Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction: Symptoms, diet, and relief

This article will discuss what sphincter of Oddi dysfunction (SOD) is, along with its symptoms and causes. It also covers diet and treatment.

What is sphincter of Oddi dysfunction?

SOD occurs when the sphincter of Oddi does not open and close properly. This can happen for many reasons, including:

  • fibrosis
  • inflammation
  • anatomical abnormalities
  • spasms

SOD creates a buildup of digestive juices in the pancreas and liver, which leads to intense abdominal pain.

The pancreas produces pancreatic juices, and the liver produces bile, which are chemicals that help to digest food in the intestines. Usually, these chemicals enter the small intestines through a duct, which is opened and closed by a surrounding muscle called the sphincter of Oddi.

SOD can cause:

  • biliary dysfunction, which occurs when the fluids build up in the liver
  • pancreatitis, which develops when the buildup happens in the pancreas

Some people may find that eating certain foods trigger their symptoms. However, there is not yet sufficient research to outline which specific foods people with SOD should avoid.

Trigger foods will vary from person to person, and those with SOD may find it best to use trial and error to determine which foods trigger their symptoms.

A person can also start a food diary to help keep track of how dietary changes influence their symptoms.

People with SOD may benefit from trying some of the following general dietary tips:

  • avoiding alcohol
  • eating a low-fat diet
  • maintaining a normal cholesterol level
  • eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • avoiding spicy foods
  • eating foods high in fiber
  • maintaining a healthy weight

Treatment and relief

Treatment will depend on the type of SOD a person has and the severity of their symptoms.

For people with mild symptoms, a doctor may recommend medication as the first-line of treatment. Medications usually consist of nitrate and calcium channel blockers, which can help to reduce spasms and alleviate symptoms.

People with more severe SOD may require surgery. When digestive juices are backed up in the pancreas or the bile duct, a doctor may need to perform an endoscopic procedure called a sphincterotomy.

During this procedure, a doctor will insert a long, thin tube with a camera and light down a person’s throat and into the intestines. If necessary, the doctor can then surgically repair the sphincter of Oddi muscle.

The procedure is considered to be safe, and 70 percent of people who have undergone the procedure have experienced long-term pain relief.


SOD can cause significant pain and discomfort. For many people, it is a chronic condition and will typically require treatment.

Typically, people can manage symptoms of SOD through medication and dietary changes. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve symptoms.

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