I have suffered with IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome since I was a child, with unpleasant symptoms such as alternating constipation and diarrhoea, stomach cramps or spasms, nausea, loss of apetitite and food intolerances. I was discussing these symptoms with a friend around 15 years ago and they suggested that Reflexology might be beneficial to me. I later found a therapist and tried a few sessions, finding it very helpful for calming my bowel symptoms and making me feel a lot better in myself. Several years later I began my training in Reflexology and in the past 12 years of my practice have treated many clients with IBS and digestive disorders and found the results to be very positive.
So how does Reflexology help with IBS? Although it is not known exactly how Reflexology as a therapy works from a scientific viewpoint, the basic premise is that the feet are mirrors to the body and contain reflex points corresponding to all the organs and systems of the body. By stimulating these pressure points, the therapist interacts with the corresponding organs, enabling the body to achieve a better level of harmony, balance and functioning.
Above is an example of a foot reflexology chart showing the different areas on the base of the feet and how they correspond to the rest of the body.There are also reflex areas on the sides and tops of the feet – not shown here.
As you can see, 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. Shown here are stomach and liver, then below them the small and large intestines. 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.
When treating someone with IBS, I work firmly and smoothly through the upper and lower digestive areas in the direction of transit to help with assimilation and digestion, absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste matter.
IBS sufferers often complain of alternating constipation and diarrhea and two different Reflexology techniques can be used to balance these out. Firstly, 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. Secondly, 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 of elimination which is so common in IBS cases.
Other reflex points that can assist in clients with IBS are the adrenal glands and solar plexus, both of which are involved in the stress response. There is frequently a stress element to digestive disorders: just think of the ‘butterflies’ feeling that many of us feel when we are nervous or worried on a larger scale. The stomach reflexes are also worked as are the liver and gall bladder. The gullet reflex, although not shown in this diagram, runs down the big toes and can be felt to be quite tense in someone with digestive issues.
For more information on studies of the effects of Reflexology for specific conditions please visit www.reflexologyresearch.net.