Migrating Motor Complex: the “Housekeeper” of the Gut
By Sarah Axtell, ND • March 16, 2019
If you have been diagnosed with IBS and/or SIBO and your symptoms continue to recur, your migrating motor complex (MMC) may need some support.
The migrating motor complex is often referred to as the “housekeeper wave.” It is the quick, intense wave that moves food and bacteria from the stomach through the large intestine. It occurs during fasting, both in between meals and at night while sleeping.
With SIBO, there is a defective or deficient MMC. This results in constipation and/or diarrhea, bloating, and gas.
What turns the MMC off?
- Stress. When are are in a state of sympathetic overdrive (“fight or flight”), the MMC will not be present. The MMC is present when we are in parasympathetic mode (“rest and digest”).
- Eating. The nature of eating turns off the MMC. Again, the MMC occurs during a fasting state so when we are constantly eating/snacking/grazing, we do not have a functional MMC. The minute you start eating or snacking, you go into “feeding phase” and MMC stops.
What are risk factors for a deficient MMC?
- Food poisoning
- Certain diseases that affect nerves or muscles: Parkinson’s, Lyme and co-infections, Hypothyroidism, Diabetes, Ehlers Danlos syndrome, POTS
- Injury: Traumatic brain injury/spinal injury
- Drugs: Opiates, Antibiotics, Smooth muscle relxands
- Lifestyle: Stress
How can I get my MMC to work better?
- Deep breathing before meals. Take 10 conscious deep breaths before each meal. Deep breathing can help stimulate the vagus nerve.
- Avoid snacking in between meals. Aim for at least 4 hours in between meals.
- Intermittent Fasting. Aim for a 12-16 hour overnight fast.
- Take a prokinetic agent after SIBO treatment. Prokinetics are prescription or herbal agents that stimulate the MMC. Examples of prescription prokinetics include low-dose Naltrexone (LDN) and low-dose Erythromycin. Examples of herbal prokinetics, which we primarly recommend at Lakeside, include ginger and 5-HTP combined (product name is Motil-pro) and Iberogast.
Think of your gut as a river. If there is stagnation with the flow of the river, bacteria and other microbes will start to overgrow and the result is murky, contaminated water. If there is stagnation in your gut (from a deficient MMC cleaning wave), a breeding ground for bacteria is created= excess fermentation, resulting in gas, bloating, and constipation and/or diarrhea.
Healthy Gut/Functioning MMC:
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.