spinal Galant reflex still active in their body will often
experience one or more of the following challenges:

• difficulty sitting without squirming - often described as “ants in the pants”
• extreme ticklishness
• incontinence when being tickled
• fidgeting or wriggling, especially when being held
• does not like elastic waistbands, or labels inside the waistband
• poor concentration and short term memory, thus making it difficult to take in and process information
• odd posture or odd balance in walking or running (from years of unconscious body twisting or pivoting to avoid clothing rubbing the waist area)
• low back pain or discomfort
• dislikes having their back rubbed, or arm around their waist
• dislike of seats with lumbar support
• slanted sitting posture, where upper back touches the chair, but lower back does not
• preference for sitting on a stool, or on a reversed chair (with the chair back to the side or front)
• refusal to “sit back in your chair!”
• bed wetting and/or soiling

There may be other causes for all of the above behaviors. But having a cluster of these behaviors is an indicator that the person may indeed be dealing with
retained Spinal Galant reflex. Annie recognized several of these traits as part of her childhood or present condition. In addition to her bed-wetting and soiling issues she found elastic waistbands to be extremely irritating, and was also very ticklish.

We moved forward with her session, and completed the movements and activities that she was drawn to, as her “learning menu.”

At the conclusion of Annie’s balance (20 minutes later) it was clear that she had
made a significant shift. In her post-checks, the sensitivity of her lower back had greatly diminished. Stroking either side of her lower back now resulted in a “slightly tingly” sensation, and no body movement at all. And Annie was amazed at how flexible and comfortable her lower back now felt. She said, “I feel like I really AM comfortable in my body! This is amazing!”

I was happy to see Annie so relieved – and wondered if there were more changes in store for her, as well.

A week later Annie emailed me to describe her delight. A few days after our
session she had been at a university conference. She said, “I ate whatever
was available on the cafeteria food line – things I couldn’t usually eat before, such as fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn. This time it didn't! I also tried Mexican food, and even though it was sort of greasy and had lots of starches, I was fine with it.... In the past ALL starches (except complex carbs from fruits and some veggies) used to make me hurt, especially if I ate them daily. I have had some minor bloating, but it has been far less than what I usually have.”

That was four months ago. In a recent email Annie shared, “I’m doing even
better now. There are so many more things I can eat, with only occasional
minor discomfort. And I can even eat a bit of ice cream!“

What is the relationship between bed wetting, irritable bowel syndrome and Spinal Galant reflex? My belief is that, when one’s body is “primed” to react reflexively in this way, it is much more difficult to develop and maintain control over the muscles involved in remaining continent. And years of effort to control these reflexive movements in the lower back/bowel area may take their toll, and result in these digestive issues.

Claire Hocking, the Australian Brain Gym® consultant who developed this means of addressing Infant Reflex issues through the Brain Gym balance process, has worked with numerous “bed-wetting” children, and adults with irritable bowel syndrome. She has seen significant shifts, if not complete reversals, of most peoples’ issues after Spinal Galant reflex was resolved.

It is important to note that Brain Gym® balances are not intended as a “cure” for bed wetting or irritable bowel syndrome. But as we address specific life issues through the balance process (such as Annie’s desire to “live comfortably in her body”) we often end up resolving the fundamental developmental challenges that are at their core.


Want to know more about infant reflexes? There are other articles about reflexes here on my blog and previous Newletter archive:
Overview
Fear Paralysis Reflex
Fear Paralysis Reflex - 2
Moro (startle) Reflex
Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR)
Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR)
and there's an overview in Chapter 8, "Wired for Ability, in my book, Educate Your Brain. Click here to learn more!

With warmest regards,



Kathy 
Kathy Brown, M.Ed.
Educational Kinesiologist
Licensed Brain Gym® Instructor/Consultant
Author of Educate Your Brain
WEB: www.CenterEdge.com
BLOG: www:WholeBrainLiving.com
BOOK: www.EducateYourBrain.com


Copyright ® 2017 Kathy Brown. All rights reserved.
Copyright for original article © Kathy Brown, M.Ed., 2002
Drawing copyright© Kathy Brown, M.Ed. All rights reserved.  

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