Reflexology and digestion

Your digestive system is responsible for breaking down food into smaller components for the body to use. Your diet, lifestyle, level of stress, disease and medication can all lead to digestive problems such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, stomach pain, indigestion and heartburn.

It is estimated that at any one time, at least 40% of people have one or more problems with their digestive system for which they self-medicate or suffer in silence.

Generally, digestive issues such as bloating, gas or loose stools settle down by themselves. However, they may be a signal for a more serious illness. Please take note if you experience any worsening of heartburn, stomach pain or indigestion over a period of time. Equally, if you have difficulty swallowing, you experience any sudden weight loss or a big change in bowel function or you are bleeding from the bowels, you must seek medical assistance to get checked by a doctor.

How reflexology can help

In the body, the autonomic nervous system manages our response to stress via the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. These systems are also responsible for blood pressure, heart rate, sugar levels and of course the process of digestion.

When you have reflexology, the therapist will work on a number of reflexes which help balance the autonomic nervous system. Those reflexes include the digestive tract, the cardiac and pyloric sphincter of the stomach, the anal sphincter, the ileo-caecal valve, the large and small intestine and the nerve point for the vagus nerve. Stimulating the vagus nerve (which mimics signals from the gut to the brain) has proven very effective in improving gut function but recently it is also being used as a treatment for epilepsy and depression.

If you suffer from chronic digestive issues, and have never had reflexology before, you must mention it to your therapist prior to commencing treatment in order that a lighter, gentler treatment can be given initially. Regular (weekly) reflexology treatments are recommended to start with. Once the digestive system has been balanced, you can start having treatments on a monthly basis.

Hand reflexology (self help) for digestive issues

In between seeing your reflexologist, you can do the following at home for 5 minutes every day.

  • Use your thumb to push across the area with the thin blue lines (small intestine reflexes)
  • Use your thumb to circle in a clockwise direction over the green dot (ileo-caecal valve)
  • Use your knuckles to work in a clockwise direction over the thick blue lines (large intestine reflexes)
  • Use your thumb to circle in a clockwise direction over the orange circle (rectum reflex)
  • Use your thumb to work firmly along the red line from the thumb to the base of the hand (spine reflexes)