Gut motility simply refers to the movement of food through your body.
From the mouth all the way back out, with everything in-between.
Now let's zoom in at what happens in your intestines (the long muscular tubes in your stomach region).
What makes food move through is what's called peristalsis, which is a wave-like movement of the muscles lining this tube (see image below) - and transit time is a fancy way of saying how fast or slow things move through.
Nice and simple.
Intestinal motility plays a role in or is affected by many gut issues such as IBS, SIBO, constipation (a slow transit time), and diarhhea (a fast transit time). (read more here)
Chronic stress, or consuming food in a stress state, can effect gut motility - because our body has two modes it likes to be in: "fight or flight", and "rest and digest".
In fight or flight you're being chased by a lion (or exercising, stressed, etc.) so your body allocates it's resources to support this - i.e. not to your digestive system. Your body doesn't care about digesting food when a lion is on its tale.
On the flip side, in "rest and digest" mode your body is primed to digest food. Your parasympathetic nervous system is in-charge of winding you down into this mode (with the vagus nerve making up 75% of it's fibres).
So being in a calm and relaxed state will improve your gut function and motility.
The composition of microbes in your gut can also affect motility, for example - there's a specific gut issue called SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and in a SIBO test your gut likely produces methane if you have constipation symptoms, and hydrogen for diarrhea symptoms.
This methane (namely from archaea bugs in your gut) can slow gut motility, and hydrogen (from hydrogen producing gut bugs) can cause a fast transit time.
Other causes of changes in motility include inflammation, reliance on laxatives, changed eating patterns, medication use, excessive alcohol, coffee, and sugar intake, a virus, food poisoning, excess bile, and more.
When food moves through too slowly it can cause further inflammation, bacterial overgrowth, fermentation, gas and bloating, and more.
And if food passing too quickly it can result in dehydration, nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, inflammation, and more.
So, some tips that you can take away with you today to support your gut motility:
In all cases:
- Eat in a calm and relaxed state
- Manage the balance of microbes in your gut
- Limit coffee, refined sugar and alcohol consumption
To pass through quicker:
- Increase insoluble fibre (to bulk up the stool) such as: brown rice, whole grains like quinoa and couscous, legumes, berries, peas, or acacia fibre (which is in-fact soluble but increases regularity)
- Consume adequate water especially when you first wake up
- Consume lemon juice with water prior to your first meal to stimulated digestive enzymes, and olive oil raw on food which helps you pass
- Walk more as this massage bowel and lets gravity go to work
- Chew properly (to the consistency of apple sauce)
To pass through slower:
- Increasing soluble fibre (absorbs fluid in the intestines) such as: legumes/pulses, chia seeds, flaxseeds, oats, apples, carrots, or even psyllium husk
- Limit spicy, fatty, and fried foods - or foods that tend to trigger a fast transit time
- Limit high impact exercise, opting for more gentle forms
A low FODMAP diet (here's a great app that gives you a library of foods and their FODMAP quantity - from the Monash University) has been shown to support such issues, the same approach we follow on The Gut Reset and have found great results with in both cases.
And with the balance of bacteria playing a key role in both slow transit time and increased transit time - a strategic approach such as The Gut Reset is designed to support such an imbalance if you require further support.
That's it for the jargon today, let's ease off for the next two ideas....