Are You Giving Your Gut A Cleaning Break?

Posted September 2022
Avocado, Edamame & Chili Oil on Corn Thins slices

Grazing all day may seem like a harmless way of eating if you are within your calorie budget to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. What you may not have considered is that your stomach and gut needs breaks in between times of eating to function at its best and stay in a healthy state.

The Migrating Motor Complex also called the Inter-digestive Myoelectric Complex happens when you are not eating and there is no food in your digestive system including your intestines and stomach. This complex is like the maid of your gastrointestinal system. It essentially cleans your gastrointestinal tract out and involves both mechanical and chemical forms of cleanings for your gastrointestinal tract. Essentially, moving undigested food from your stomach and small intestines to your large intestines.

There are three distinct phases in the Migration Motor Complex. Phase one is the motor quiescent period, phase two the low-amplitude contraction period and phase three a strong contraction period.  These phases differ from the contractions which happen right after a meal called postprandial contractions. These contractions immediately after a meal are made of a rhythmic contraction and then following a postprandial giant contraction.

One of the chemical and mechanical processes which occurs is the release of the hormone called motilin. This is released by a type of cells called entero-endocrine cells which are located in the upper region of your small intestines. Motilin causes small intestine and gastric motility which moves the undigested food from the regions around your small intestines to your large intestines.

The Migrating Motor Complex needs around one and a half to two hours to go through the cleansing process. If this process is not given enough time to do its job, there can be contents remaining in your gut. This can negatively affect your health by leading to feelings of fullness early when you eat, also bloating and stomach pain. Another important reason to ensure that the Migrating Motor Complex is given enough time to perform its important role is without this function it can cause bacterial overgrowth.

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate which is not digested by your body. Fibre has many important health functions, one which includes keeping you feeling fuller for longer. This allows a complex called the Migrating Motor Complex to work effectively.

If your diet is formed largely from refined carbohydrates which has minimal amounts of fibre this can reduce feelings of fullness and satiety. Ultimately, causing you to graze on snacks throughout the day. Making some easy swaps from refined to whole grain carbohydrates can help keep the munchies at bay for a longer period. Try swapping refined carbohydrates for whole grains like brown, red, or black rice, oats, couscous, quinoa, and whole grain contain foods like whole grain pasta, whole grain crackers, whole grain bread and Corn Thins slices.

Other good sources of fibre include vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, legumes, and beans. If you fill half of each meal with produce and one quarter whole grains this is a smart meal structure to allow a few hours between your next meal, or snack. If you chose to snack making half of the snack a plant-based food from the good sources mentioned above is a smart strategy.

Take home message: Including enough fibre each day can be one effective way to ensure the Migrating Motor Complex is given enough time to allow to keep your gastrointestinal tract healthy.



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Ashleigh Felth…
Accredited Practising Dietitian
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