Manipulative and Body-Based Practices

Manipulative and body-based practices include such practices as chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation and massage. The goal of these approaches is to increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the area being massaged.

Energy Medicine

Energy fields (also called biofields) are a fairly controversial area of alternative medicine, mostly because they have defied clinical proof of existence. Some therapists claim that they can work with this subtle energy, and some patients report benefits, but it is difficult to know if they are simply placebo effects from receiving care from an empathic provider.


Research indicates that premature babies who were regularly given Reiki, an energy field practice, experienced many positive outcomes. They had better digestion, gained weight faster, had better sleep patterns, performed better on developmental tasks, acquired mental and motor skills earlier, and appeared to be more relaxed than other babies.

Abdominal Massage

Stimulation of your digestive system through an abdominal massage may help your digestive system run more smoothly. Abdominal massage is thought to help improve digestion and relieve irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, and constipation. You should not eat for two hours prior to an abdominal massage.


The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the federal government’s lead agency for scientific research on complementary and alternative medicine. Besides funding research, they provide fact sheets and educational resources on many forms of alternative medicine.

Self Massage

If you wish to try this yourself, do an abdominal massage in the mornings and evenings while lying in bed for about 15 to 30 minutes. With regard to self massage, it is believed that the effectiveness of the massage depends upon the sensitivity to the upward and downward movements (expansion and contraction) of the abdomen. Always work from up the right side and down the left; this is important to aid digestion.

To perform abdominal massage on yourself, begin by placing the heel of your right hand on the right side of the body under the rib cage, and just above the hip bone. As you do so, your fingers should point straight across the body. By pressing firmly, slowly move your hand across your body to the middle of the abdomen. By then, you should have the heel of your hand over your belly button. Repeat this action 10 to 20 times for maximum comfort.


Abdominal massage is not appropriate immediately after abdominal surgery, during an active infection or when cancer is present in pelvic area, while undergoing active treatment of chemotherapy, during pregnancy, or within the first six weeks following a normal vaginal delivery or the first three months after a cesarean section.


Reflexology is a holistic healing art and science performed by a trained reflexologist. The reflexologist applies a sequence of techniques to points found on the feet, hands, and outer ears. These areas correspond to other parts of the body. Pressure is applied with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques. Unlike massage, it does not use oil or lotion. Trained professionals can use an acupressure chart to find several points relating to the digestion and stomach.

Again, as with other forms of complementary medicine, the clinical data may not be as thorough as for traditional Western approaches. However, clinical reports do show the efficacy of reflexology as a treatment of stress. And anything that relieves your stress is going to be helpful for your digestive system. There is substantial anecdotal evidence that suggests a knowledgeable professional may be able to provide some relief for digestive trouble.

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