The Digestive Clean-Up Crew
The migrating motor complex (MMC) is an incredibly important process that happens when we are not eating. But what exactly is a migrating motor complex and why does it matter for our gut health? Let's take a look at what this process involves and how it helps ensure our digestive system runs smoothly.
In brief, the MMC is a series of electrical waves of contractions in the gut - normally occurring around 90-120 minutes after we’ve last eaten. It is the critical clean-up crew for our gut. The electrical waves are essentially a little broom which brush out all undigested food and bacteria and push it to the end of your gastrointestinal tract so it can be eliminated. This helps to keep our digestive system and bowel movements regular and functioning optimally.
The MMC moves through the entire gastrointestinal tract but only functions when we are not eating, therefore it is most active when we are sleeping. This is the reason why I ask clients to eat regular snacks and meals, about every 2-3 hours apart, rather than encouraging someone to graze all day. Clients often don’t like the sensation of feeling full after a meal and would prefer to graze but the MMC is one of the main reasons that is not a good idea. If we are grazing, we’re not allowing our MMC to do its housekeeping duties and clean everything out. Not only does it help flush everything out, but it also prepares our gut for upcoming meals; allowing us to digest food more effectively later.
So how does this affect our overall health? Well, when the MMC isn't working correctly, it can lead to various digestive issues, such as constipation or diarrhea, due to slowed or disrupted movement within our intestinal tract. It can also lead to an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract; both of which can cause severe discomfort, gas, or bloating.
Finally understanding and supporting MMC through lifestyle decisions like reducing stress levels, eating nutrient rich food, and eating a balance of carbohydrates, fat, protein, and fiber can have a positive impact on our health and wellbeing and ensure optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients from all meals and snacks.