Why Is My Stomach Growling During My Massage?

Yep, whether you are hungry or have just eaten an enormous meal, sometimes your body seems to let you down, and it's embarrassing. We are taught at a very early age that noises from our body are not polite. So when our tummy grumbles on the table, the automatic response is to apologise.

But if you find your stomach growling during massage, please don't! It's a real compliment to the practitioner to hear your body respond to the work that is taking place. Because you can't fake the fact that your body is shifting gear. Quite literally.

I've written before about the fact our bodies are governed by the Autonomic Nervous System which controls a lot of the stuff we can't consciously alter, such as blood pressure, pupil size, heart rate, digestion, sweating, breathing rhythm ... stuff like that. It operates in two 'gears' or modes: the technical version is sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). These two gears are also referred to as 'fight, flight & freeze' for the SNS and or 'rest & digest' or 'feed & breed' for the PNS, and these give you a very good clue as to when they are operating.

Both states have an important role in our survival: if you find a Sabre Tooth Tiger wandering around your cave you don't really want blood flowing to your digestive system. You'd probably be better served with that blood pumping oxygen to your muscles so that you can fight it, run like hell or play dead (ok this is less about the blood pumping and more to do with a digestive 'evacuation' that can also occur). Conversely when the Sabre Tooth Tiger is overcome and then devoured, you are now ready to digest your tasty meal and relax.

Borborygmus is the name given to increased intestinal movement that occurs when our parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest) is activated. It's a wonderful thing to hear as a massage therapist. It means that your body has definitely dropped into a more relaxed state than our modern society typically has us operating at.

Oh, yes. You might not realise that high levels of stress WILL affect your digestive system, the way it operates and the effectiveness of your body at absorbing nutrients. So relaxation is seriously important to our physical well being as well as mental and emotional health.

So the next time you are on the table and your tummy starts chatting away, rather than apologise, perhaps pay attention to it, to how your whole body is feeling and recognise that your body has shifted down a gear. It's why sometimes we can feel really quite 'different' getting off the table, almost as though things have been RESET. And why I'm always ravenously hungry - massage gives me a happy tummy!