Digestion is the process in which food is broken down into substances that can be used for energy and basic nutrients to feed the body.
Physically, food moves from your mouth, down your esophagus to your stomach where it churns and moves the liquefied food through your small intestines, into your large intestines, and finally out the “other end”. Anywhere along this line, digestive problems can crop up from ulcers, reflux, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhoea. Poor digestion is usually the result of diet and lifestyle, however many chronic and serious digestive problems develop from disease and digestive syndromes such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Crohns or celiac disease.
Alleviating basic digestive discomfort can be both simple and difficult. The quality of food that you eat has an impact on how your digestion works, as well as knowing what foods you may be sensitive to. Changing your diet to include more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and water may be a challenge, but starting with small changes over time may help with the transition. Some people are sensitive to milk products, wheat products or other foods. Eliminating these foods from your diet can greatly reduce digestive discomfort.
Lifestyle is a large component which either aids, or hinders, digestion. As I mentioned in the blog “5 Ways to Instantly Reduce Stress”, when the body is relaxed, it encourages our organs to rest and digest. On the flip side, stress decreases our body’s ability to take care of our internal functions.
One of the simplest treatments you can do for basic digestive problems is to find time to relax with some deep breathing and gentle stretches to reduce tension in tight muscles.
For constipation and gas, a simple massage routine can be incorporated into your day. Starting with a very light pressure, warm up the lower abdominal tissues with light strokes starting at the RIGHT hip going upwards and crossing over just below the ribcage and the sternum to the left side, then stroke downward until you reach the LEFT hip. This pattern follows the large intestine and the movements encourage peristalsis of the colon, which helps move waste material and excess air along. Repeat these strokes while increasing your depth. This routine is effective for both newborns with “colic-y” symptoms and adults with gas, bloating and constipation.
There are other similar techniques that a registered massage therapist can implement into your next treatment. Discussing your concerns at your next appointment can start the journey towards a healthier digestive tract.
While there may be information related to certain medical conditions and their treatment on this website, please consult your doctor or other healthcare professional to determine if a treatment described in the website is appropriate for you.
Kirsten Hammond is a Registered Massage Therapist and owner of Evolutions Massage Therapy Clinic- Saanich, BC & Sidney, BC & Brentwood Bay, BC