Massage For Gut Health By Massage Therapist Jesse Atkinson

Massage for Gut Health?

Might seem crazy, but yes – abdominal massage supports good gut health and good health overall.  Massage directly decreases constipation and reduces internal scarring through physical pressure, and whole body massage improves mood and digestion through the nervous and endocrine systems.

Abdominal Massage Reduces Constipation

Massage in the abdominal region is well known to ‘move’ along your poop through the large intestine and colon.  The physical mechanism of pressure decreases colonic transit time, increases bowel movement, and stimulates peristalsis.  Peristalsis, the continual muscular movement of digestion has a consistent direction and the large intestine is surprisingly close to the surface of the skin, making it easy to physically palpate.  Of course, efficient movement of digestive material is also great for general health as your body assimilates nutrients from digestion.  There are no negative side effects of a light abdominal massage. [1]

You cases of light constipation, you can use light pressure in a clockwise direction.  For a more intense case of constipation and using moderate to firm pressure, you should work with an experienced therapist (like me).  There are many sensitive organs in your gut!

Massage Reduces Postoperative Abdominal Scarring

Surgeries in the abdominal region lead to internal scarring (abdominal adhesions) as the body’s normal process of healing the peritoneum (the fibrous sack holding your guts). The scarring or adhesions occurs in over 90% of abdominal surgeries and can cause bowel obstruction, digestive problems, infertility, and ongoing pain.  These are potentially serious complications, but massage can help.

Massage therapy has developed a small tradition in this specialized area to reduce adhesions.  Recent research appears to confirm that postoperative massage in the days after surgery can reduce the development of internal adhesions that may result in these side-effects.  This is a specialized situation when you are having surgery on internal organs that requires the peritoneum to be cut.  Be responsible and discuss this with your surgeon if this is your situation, and find an experienced massage therapist.  [2]

Massage Improves Mood and Digestion

Massage on the gut and anywhere on the body affects the nervous system.  The calming ‘feel’ good effect of massage is the result of lowered levels of cortisol, our stress hormone. Moving your body from the sympathetic fight/flight mode to parasympathetic rest/recover mode improves digestion because when we are in fight/flight mode, our body inhibits digestion and reproductive functions.

Staying in the low stress mode is not only intertwined with your digestion, but in overall mood. We commonly feel anxiety in the gut when we are stressed, right?  Not only do we feel anxiety there, the abdomen is center of production of mood hormones that affects how the whole body feels.  The gut is often called the second brain because it uses 30 different neurotransmitters and contains 95% of the body’s serotonin.  This enteric nervous system is complex and closely related to our feelings and moods.  Massage in the abdomen may help to you better this complex brain-gut connection as part of the general nervous system relaxation effect.  [3]

Finally, the abdomen can be an emotionally charged region of the body to receive touch.  We may feel vulnerable there because it is physically relatively unprotected by bones, located next to our reproductive organs, and closely associated with cultural body image.  For many reasons, we do not allow many people to touch our gut and massage by a compassionate, trusted professional can have emotional impact.  In massage businesses, such as Chopra Center and Ensenada Massage, that focus on emotional aspects of massage therapy, abdominal massage is a regular part of most massage therapies.

I clearly remember the first compassionate person who touched my cancer scar; it brought me to tears due and a wave of self-acceptance of my new body.   Consider that abdominal massage may be power emotional experience for you as well.

Massage can support gut health as well as overall health.

Here to Help You Be and Feel Well, Jesse

References:

[1] http://www.nursingtimes.net/clinical-archive/continence/does-abdominal-massage-relieve-constipation/5027718.fullarticle

[2] http://www.squamishintegratedhealth.com/wp-content/uploads/Bove_Chapelle_11_Adhesions.pdf#page6

[3] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/

 

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Categories: Anxiety, Constipation, Massage, Mood Changes, Stress, and SYMPTOMS.