With the holidays in full swing, most of us could admit that, on occasion, we tend not to be too proud of our dietary decisions. Race season is over, New Year’s resolutions don’t start for another few weeks, so why not try and make up for those lost, and truly missed, calories? What better time of year other than your last twenty mile training run could you fully indulge in an entire dish of mom’s twice-baked mac and cheese and not feel entirely guilty? Especially if you are used to making healthy choices on a daily basis, one heavy splurge could remind you why you do so in the first place. To help aid digestion and start getting things moving again, try incorporating abdominal massage into your post-feast schedule. The Breakdown: Even before you take your first bite of food, your body is beginning the digestion process. Inhaling the aromas from food can cause your mouth to produce saliva, which contains compounds and enzymes that begin to break down food once it enters your mouth. The chewing process makes food particles small enough for the digestive enzymes in saliva to begin their work. From there, the journey begins, passing through other organs including the stomach and intestines. Not to mention, a few things like the liver, gallbladder and pancreas, all of which you may have heard of, play just as important of a role. In other words, a lot of things need to function and function properly with as little stress as possible. “Junk food” causes this system to operate at a much slower pace, hence the sluggish, energy depleted feeling you get after your third serving. Junk food is characterized by high proportion of carbohydrates, refined sugar, salts, and low nutritional value. These foods are processed and refined in such a way that they lose most of the key nutrients. In order to digest food, the stomach needs enzymes and junk food does not have them. When food is absorbed by the intestine it requires fiber and water to excrete, both which are absent, making for a slower than designed process.
Massage to the Rescue: By manually mimicking the course of the digestion process with abdominal massage, not only are you aiding digestion, but you are also alleviating stress. There’s a direct correlation between the brain and stomach which explains why you stop eating when you’re full and why your appetite may fluctuate in high anxiety or stressful situations. It also stimulates the internal organs by bringing blood flow and oxygen, improving their functions and making waste removal more efficient.
Self Abdominal Massage: Unlike some other forms of massage, abdominal massage is easy to self perform. The number one rule to abdominal massage is to move in a clockwise, circular motion. Going in a counterclockwise motion may trigger constipation and reverse the natural effects. Consider to practicing this technique twice a day: once in the morning when you wake up, and at least one hour after your last meal.
1. Lying on your back, begin at the lower right side of the abdomen just above the hipbone. Use the pads of your fingers to gently stroke upwards, working up the inside border of the ribcage to the bottom of the sternum. (10x)
2. Using the same technique, move horizontally across the belly, adjusting pressure if needed.
3. Stroke downward from the bottom of the sternum to the top of the left hipbone.
4. Using the palm of your hand, make slow circular motions around the entire surface area of the stomach.
This article/video is for educational purposes only; do not attempt without your physician’s clearance. If you are in pain or injured, see your physician.