I think it only fitting that for my very first blog post I talk about my second favourite topic – poo. The digestive system is ever so fascinating, and I am sure you will be as intrigued as I was to discover how helpful massage can be with that pesky irritable bowel. IBS sufferers rejoice! Not only does seeing a professional massage therapist reduce the physiological impact of stress on our digestive system but you can also learn to mechanically massage your digestinal tract yourself to encourage natural digestion and also calm a spasmodic bowel at home. Now isn’t that the sexiest thing you’ve read today.
What is IBS?
Simply put, it’s an irritable bowel and no one knows why it happens. Bit of a shitter really (budum tchu!)
So, the NHS outline the symptoms of IBS as….
abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping, which may be relieved by having a poo
a change in your bowel habits – such as diarrhoea, constipation, or sometimes both
bloating and swelling of your stomach
excessive wind (farts)
occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet (“occasional” really?!)
a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
passing mucus from your bottom (HELL NO!?)
And LOADS of us have it! 20% of people in the UK are quietly going about their day, clocking every loo they pass – just in case.
I’ve suffered from what my Dad calls the “screaming ab dabs” since I was about 6, so I feel somewhat a debatable exert on the topic. In the past 20 odd years I’ve had countless visits to the GP’s, bowel specialists, nutritionists, tried so many different diets, been gluten free, starch free sugar free, diary free and just bare foot, wild and free. I have had what feels like almost every test under the sun (and up my bum) and you know what we discovered, sweet FA. My body is miraculously healthy, pretty much functioning as it should but it’s made some food groups it’s no 1 worst enemy (avocados aren’t as innocent as they look). So yeah, nothing special here – just good old classic case of IBS.
What I have discovered are a few incredible techniques which means I can control my angry intestines, to remarkable effect. And guess what, I am going to share them with you - so we can all eat Goan fish curry, drink beer followed by chocolate fondant and NOT regret that decision or a full 48 hours after.
Massage for Constipation
We all know that laxatives are a short-term solution, and over time they become less effective. Abdominal massage works wonders to stimulate your sleepy gut, and it also feels uber relaxing too. Getting regular abdominal massage as part of a full body massage can help you reduce your reliance on long term laxative medication, relieve wind and generally make you feel less sluggish and uncomfortable. Guys and St Thomas have a lovely pdf with more detail here which includes a basic guide to how you can self-massage in times of need.
Yes – you can massage your gut, and literally move your poo along.
Self-Massage for Diarrhoea (still have to google how to spell it)
So there isn’t much information about this on the world wide web, it is generally something I have developed from my own experiences. There are two “exercises” I do when my stomach is screaming at me and there isn’t a loo available. The first is a self-massage. The key to calming down my tum tum is to activate my parasympathetic nervous system and RELAX. It sounds pretty simple but when you are desperate for the toilet and there isn’t one available the desire to panic is overwhelming. The second, is some deep, deep breathing. It is a skill that can be practiced at home, so that when you are out and about you know that you can control it – gives you the psychological lottery ticket to avoid worst case scenario (pooing in yo panties). Here is how you can try it at home, where you know there is a loo available:
Next time you have an urgent need to go to the toilet, you feel the symptoms building and you know if it only a matter of time – lie on your back, turn off all stimuli, pop your hand over where the pain is and hold it there.
Breathe in for 5 seconds.
Breath out for 5 seconds.
Don’t go to the toilet
Breath in for 5 and out for 5 – repeat.
The idea is to fill your lungs slowly and empty them slowly, this stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and tells your body to relax, including your spasming bowel. By turning off all stimuli you can really focus your mind, set your own rhythm for your gut, and distract yourself with a breathing pattern rather than the panic to get to the loo.
By practicing this at home, you can eventually build the tools to use when out and about – saving your ass, quite literally.
I have so much more to say on this topic and what has helped me and my IBS, but this is a massage blog – so if you have any questions book in for a holistic massage and I can do what I can to help.