We all know the benefits of prebiotics, probiotics, fermented foods and fibre for digestive health. But did you know that manual and movement therapies, such as osteopathy, massage and yoga, are gaining increasing recognition for their benefits forthe gut?

Therapies such as osteopathy, yoga and massage can boost your digestive health.

Many people are turning to them to help manage issues such as IBS, constipation, reflux and bloating. We explore the benefits of these natural therapies on digestive health.

Digestive health issues

Although some digestive problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease, require medical intervention, many common issues are related to the way the gut functions, and these are often amenable to manual therapeutic help.

Gut health relies on good function of the muscular walls of the intestines, appropriate input from the organs that support digestion, and healthy nerve and blood supply.

Lifestyle factors, such as stress and poor sleep, can also impact on digestive health.

Osteopathy for digestive health

Osteopathy aims to support health, restoring mobility and vitality so the body can function at its best.

When considering digestion, an osteopath will look at all the factors that might interrupt good digestive health.

For example, tension in the abdominal wall can limit the smooth passage of food through the gut.

Restrictions in the spine can affect the balanced interplay of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates digestive function.

And poor breathing mechanics may inhibit full movement of the diaphragm, which has an important role in massaging the gut to alleviate constipation and bloating.

Internal organs carry significant weight, and they can affect the body structure in several ways.

Pain can be referred from organs, so that it feels like it originates in the body. For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) will often produce pain in the mid-back.

In addition, the weight of the intestines can produce a mechanical pullon the spine, causing local pain and restrictions, which in turn inhibit good gut function.

In addition to these mechanical factors, the osteopath looks for lifestyle causes of digestive ill-health. Do you always eat lunch at your desk? What’s your caffeine intake like? Is your sleep interrupted by anxiety or pain?

Once they’ve assessed all the relevant factors, an osteopath will correct these issues using a combination of techniques, exercises and advice.

Alongside manipulation and myofascial release, osteopaths are skilled at gently enhancing visceral mobility to support their health and function.

Massage for good digestion

Massage has long been practised across many cultures to enhance digestive health and general wellbeing.

Abdominal massage stimulates blood flow, enhances lymphatic drainage, and promotes motility in the digestive tract. This can work wonders to ease constipation and bloating.

And if stress is a significant factor in your digestive issues, then massage is an ideal addition to your routine.

Massage decreases stress levels by increasing activity in the parasympathetic (‘rest and digest’) nervous system, decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lowering blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate, enhancing immune function, and triggering the release of the body’s natural mood-boosters, endorphins.

The digestive benefits of yoga

In a world where stress and sedentary lifestyles negatively impact our digestive health, yoga is a powerful tool in rebalancing the equation.

Through its combination of physical postures, breathwork and mindfulness, the practice of yoga offers benefits beyond flexibility.

The mindful breathing and relaxation techniques central to yoga activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This promotes a calming effect on the body, allowing digestive activity to take place and easing indigestion, bloating and discomfort.

The gentle stretching and twisting motions needed to attain yoga postures, or ‘asanas’, promote blood flow throughout the body.

Some poses particularly target the abdominal area, stimulating the liver, stomach and intestines, and enhancing nutrient absorption and waste elimination through the blood.

Try Wind-Relieving Pose and Standing Forward Bend to compress and release the abdominal area, alleviating gas and bloating

Wind-Relieving Pose (Apanasana)
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Cobra Pose and Bow Pose stretch and lengthen the abdomen, helping to ease constipation and discomfort.

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

Finally, Child’s Pose and Corpse Pose can help melt away stress and tension.

Breathwork, or ‘pranayama’ is a fundamental component of yoga practice that holds profound implications for digestive health. Deep diaphragmatic breathing, as practised in yoga, can stimulate the vagus nerve, a key player in the gut-brain connection.

The vagus nerve carries the main parasympathetic signals from the brain to the gastrointestinal organs. Activating the vagus nerve helps regulate digestive processes, including the release of digestive enzymes and the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract.

And the mindful approach that’s cultivated in yoga extends beyond the mat into daily activities, including eating.

Being fully present during meals, paying attention to the sensory experience, and eating without distractions encourages healthier eating habits. It encourages us to chew more thoroughly and listen to our body’s signals of hunger and fullness. This mindful eating can prevent overconsumption and contribute to smoother digestion.

Combined therapies – comprehensive care for your gut

While osteopathy, massage and yoga therapy are all effective, natural aids for digestive issues on their own, combining them can give you a more comprehensive approach to digestive health.

Osteopathy addresses structural imbalances and restrictions, removes barriers to health and enhances integrated function. Add to this the relaxing properties of massage therapy, or the mindful approach of yoga therapy, and you have a powerful method to boost digestive wellbeing.

Here at OCHK, we’re pleased to be able to offer all these therapies, either standalone or in combination.

If you’re struggling with gut issues, book with us today and get back on the road to good digestive health.

Contact Us Now

No matter whether your condition was caused by a sport injury, work posture or
otherwise, send us a message or give us a call to see how we can help.