Clients often ask me why their tummy will begin making loud gurgling noises mid-way through their reflexology session. In order to understand that, first you need to understand the effect that the nervous system has on our digestion. To summarize from authors Ross and Wilson’s Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Wellness, the majority of the body’s organs are supplied with both sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves which have opposite effects that are balanced to ensure optimum functioning of the organs. Sympathetic stimulation is what happens when we are under stress. Our adrenal glands are stimulated to secrete adrenaline and noradrenaline hormones into our bloodstream. This is the ‘fight or flight” type of stimulation. When the body is in this mode our stomach and small intestine experience inhibited muscle contraction and secretion of digestive juices. Our digestion is inhibited and delayed.
When the body experiences parasympathetic stimulation, the general effect is to allow restoration of our digestive processes. The rate of digestion is increased and there is an increase in the secretion of pancreatic juice and the hormone insulin. So when we relax and release stress, our digestion kicks into high gear and the body is better able to absorb nutrients from our food and move waste products through our system.
In studies in the UK, Denmark and China, reflexology has repeatedly been shown to help resolve constipation. Just doing what reflexology does best – relieving stress – helps the body to return to balance, enabling improved digestion and elimination of waste. Many clients who have come to me with digestive issues have reported improvement, typically with just a few sessions. So, while a bit embarrassing, that gurgling sound from your tummy in a session is just an audible sign that your body has relaxed and your parasympathetic nervous system has taken charge of the digestive processes. That’s a good thing in this stress-filled world!
This is the disclaimer to remind you that I am not a licensed physician and cannot give medical advice or treatment. These are my personal opinions and my summary of research as well as verbal and written reports of some of my clients. As always, consult your doctor if you need medical advice or treatment.