Beat The Bloat With Our Guide To Abdominal Massages

Whether it's from your period, constipation, or just some gas that you haven't expelled, stomach bloating can be really uncomfortable. It's not just because it can make zipping up your favorite jeans problematic, but the overall heaviness feeling can throw a wrench in your day. There are things you can eat to help fight bloating and things to avoid to minimize bloating. That being said, sometimes, the best thing you can do is give yourself an abdominal massage.


"The main benefit of the debloat massage is to stimulate gut motility (digestion), which helps with bowel movements and bloat," Dr. Lindsey Schmidt told Poosh. "Other benefits include lymphatic drainage, reducing lower belly puffiness, emotional release, and easing menstrual cramping."

You can hit up a massage therapist for a professional abdominal massage, but you can also do them on your own. Not only is that the more budget-friendly option, but you'll be able to do them whenever you need to take your bloating down several notches and feel good again.

Always go right to left

Because abdominal massages are about moving things around internally, you want to follow the path of your intestines instead of going against them. Massages stimulate the muscles so they can do what they need to do: get things on the road and out of your body. These things could be gas or fecal matter, the former being the most common reason for bloating, according to the National Health Service


"When intestinal motility is improved, things get moving toward the exit, so you may also find relief in bloating," pelvic floor therapist Ashley Rawlins told The Well. "As a bonus, since your large intestines lie underneath your abdominal muscles, when performing the abdominal massage, you are also getting a nice abdominal muscle massage, which can help ease any tension you may have [in the area]."

During menstruation, that tension and bloating can be attributed to the change in progesterone and estrogen levels, per MedicalNewsDaily. These hormones cause the body to retain water and salt during this stage of the menstrual cycle, so massaging your stomach can get those things moving, too.

Use the ILU technique

The ILU technique is called that for the movement you make: upward to make an I, across to make an L, then finishing up by making a U. "To help with bloating and digestion, you should massage your way around the entire abdominal in a circular motion or a big upside-down letter 'U,'" Lisa Ganjhu, clinical associate professor of medicine in the gastroenterology and hepatology divisions at the New York University Langone Medical Center, told Shape. "Start at the lower right side, above the hip bone, and then work up to below your ribs, across the upper belly to the left of ribs, and then down to your left lower hip bone. The pressure [should] be applied with long strokes in a big circle or tiny mini circles."


According to a 2011 study published in Nursing Times, abdominal massage can be very beneficial with no adverse effects. The researchers said that these massages should be taught to relieve constipation in patients. We may not want to talk about poop, but it's better to address it than suffer in silence.

Include essential oils

Although you don't have to use essential oils, some prefer lotion or cream to help their fingers and hands slide comfortably against the skin, essential oils can add to the experience of giving yourself an abdominal massage. When choosing essential oils, you want to stick to those that are beneficial to digestion health, like peppermint, ginger, lavender, and fennel. Like any essential oil, you want to dilute it with a carrier oil, like coconut or jojoba oil, before applying it to your skin. Before your massage, you can also put your essential oils of choice on a hot towel and hold it on your stomach until it cools. Not only will the heat help relax tension in the muscles, priming them for a massage, but it will make the oils easier to absorb, per Billabong Retreat


As much as essential oils can be extremely beneficial, you don't want to overuse them. If you use them too often, their effectiveness can decrease, integrative medicine specialist Dr. Yufang Lin told the Cleveland Clinic. In other words, sometimes, too much of a good thing can go badly. 

Choose your position

The two most common positions for doing abdominal massages are either lying on your back or doing it while standing in the shower, per Foundational Concepts. Adding heat to your massage can help relax the muscles as you apply a sturdy, light amount of pressure to your stomach. A massage you are doing lying down is a great way to incorporate essential oils, but in the shower, you can use soap or body wash to help your fingers glide in the right-to-left massage motions.


What position you choose is whatever is most comfortable for you. Some people prefer the heat of a shower when massaging, while others prefer to lie down and relax that way. As long as you're moving in the right direction — so as to follow your intestinal path — that's what's most important. You may find that the reasons for the bloating might call for a different position each time.

Only use your hands

Although TikTok has videos of people using a tennis ball to massage their stomachs, this is something you don't want to do. The problem with the tennis ball technique is that too much pressure can possibly damage your organs, Lisa Ganjhu told Shape. Yes, you want to be firm in your movements, but you don't want to push too much. This might be the case if you're rolling a ball over your stomach or, even worse, rolling your abdomen over the ball. It's hard to gauge just how much pressure you're really applying when you have the entirety of your body's weight on the tennis ball. 


Ultimately, abdominal massages are a safe way to kick bloating to the curb — as long as you stay away from the massage trends on TikTok. While many people on the app think that they're experts, you shouldn't be taking any advice they offer. Furthermore, if your massages start to hurt, stop and contact your doctor. There might be something there that needs to be checked out.