Our gut is the seat of our emotions so as we internalize everything it makes sense that stress, nerves, anxiety and the level of our health are based in our gut and usually held with clenched fists leaving our gut literally tied in knots.
The health of our gut not only causes discomfort and digestive issues, it affects our mental health, and immune system. Anxiety, brain fog, adrenal fatigue, depression and a whole lot of other health issues can stem from an unhealthy gut.
We know that massage in general has a variety of benefits but specifically, massage can improve your gut health and subsequently your overall wellbeing.
1. Relieving pain – massage has been shown to treat pain including back pain or problems, neck pain or problems, joint pain or stiffness/other joint condition, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal conditions. How does this affect your gut? Chronic pain and other physical conditions can be emotionally overwhelming, which can lead to clinical depression and other mental illnesses, and your gut and brain are more in sync then you’d like to the think. The human brain and gut are intrinsically connected. This is evident in the way our guts react to thoughts and emotions. If you think about your favorite food, your mouth may water. When you’re nervous, you may feel nauseous, too. If you’re anticipating something, you may feel “butterflies” flutter in your stomach.
These reactions occur because the brain and gut are connected by the enteric nervous system, which some scientists refer to as “the second brain” or “the brain in your gut.”. Massage can not only relieve your physical ailments, it stimulates the production of the “feel good” hormones oxytocin and serotonin.
2. Decreasing stress and anxiety – Massage on the gut and anywhere on the body affects the nervous system. The calming ‘feel’ good effect of massage is the result of lowered levels of cortisol, our stress hormone. No one lives a stress-free life. Some stress, such as the temporary burst of energy and adrenaline one may feel before a job interview or giving a presentation, is considered good stress. This type of stress is responsible for our fight or flight instinct; without it, we may not perceive a potential threat. However, when stress becomes prolonged, it becomes dangerous. Unhealthy reactions to stress increase production of disease-causing hormones and chemicals. Reversely, positive emotions can trigger chemical and hormone productions that are beneficial to the gut microbiota.
3. Assisting digestive disorders – Moving your body from the sympathetic fight/flight mode to parasympathetic rest/recover mode improves digestion because when we are in fight/flight mode, our body inhibits digestion and reproductive functions. Massage also relaxes sphincter muscles within the digestive tract and increases intestinal activity. Digestive benefits of massage include relief from constipation, gas, and colic.
Massage can be used as supportive care in every field of medicine.
Healthcare professionals recognize this; many hospitals and clinics have massage therapists on staff. An orthopedic surgeon may refer a client to massage for pain management or improvement in range of motion. Oncologists recognize the benefit of massage for clients suffering from lymphedema, depression, and other side effects of cancer treatments. As massage supports all vital body systems, it’s applications in healthcare are truly limitless.
The most important of these applications may be preventative healthcare. Massage therapy, when used in conjunction with proper diet, exercises, and other healthy lifestyle practices, will keep the body in optimal condition. Injury and disease, even chronic, may still occur, but the body will be much better equipped for it.