What is Migrating Motor Complex ( MMC)?

The body works hard to reduce bacterial overgrowth and keep food moving through your digestive system. But what happens when things are not working as they should? What if you are suffering from digestive discomfort, bloating, and other symptoms?

Keep reading to learn more about the role of MMC, how it factors into your gastrointestinal health, and how a naturopath in Singapore can help you live a healthier lifestyle.

What is Migrating Motor Complex ( MMC)?

The Migrating Motor Complex (MMC) consists of four phases of peristaltic waves that occur every 90-120 minutes during fasting – hence the importance of eating every 3-5 hours, and not in closer succession. Disruptions in MMC can lead to digestive issues like bacterial overgrowth and constipation (for reference, see Deloose and Tack, Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2016). This complex process is very important for the regular clearing and cleansing of the gut.

In case you were wondering, a “peristaltic wave” refers to a series of muscle contractions that occur in the gastrointestinal tract. The primary function of these peristaltic waves is to propel the contents of the GI tract forward – in this case, moving undigested food, debris, and bacteria from the stomach and small intestine towards the large intestine. The movement starts as a ripple of muscle contractions that begins in the stomach or upper part of the small intestine and progresses downward along the length of the gut. 

What Happens When the MMC is Not Functioning Correctly?

When the MMC is disrupted, leading to ineffective downward movement of digestive contents, it can significantly impact gastrointestinal function and comfort. In addition to bloating, distension, and constipation, patients may experience altered bowel habits, such as diarrhea, which can alternate with constipation in conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Nutrient malabsorption may also occur, potentially leading to deficiencies and weight loss. Furthermore, an impaired MMC can exacerbate Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) due to inadequate clearing of bacteria from the small intestine, worsening symptoms like gas and abdominal discomfort. In severe cases, this can lead to a vicious cycle where digestive discomfort further impairs gut motility, exacerbating symptoms. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms shown above, consult with a naturopathic gut health expert in Singapore – you can uncover the root cause and pursue treatment.

How Do You Stimulate the MMC?

You can stimulate MMC with agents known as prokinetics, which enhance GI motility and transit by coordinating muscular contractions throughout the digestive system. This coordination promotes the proper downward movement of food and waste, preventing stagnation and the complications that can arise from it.

Please Note: Prokinetics are NOT Laxatives

Unlike laxatives, which primarily aim to ease stool passage through the large intestine by increasing stool water content or stimulating bowel movements, prokinetics work on a more systemic level. They target various areas of the gastrointestinal system, including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Their mechanism involves acting on different receptors located in the gut, thereby improving the overall motility and functioning of the digestive system. This distinction highlights the unique and vital role prokinetics play in managing and treating conditions associated with impaired GI motility.

Prokinetics As Prescription Drugs or Natural Supplements

The range of prokinetic agents available includes both prescription drugs and natural prokinetics. Prescription prokinetics are often used in clinical settings to treat specific GI motility disorders, offering targeted intervention based on the underlying cause of motility issues.

On the other hand, natural prokinetics, such as herbs like Iberis amara, ginger, and caraway, as well as nutrients like 5-HTP, have shown efficacy in enhancing GI motility. Studies have shown these natural agents can be beneficial, providing a gentler alternative to pharmaceuticals. Popular naturopathic options like Prokine (Vitaaid) and Motil-Pro (Pure Encapsulations) are a good choice.

Your Lifestyle Can Help the Migrating Motor Complex

In addition to pharmacological and natural prokinetics, lifestyle factors play a significant role in stimulating the MMC. Regular meal spacing can be very effective. The act of “grazing,” or consuming small amounts of food continuously, can interfere with the MMC’s cleansing waves. To maintain optimal functioning of the MMC, it is advisable to space meals 3-5 hours apart. This practice allows the MMC to initiate and complete its cycles effectively, promoting the clearance of undigested food and bacteria from the small intestine and supporting overall digestive health.

Contact a Functional Health Specialist

Work with a doctor specializing in functional health in Singapore if you are a local patient suffering from gastro-related issues. You can work together to discuss lifestyle factors, take tests, and identify the source of your symptoms. Then, you can pursue a path of natural healing through a personalized treatment plan. Please reach out to Dr. Radhika Kamat if you have any questions.


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