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Radially symmetrical relaxation and contraction of the smooth muscles forming a "wave" is called peristalsis

Peristalsis normally occurs in the large intestine, something that helps achieve normal bowel movements. These movements occur in the form of a wave, which helps the movement of food particles. Peristalsis or peristaltic movements are extremely necessary for the normal functioning of the human digestive system. Abnormal peristaltic movements can cause fatal complications, however.

Function of peristaltic movements

The function of peristaltic movements is to move food forward and stop it from regurgitating back.

The most common organs where peristaltic movements are seen include:

- The esophagus: The purpose of peristalsis in the esophagus is to prevent the backward movement of food.

- The bowel or large intestine: Peristalsis in the intestine helps the body eliminate waste.

Peristaltic movements are involuntary, meaning the person can't control their peristaltic movements.

There are several conditions that may result in increased peristalsis. Similarly, some conditions are known to cause a significant decrease in peristaltic movements. Both increased and decreased peristaltic movements are the sign of abnormal functioning of either the gastrointestinal tract or central nervous system. Slow or absent peristaltic movements are known to have a bad prognosis because suppression of peristalsis may cause intestinal obstruction.

Finding the underlying cause of disturbed intestinal peristalsis

It is difficult to assess the exact cause of increased peristaltic movements without a detailed medical history, physical examination, and lab tests. Several disorders can cause increased peristaltic movements. The most common causes that may cause increased peristalsis with lower abdominal pain include:

  • Hyperacidity

  • Infection

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Dehydration

  • Delayed gastric emptying

It is recommended that you visit your family physician. The physician will perform a complete physical examination and will advise some lab tests after which he will be able to diagnose the disease correctly.

How to diagnose the cause

In order to ensure correct treatment, a proper diagnosis is essential. The following steps are needed to make the proper diagnosis:

  1. A detailed history: The doctor will ask questions about your daily routine. Usually, the questions are about your lifestyle: dietary habits, smoking, drinking, etc. The questions may also address medical and family history.

  2. Physical examination: A physical examination includes palpation, percussion, and auscultation of the abdomen. These examinations give an idea of the probable cause of the disease. Palpation is extremely important in the case of abdominal disorders.

  3. Lab tests: Common lab tests that aid the diagnostic process include:

  • Stool test: For occult blood and microorganisms

  • Ultrasound: To rule out anatomical defects

  • Serum electrolytes: To look for dehydration and other electrolyte imbalances

  • Helicobacter pylori antibody test: To look for antibodies against helicobacter pylori -- a microorganism that causes gastrointestinal disorders

Treatment depends on the cause of the disorder. However, in the case of hyperactive bowel movements, doctors advise patients to make some changes in their eating habits. The major changes include small but frequent meals, a low-fat diet, fewer spices and less salt in the food.

If the H.Pylori bacteria is found, specific antibiotics are prescribed.

Strange abdominal movements are not usually caused by anything serious, but it is always important to seek medical attention in case you are affected by one of the rarer causes of this condition.

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