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Estelle Harford is a Stretch Therapist and owner of Stellar Strength and Wellness. She is one of 25 global Ki-Hara Master trainers, and currently resides in Chicago. She sees clients nationally. Contact her at

Throughout my years in the professional world of fitness, I have consistently been amazed by those that don’t think to treat the body as a whole. As a Stretch Therapist and Ki-Hara Master Trainer, I have clients that are extremely surprised when I tell them I want to work on their shoulder in order to release tensions or imbalances in their elbow or wrist. The same is true, for the relationship between your physical activity in relation to your gastrointestinal health. They work together, just as the body does, as an entire system.

When I talk about exercise in regards to physical activity, I am not talking about excessive training. I am talking about movement that engages you; that gets your heart pumping and that might, but not always, make you sweat (just a little).

I believe that anything that interests you and gets you moving helps get your bodily functions moving as well. One of the most important aspects about any voluntary movement is the production and release of endorphins. Endorphins are natural hormones produced in the hypothalamus section of your brain. They are released when you engage in certain activities. They naturally combat stress and pain. Endorphins give us a light, high feeling. In short they make us happy.

The number one trigger for GI problems is stress and anxiety. They both tend to make people more likely have to lower immune responses and therefore they get sick or feel sick more often. Stress seems to typically create more stress. Which over time can wreak havoc on a GI system. Creating and releasing endorphins fights to work against the stress and anxiety GI problems create.  Exercise induced happiness does improve the immune system, and has been known to lessen the effects or symptoms of GI problems.

If strenuous exercise isn’t something you are capable of engaging in at this time, you will be happy to know that there are other activities that help in the release of endorphins. You can engage in Stretch Therapy, or another form of Bodywork. It can be modified so it is not as physically exerting as other forms of exercise. Believe it or not, laughing helps, how many times have you laughed really hard and felt it in your abs.  Feel free to try acupuncture or meditation as well.

Personally, I know that when I exercise, it makes me happy, and I like feeling happy so I keep an exercise routine. Even if you fall off the wagon once in a while, it’s ok, just get back on.  I promise you’ll feel great. I would be willing to bet your Gastrointestinal Tract will thank you and will feel better as well.