What is Splenic Flexure Syndrome?
This is a digestive disorder that is characterized by gas that has become trapped inside the flexures that are located in your colon. The splenic flexure is a sharp bend between your transverse colon and descending colon in your abdomen and is right next to your spleen. This bend is a part of the normal structure of your colon. The transverse colon is the longest, most movable part of your colon and the descending colon travels down the left side of your body. The colon is also known as your large intestine. Gas symptoms are normal but splenic flexure syndrome causes excessive gas. At times, this syndrome is classified as a subtype of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is also referred to as chronic digestive disorder.
When a person’s splenic flexure syndrome flairs up they can experience pain in the upper left side of your abdomen. Because of the close proximity to the heart some feel believe that they are having a heart attack.
Some of the symptoms associated with splenic flexure syndrome can include:
- Colon spasms, which are involuntary and are often extremely painful contractions of your lower digestive tract
- Uncomfortable gas pains because of the air that is trapped in the colon’s flexure
- Bloating, which is the most common occurring symptom
- Abdominal pain, which can be severe, last for several minutes, and recurs many times for weeks, even months and is usually located in the upper left abdominal quadrant
- Increased heart rate
- Changes in the size and shape of your stool
- When tapping on your upper abdomen you may hear a drum like sound
- Upper part of abdomen may be tender to touch and appear distended
- Presence of a mass that is palpable
Splenic flexure syndrome is caused by trapped gas in your gastrointestinal tract that will not go away. Air finds it way and becomes trapped due to swallowing air while drinking, talking, and eating or consuming foods that do not digest well. It the food is not properly absorbed or digested it will travel to the large intestine and broken down by the bacteria that is present there naturally. During this whole process gas is processed.
Other causes can include:
- Abdominal distention, which can be caused by eating foods that are gas-producing and fatty
- Food poisoning, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease, which are all GI disorders
- If you have had abdominal surgery the supply of blood and food to their digestive tract is affected, which can lead to pain and abdominal fullness
- Infections that can cause irritation to your intestinal lining
- An obstruction
- Twisting of your colon
- Unhealthy diet
- Swallowing of air
- Drinking alcohol can cause gas to be trapped inside your colon
At this time there is no definitive diagnostic procedure used to diagnose splenic flexure syndrome. When you visit your physician they will take your medical history, ask you what symptoms you are having, and review your diet. The physician may ask you how many times you pass gas each day, which can indicate an abnormality in the GI tract. Normally the physician will do a physical exam along with some gastrointestinal tests to rule out any underlying problems. This can include doing a barium enema so they can x-ray the large intestine when it is totally empty. The physician may also order an abdominal CT scan or abdominal MRI.
Normally bloating can be relieved by passing gas through the mouth in the form or a burp or through the rectum. Sometimes it can be relieved by having a bowel movement. With splenic flexure syndrome the gas does not pass as easily so the best solution is to avoid foods that can cause excessive gas. Your physician may also prescribe certain medications that are used to treat IBS to help relieve the gas that can accompany splenic flexure syndrome. Combining the right diet with the right medicine can help to limit the severity and number of episodes of splenic flexure syndrome.
Many people who are suffering from splenic flexure syndrome may be placed on a special diet that excludes eating food that can trigger the development of bloating and gas in the abdomen, especially in your colon. Some of the foods that are considered gassy foods include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Dairy products
- Processed cereals and breads
There are some foods that a person can eat with splenic flexure syndrome but they have to limit how much they eat such as dark green leafy vegetables. You should also reduce your sodium intake and increase your consumption of potassium. You should also make sure that you are drinking plenty of water every day. If you have been diagnosed with splenic flexure syndrome you should work closely with a dietician to develop a diet plan that will allow intake of the essential nutrients your body needs without resulting in little muscle spasms and cramping.
To get relief from splenic flexure syndrome you should follow the diet that your nutritionist has planned out for you.
Other ways to get relief can include:
- Lessen how much foods you eat that are high in starch, fat, and sugar
- Restrict the intake of foods that are highly irritating like spicy foods
- Increase the fiber in your diet
- You should also eat small frequent meals instead of three large meals
- Try to avoid swallowing air when you are drinking, talking, and eating
- Do not drink from a straw
- Maintain good posture to avoid trapping air in your gastric system
- You can also take over-the-counter medications such as Beano and Gas-X but check with your physician to make sure that it is okay to take them, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions
- You can also take an over-the-counter medication to help induce a bowel movement
- Make sure that you are chewing your food thoroughly
- Taking antacids that contain simethicone and activated charcoal is the type that physicians recommend or give a prescription for. One of these is Maalox.