SBIO & the MMC – Part V: Lifestyle Stuff

This is part five of a five part series. The parts are:

  1. What is the MMC and why we care
  2. What Influences the MMC
  3. When things go bad with the MMC
  4. Healing with Drugs and Herbs
  5. Healing with lifestyle measures


MMC stands for Migrating Motor Complex.  The MMC is the ‘housekeeper’ of your gastrointestinal tract. It cleans up the stuff that should not be there, moving stuff along when it is time for it to move along.  Some people have poor housekeepers and then things go wrong, resulting in Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and other horrors.

Lifestyle Matters

So what lifestyle measures might help your Migrating Motor Complex?

But first – I think that lifestyle measures alone may not be enough for some, so talk to your health practitioner.


Avoid eating between meals.  I’ve seen 3-5 hours mentioned as ideal – between meal rests. I try (not always successfully for 4 hours).  The idea of these daily mini-fasts was discussed at both SIBO conferences I attended, one by Gastroenterologists and one by Doctors of Naturopathy.  Anything agreed on by both camps has to be a shoe in – eh?

The idea being, your MMC operates between meals and that eating stops it in it’s tracks.  It is all like “crazy human, what are you doing? I am at work here with that last garbage you threw at me just two hours ago! What is your problem? Do you not appreciate my hard work?  Forget it, don’t answer that, I quit, I am going to sleep, that will learn you!”


Indirectly the SIBO diets discussed here will help with overall symptom management, while you get your SIBO and MMC under control.  Maybe you’ll need to accept a maintenance diet for the long term.  I know I don’t expect to eat like I did ever again.   Oh for lentil soup.


Kelly McGonigal, PhD teaches yoga and psychology at Stanford, so seems like someone worth listening to.  She has written this general article about IBS and yoga, with some poses to try.  She also talks specifically in the article about yoga and its role in restoring normal gut motility, due to the gentle pressure on your abdominal organs as well as ‘pulses of compression and stretch’ which may help balance the contractions of the gut.

It turns out studies support the use of yoga in IBS, even in little peeps (Kuttner, Chambers et al. 2006).


Surely exercise is awesome for your MMC, it’s awesome for everything else after all.  Oddly this one does not seem to have been looked at much.  Some peeps considered it back in 1984 (Evans, Foster et al.), however I can only find the first two pages and their abstract does not share their findings.  For a wee giggle have a look at the title. No self-respecting journal today would accept such a gendered title.  Some other peeps 10 years later looked at dogs (Kondo, Naruse et al. 1994) and found that yes excercise did seem to help their MMC.

I reckon give it a crack.  Can’t hurt.

Pelvic Floor rehabilitation

I can’t find anything specifically (although I did not look to my usual standard here) on pelvic floor rehab and gut motility/MMC however it is used in fecal incontinence and other poop/IBS type issues.  Also it certainly helps with pain that some of these things also cause.   You can read about my journey in ‘rehab’ here.


I am confused about acupuncture, I love it. It makes a crazy difference to me.  Here is an example some will not want; after getting it every second day on a cruise ship I pooped ‘normally’ for nine days in a row. Something I had not done for 20 years or so before that.  Maybe it was all that relaxing by the pool, or the trauma of visiting third world schools so poor they had no toilet (stressful for me and the children).  On the other hand, I hear talk of sham acupuncture being just as effective.  I fail to understand how.  I can usually find specific studies when I look for links with acupuncture and cetain stuff of interest and some of them look quite good.  Specifically on the topic of acupuncture and the MMc I found this one in rats (Tatewaki, Harris et al. 2003).  Surely rats are not to be fooled by the placebo, or am I under or maybe overestimated rats?  Either way I will continue to get acupuncture, but I’m not sure I condone it on Rats.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

As you may know I am researching the vagus nerve (and work performance), however I’m not a total convert.  I see some many peeps assuming the vagus nerve is the cause of all manner of evils (or at least their illnesses mental and physical). Many seem to feel if they could just stimulate the thing – all would be well.  Indeed there are some amazing things happening with vagus nerve stimularion (but that is a surgical implant in extreme cases for epilepsy or treatment resistant depression).  Also there is a role in stimulating it via the Valsalva maneouver (something I am too familiar with having just had a procedure on my heart this month for tachycardia – i.e my heart jumping to 200+ beats per minute for fun).   However these are all pretty narrow, specific things.

Maybe I will again be eating my hat and that everything from your MMC, to your lupis, to your marriage will be improved by splashing cold water on your face, or trying to poop (bearing down) with your pants still on (the idea is not to poop FYI).  You can read more about my thoughts (in case you have not had enough of them)  on vagus nerve stimulation here.  As far as the vagus’s role in the MMC.  I’d be going with the same general tips as the other post, eat well, don’t have gin with your breakfast, move, don’t smoke …. you know all the stuff that is good for your body, is also good for your vagus (cause it is huuuuge) and maybe also good for your MMC.

Now let us get crazy

Sometimes we don’t know if something is pseudoscience or as yet unproven science.  So sometimes if it is safe, we can afford it without putting the kids out to work, then why not.  Some of the things I seen mentioned are; alternative nostril breathing, infared saunas and/or infared heat packs and visceral manipulation.


I am not a doctor, I am a spoonie and one of my challenges is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).  SIBO tends to reoccur after treatment in many cases.   So I am putting my research skills (I am 40 something PhD student) in to finding out what I can do to help improve my MMC and sharing that with others who also might have an unhappy MMC.  However given my area is not medical research some of this is pretty tough going (because academics never learnt the ‘write for a 10 year old’ thing, actually some of them never learnt the ‘write for anyone at all’ thing).


Evans, D., et al. (1984). Does Exercise Affect the Migrating Motor Complex in Man? Gastrointestinal motility, Springer: 277-284.

Kondo, T., et al. (1994). “Effect of exercise on gastroduodenal functions in untrained dogs.” International journal of sports medicine 15(04): 186-191.

Kuttner, L., et al. (2006). “A randomized trial of yoga for adolescents with irritable bowel syndrome.” Pain Research and Management 11(4): 217-224.

Tatewaki, M., et al. (2003). “Dual effects of acupuncture on gastric motility in conscious rats.” American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 285(4): R862-R872.






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