Written by John Immel, Asheville, NC
Where is Your Last Meal?
Food turns into blood chemistry that directly affects all organs. That's why digestion is the cornerstone of health and diet is the priority in Ayurveda. If you have sluggish digestion or other symptoms of indigestion, your daily ritual should include massaging the digestive tract every morning before getting out of bed. Massaging the digestive tract moves stagnant food so that it can be eliminated. Food that sits too long in the digestive tract begins to rot and ferment. Here is a quick and easy daily massage you can do for your digestive tract.
Step 1: Stomach
Step 2: Epigastric Area
- Your stomach is located just beneath the left rib cage. You can feel your stomach at the top of your breath. Does your stomach feel full? Empty? Heavy? Hungry? Tender? If you recently ate a meal, your stomach may be tossing and churning the food.
- Massage the stomach by reaching under your left rib cage. Make a circular motion with your hands while pressing gently. Be especially careful if you recently ate a meal.
- Digestive problems that are rooted in the stomach include burping, acid reflux, and ulcers.
Step 3: Belly button
- The epigastric area is located between the rib cage and belly button. You can feel the epigastric area most easily at the top of the inhalation. The stomach, liver, and pancreatic juices all converge in the duodenum, making it one of the two digestive 'hot spots' in the body (the other is the cecum).
- Massage the epigastric area. Be gentle if you recently ate a meal. Do you feel any pain or tenderness in this area?
- Disorders that affect the epigastrium include duodenal ulcers, a leaky pyloric valve, pancreatic and bile insufficiency, and gallbladder attacks.
Step 4: Cecum
- The small intestine is located around the belly button. Do you feel any anxiety or tension in your belly button? The area around your belly button should feel comfortable and nurturing. The belly nurtures the whole body when it absorbs food. When you were in your mother's womb, your mother fed you through the umbilical cord attached to your belly. The entire human family has grown from belly to belly. The belly is also the center of the gut brain. The job of the gut brain is to show you how vulnerable you feel.
- Massage the area around your belly button counter-clockwise. Do you notice any lumps where food may be digesting? Is there any gas or gurgling?
- Disorders associated with the small intestine include irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, malabsorption, colic, gas, and bloating.
Step 5: Continue massaging the perimeter of your abdomen counter clockwise.
- The cecum is a hot spot for trouble in the digestive tract. It is located in the lower right part of your belly. In Ayurvedic anatomy, the cecum is called the second stomach. The cecum is a pouch attached to the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon. Food passes from the small intestine, in the form of liquid chyme, through the ileo-cecal valve and into the cecum. There, the cecum absorbs some of the liquid, thickening the stool. Food tends to stagnant in the cecum and ferment as opportunistic bacteria multiply in the abundance of nutrients. The appendix is attached to the cecum to protect it from this explosion of bacteria.
- The cecum becomes distended and weak as you age. To encourage the regular movement of food out of the cecum, massage your cecum area. A jiggling motion may help dislodge stagnation here and throughout the gut. Do you notice any gurgling or pain? Is this area full or empty?
- Disorders associated with the cecum include gas and bloating, appendicitis, and Crohn's disease.
Step 6: Sigmoid colon
- Massage up the right side of your abdomen, which is the ascending colon.
- Continue across the top from right to left, which is the transverse colon. Be sure to massage ahead of any point where there is stagnation. The block is usually downstream from the stagnant material. Stagnation in the transverse colon is usually due to the kink in the colon at the splenic flexure.
- Continue down the left of your abdomen, which is the descending colon.
Step 7: Rectum
- The sigmoid colon is located in the lower left quadrant of your abdomen. It is another hot spot for food stagnation, especially if the colon is dry or lazy. Dry constipation happens here when the stool has been sitting too long in the GI tract. Lazy colon constipation happens when the contractions of your colon muscles are too weak.
- Massage the lower left quadrant of your abdomen, If your intestines feel ropey in this region, it means there is fecal matter stuck there. If you feel pain in this region, it may be a sign of diverticula.
- Disorders of the sigmoid colon include constipation, diverticulosis, and ulcerative colitis.
- Contract and release the rectum to determine how much tension you are holding in this area. The rectum may be tense in some individuals. If you find it difficult to relax this area, a daily practice of slowly contracting and releasing for one month may help.
- Massage the area below the belly button (the underbelly). Continue massaging behind the pubic bone. If you are feeling brave, you can massage the acupressure point between anus and tip of the tail-bone (sacrum).
- Disorders associated with the rectum include hemorrhoids and prolapsed rectum.
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About the Author
John Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a
healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda.
His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful.
His online course Balance Your Ayurvedic Diet in a Week
provides tools for gracefully healing with Ayurveda to thousands.
John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda
, which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition.
John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia.
John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion.
John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing.
In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots,
and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church.
Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick.
That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.
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