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The Migrating Motor Complex - The Quick & Dirty

I should really say the "The Quick & Clean". Never the less, here's the skinny on the Migrating Motor Complex.

In our office visits, we've probably talked about The Migrating Motor Complex (MMC) at least once! The MMC is a series of muscular contractions that happen in the smooth muscles of the digestive tract when a person is not eating. It's responsible for transporting leftover food, bacteria, and waste through the digestive system, particularly the stomach and small intestine.

The MMC consists of 4 distinct phases:

  • Phase 1 begins and lasts for about 60-90 minutes. This phase is characterized by low muscle activity and a period of inactivity in the GI tract.

  • Phase 2, also known as the initiation phase, irregular contractions will occur gradually, increasing in both frequency and intensity over a period of 10-30 minutes.

  • Phase 3 is named the propulsive phase, or "the housekeeper wave". It typically lasts between 5 to 15 minutes and involves strong contractions that swiftly push along the small intestine, getting rid of any leftover food and bacteria. This phase is important for keeping the small intestine clean and preventing the overgrowth of bacteria.

  • Phase 4 is a short period of about 5 minutes that helps transition back to Phase 1. During this time, muscle activity decreases and the gastrointestinal system gets ready for the next phase.

The migrating motor complex is important for keeping the digestive system functioning properly by preventing the buildup of undigested food, bacteria, and other materials during periods of fasting. It is crucial for maintaining the overall health of the GI tract.

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