Move… for Your Gut’s Sake!

Movement is an essential part of life. It is involved in every function and process within the human body. As we have become a more sedentary community with the onset of the technological era, we are seeing health problems arise that weren’t a concern in the past. Just a couple of years ago the statement was made “sitting is the new smoking” regarding our heart health. Did you know movement is just as important for the health of the body’s gastrointestinal system? Irritable bowel syndrome, especially when related to constipation, is a common complaint. Interestingly, at Body Logic we have frequently found the positive side effect of more frequent bowel movements with regular adjusting. Some of our patients that continue treatment simply for health maintenance find that when they get adjusted monthly, it helps them maintain regularity. Dr. Amanda has even had success with constipated infants by performing gentle mobilizations to stimulate better nerve communication to the digestive tract. So how does movement help our digestion?

How can chiropractic adjustment help? Nerves exiting the lower thoracic and upper lumbar spine innervate the digestive system. If there is mechanical or chemical (inflammation) irritation to the nerves, the nerves can send bad information to digestive system resulting in undesirable symptoms. Think about when there is static on a phone line, not as much clear information is received. Chiropractic adjustments focus on restoring the proper movement of the spine and, therefore, reduce irritation on the nerves. When the nerves can communicate more freely with the organs they supply, such as the stomach, gall bladder, pancreas, and intestines, the body system associated (the digestive tract in this case) can simply do a better job. This is another added bonus of taking care of the body through chiropractic care!

How can yoga help? The purposeful movements, postures, and relaxation of yoga have been shown to help the body in many ways, including digestion! First, the movements result in increased blood flow to the muscles including the smooth muscles of the digestive system. The twisting postures in particular can help massage the smooth muscles allowing for improved motility through the intestines. Although embarrassing, how many of us have heard a little bit of gas passed during yoga class? It happens, and for good reason! Secondly, the relaxation of yoga helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system known for its role in promoting the body to “rest and digest.” When we relax, general blood flow in the body can be diverted from the large muscle groups that are needed when we are stressed and in “fight or flight” or sympathetic dominance. The parasympathetic system allows for us to relax, rest, and digest our food properly.

How can aerobic exercise help? WebMD explains that aerobic exercise helps constipation by decreasing the time it takes food to move through the large intestine, thus limiting the amount of water absorbed from the stool into the body. The increased water content allows for smoother elimination. Additionally, aerobic exercise accelerates your breathing and heart rate which helps to stimulate the contraction of the intestinal muscles. It has been shown that just one or two 15-minute walks a day can have a significant impact on our digestive health.

So, the next time you find yourself sitting for too long, think about your digestive system. All you have to do is get up from the couch or from behind that computer… and MOVE!