Constipation and Abdominal Massage
Updated: Jul 29
Constipation is a common condition effecting the digestive system. Associated symptoms can include bloating, tiredness, reflux, nausea and increased intestinal gas. One way to support the healthy movement of your large intestine is abdominal massage.
According to a clincal trial on The effects of abdominal massage on Functional (Primary) Constipation, ‘Chronic constipation affects quality of life and causes problems such as anxiety, depression, somatization, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunctions, school/work absenteeism. In the following periods, it causes serious comorbidities including dyspnea, gastro-esophageal reflux, hypertension, thyroid diseases, vaginitis, dyspareunia, diabetes, and fibromyalgia.’
The same clincal trial also reported that ‘The benefits of abdominal massage are known as follows: reduction in the abdominal muscle tension, improvement of local circulation, and stimulation of peristaltic movements. The technique of abdominal massage consists of 5 stages as follows: abdominal muscle stroking, colon stroking, colon kneading, colon stroking, and abdominal muscle stroking.’
In this blog I would like to discuss the second brain and the enteric nervous system and their affect on constipation and how abdominal massage may help.
Second Brain and Enteric Nervous System
The large intestine is part of your gut or digestive system. This system sometimes called the “second brain” or “emotional brain” has its own nervous system called the “enteric nervous system”. The gut contains 100 million neurons more then the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.
Major neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, norephinephrine and nitric oxide are in the gut. Also two dozen small brain proteins, called neuropeptides are there along with the major cells of the immune system. Enkephalins (a member of the endorphins family) are also in the gut.” says Dr. Michael Gershon, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York.
‘Endorphins consist of a large group of peptides. They are produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. Since endorphins act on the opiate receptors in our brains, they reduce pain and boost pleasure, resulting in a feeling of well-being. Endorphins are released in response to pain or stress.’
Your enteric nervous system can operate independent of your central nervous system. These two nervous systems communicate via your primary visceral nerve, the vagus nerve.
Your gut sends messages via your vagus nerve to your brain about how well you are digesting your food and emotions. When you experience “fight, fright or freeze” your brain sends messages via your vagus nerve to your gut.
Your large intestine, a 1.5 metre long organ looping from under your lower rib cage to just below your centre of gravity, is very important for your metabolism, your breathing, your immune system, your structure and posture, and emotional well-being.
If it gets constipated and enlarges, it can cause pain and discomfort; restrict the free motion of the diaphragm; compress your vagus nerve causing a fluctuation in your heart rate and blood pressure; and disturb your emotional well-being. It can also hide feelings that seem too difficult to feel and process.
Complexity of Large Intestine
Because of the size and location of your large intestine, it interacts with all the organs and soft tissue of the abdomen, lower back and pelvis. The complexity of all these interactions is where abdominal massage may help you.
The style of abdominal massage I use is a gentle exploration of your abdomen helping you to feel subtle messages in your abdomen such as areas of congestion, sensitivity and discomfort and to feel general patterns of tension extending to different parts of your body.
This awareness helps you to become more conscious of your body and make more informed decisions to support your body.
Abdominal massage can support your body to let go and relax thereby relieving contractions and constrictions in your abdomen as well as other areas of your body.
My clinical experience
From my clinical experience, one of the most common experiences of people suffering constipation and receiving abdominal massage is that they feel emotional for no obvious reason. They can also feel flat. And then in a day or so they start to feel better and more alive.
“Quite emotional. The next day felt good.”
“My stomach start to clench quite tightly and it stayed tight for most of the day. The next day a very deep sadness came out. And today I actually felt very good.”
If you would like to explore how abdominal massage may help you, please give me a call on 0408 694 655 and book an appointment or for more information.