The human digestive system is constantly in motion. This is necessary to transport absorbed substances in the body to the organs. Peristalsis is understood to mean the muscular activity of the hollow organs in the body, which serve this digestion. It can be distinguished between the forward and the backward peristalsis.

What is peristalsis?

Hollow organs are organs whose cavity is enclosed by a tissue. These include, for example, the esophagus, the stomach and the intestine. The movements of these organs, called peristalsis, are wavy and intermittent.

Function & Task

Peristalsis is the muscle activity of the hollow organs in the body, which are used for digestion.

The peristalsis is controlled by nerve cell braids, which are autonomously controlled in the intestinal wall. The neuronal regulation of peristalsis is the responsibility of the enteric nervous system. In intestinal peristalsis four types of movement are distinguished.

The contraction of normally smooth muscle moves annularly in propulsive peristalsis. It transports the contents of the hollow organ in one direction. After ingestion, the chyme enters the duodenum via the stomach and then into the small intestine in small portions. The further transport into the small intestine section also happens only in batches.

As the porridge is passed on, it is mixed with digestive fluid and enzymes. The transport can take different lengths and varies from person to person. A role in transport but also plays the amount of fiber and the absorbed liquid. If there is little fluid in the organism, the transport in the digestive system may be delayed. The process by which the intestinal wall moves forward and back is also known as the gut motility. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for the functioning of peristalsis.

The local reflexes are particularly influenced by the interaction of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, which ensure a fine regulation of organ activity. The parasympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system. It slows the heart rate and promotes digestion. The network of nerves on the intestinal wall governs these signals and leads to a rhythmic tension and relaxation of the muscles. The porridge is thereby transported further.

In the non-propulsive peristalsis is the mixing of the intestinal contents. The contraction waves are circular and triggered by local reflexes. This step is also called rhythmic segmentation.

If the transport proceeds in the normal rhythm and in the right direction, we speak of orthograde peristalsis. If the normal transport direction is reversed, such as surgery, or a slowing down in transit time, there is retrograde peristalsis.

In retrograde peristalsis, the chyme does not enter the intestine, but is transported back through the esophagus. Vomiting is the side effect that results from this process. In the case of ruminants, this mechanism is also to be found - in their case wanted.

The process of retrograde peristalsis is also a significant process in the colon. The large intestine is driven by the periodic mass movements. These movements occur up to three times a day. The contents of the intestine are transported to the rectum, and the bowel movement can finally be eliminated by the gastrokological reflex.

Increased peristalsis can be seen when food has just been taken. In rest periods and on slow walks, the intestinal movement is particularly stimulated. In many people, the intake of caffeine additionally causes an increase in peristalsis.

Diseases & complaints

If the body is very concentrated and very focused on performance, the peristalsis will be reduced and the majority of the gastrointestinal activity will be switched off. Inhibiting inflammation in the abdominal cavity the intestinal muscles also show a reduction in peristalsis.

During peristalsis there are noises in the stomach and intestines. Due to the varying intensity of the sounds, it is possible for a doctor to assess illnesses. An investigation will clarify the possible diseases.

When the peristalsis mixes too much food or thin liquids, bubbling sounds are created. Flatulence is also noticeable in the form of bowel sounds. The bubbles move through the intestine, causing sounds in this way.

The doctor uses a stethoscope to better localize and interpret the bowel sounds. The normal bowel sounds are brisk and lively over all four quadrants of the abdominal wall. Also, an ultrasound examination of the abdomen provides information about the movement in the gastrointestinal area. Magnetic Marker Monitoring is a newly developed method that allows you to track and analyze the digestive process with a capsule swallowed by the patient.

If bubbling proves to be very violent, it may indicate diarrhea. If the patient suffers from intolerance to lactose intolerance, bowel sounds may also be heard.

If there is no sound when examining the intestine, this indicates in most cases an intestinal obstruction (ileus). In this case, a paralysis of the intestinal wall occurs. If severe abdominal pain and blood in the stool is another symptom, a doctor should be consulted to diagnose and develop a treatment plan.

The intestinal obstruction can also be due to mechanical reasons. The intestinal wall tries to break the occlusion site. This process makes the bowel sounds more noticeable. A cause of mechanical ileus can be a foreign body in the intestine, or even a cancer.

Based on the bowel sounds is still no clear diagnosis possible. Further diagnostic measures are taken to find out the exact cause. Depending on which disease in the intestine is concerned, drug or surgical procedures are used as therapy. If it is a tumor or a mechanical ileus, surgery is the only way out.