Stress and the Digestive System

The stress response causes a number of detrimental events in the gut, including:

• Decreased nutrient absorption

• Decreased oxygenation to the gut

• As much as four times less blood flow to the digestive system, which leads to decreased metabolism

• Decreased enzymatic output in the gut

Implication for Reflexology

• Digestive system issues and imbalances are a common problem and one of the main reasons why clients visit reflexologists. Understanding the possible causes behind some of the more common conditions and the most effective treatment methods to use is invaluable when working with clients.

• When the body experiences parasympathetic stimulation, the general effect is to allow restoration of digestive processes. The rate of digestion is increased and there is an increase in the secretion of pancreatic juice and the hormone insulin.

Aims of Reflexology

• Stimulate adequate digestion and absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste matter.

• Induce a relaxed state conducive to homeostasis.

• Promote hormonal and neural communication and balance.

• Recognise and alleviate the co-contributors of stress

Reflexology and Digestion

• The digestive area occupies a large section in the main body of the feet from the top of the arches right down to the heels. 

• Mirroring the body, the lower digestive reflexes in the foot move in a clockwise direction beginning with the small intestines and moving on to the large colon as it journeys up (ascending), crosses over (transverse) and moves down (descending) the torso ending in the lower bowel/rectum.

Treating symptoms

• Digestive dysfunction often manifests in constipation and/or diarrhoea. 

• Constipation can be improved by using a finger walking technique through the small and large intestines, clearing any blockages in the process and ‘waking up’ the body’s digestion. 

• In the case of diarrhoea, where food is being rushed through the system too quickly, gentle ‘holds;’ pressing on the middle of the small intestinal area of the feet can be highly effective in giving the body the message that it can relax, thus reducing the urgency.