If you’ve read my blog before, you know that massage has incredible effects on all areas of your body, and can be a complimentary treatment for just about all medical conditions. Massage provides positive outcomes for each of the twelve systems of the body. In order to understand how massage can help you and any illnesses you may have, it is important that you understand how the systems of your body work and what effects massage has on them. Check back on my blog weekly for a series of entries on each body system. This week: Your digestive system.
HOW DOES THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM WORK?
Your digestive system is a series of organs whose job it is to break down food and extract nutrients and energy. These organs include your gastrointestinal tract (stomach and large and small intestines, also called GI tract), liver, pancreas and gallbladder.
Your gut bacteria, saliva, nerves, and hormones also play a role in digestion. These structures along with your digestive organs break down food and liquid that enters your GI tract and removes carbohydrates (carbs), protein, vitamins and minerals, and lipids (fat). These nutrients are then absorbed into the body. They each play their own vital role in keeping your body healthy and functioning properly.
The process of digestion starts in your mouth when chewing (known in the science community as mastication) breaks down the food and the saliva extracts carbohydrates. The mashed up food – called chyme – then passes through the esophagus. As you swallow, respiration temporarily and involuntarily stops. Once the process of swallowing begins, digestion cannot be voluntarily controlled.
At the end of the esophagus, the chyme enters your stomach where the upper muscle is relaxed, allowing the chyme to pass through and enter the lower muscles. Here, the churning of the stomach mixes the chyme with stomach acid and extracts proteins from the food.
The stomach then passes the chyme to the small intestine where muscles movements called peristalsis move the chyme through the tube-like structure. Here, the pancreas sends pancreatic juice via ducts to help break down carbs, lipids, and protein. The small intestine also receives bile from the liver which dissolves lipids so that they can be digested.
The waste products left behind include undigested bits of chyme and dead cells from the lining of your GI tract. When this is all that is left, the small intestine pushes it into the large intestine. The large intestine absorbs water and the waste product becomes stool. The large intestine sends the stool to the rectum where it is excreted from the body during a bowel movement.
The whole process lasts six to eight hours.
WHAT DOES MASSAGE DO FOR YOUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM?
Receiving regular massage indirectly improves digestion by normalizing autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system, you may recall, controls all functions of the body that you cannot control by actively thinking about it. Most parts of digestion are controlled by your autonomic nervous system.
Massage also improves posture, which opens up your whole body. With poor posture, the ribs can put pressure on your digestive organs, which can inhibit their function. Along these same lines, massage over the abdomen relaxes abdominal muscles, relieving pressure that may have been put on your digestive organs. This may also help to ease cramping and spasms in the digestive muscles, and ease constipation.
Body Systems Series