The MMC - click image to read more

The MMC - click image to read more

In 1633 Galileo was forbidden to teach and sentenced to house arrest. His crime was the promotion of the idea that the earth revolves around the sun and is not the center of our solar system. It took 300 years for the Catholic Church to finally admit that Galileo was right. Hundreds of years before Galileo however, Aristarchus from Greece had espoused the same. Aristarchus had inspired other brave men who were willing to think outside of the cultural norms of their time. One of these was Copernicus, who also argued that the earth and planets revolve around the sun, and in turn inspired Galileo.

Too often we consider the knowledge, statements, and advice of historical figures as out of date, irrelative, and non-applicable to us. How tragic it would have been if Galileo for example, had followed this course and ignored the groundwork provided by Aristarchus and Copernicus.

In this series, “What’d She Say?”, we will be comparing the 19th century avant-garde health education of Ellen White with current evidence. Her statements at the time were considered ludicrous and unscientific by some, while others applied them to the extreme by snatching bits and pieces of what she said. Unfortunately, this is still seen today. While Ellen White wrote on topics that were unchartered in her day, it is my hope that this series of articles will reinforce their scientific, pertinent, and timely value. While much of her writings were given to specific individuals with specific needs, the underlying principles will be highlighted.

Consider the following excerpts:

“The stomach must have careful attention. It must not be kept in continual operation. Give this misused and much-abused organ some peace and quiet and rest. After the stomach has done its work for one meal, do not crowd more work upon it before it has had a chance to rest and before a sufficient supply of gastric juice is provided by nature to care for more food.”1

“After the regular meal is eaten, the stomach should be allowed to rest for five hours. Not a particle of food should be introduced into the stomach till the next meal. In this interval the stomach will perform its work, and will then be in a condition to receive more food.”2

“Nothing should be eaten between meals, no confectionery, nuts, fruits, or food of any kind. Irregularities in eating destroy the healthful tone of the digestive organs, to the detriment of health and cheerfulness.”3

“The digestive organs, like a mill which is continually kept running, become enfeebled. . . .”4

The migrating motor complex (MMC) is a term that refers to the electrical waves, muscular contractions, and squirts of digestive juices that are organized into action in the stomach and intestines when in a fasting state. The MMC has been nicknamed the housekeeper of the digestive tract. It is after the digestive organs have done their job digesting food that the housekeeper arrives to do its job. Like most housekeepers, the MMC is underappreciated in terms of the value it provides to the quality of life. The MMC is thought to clean out debris from the previous meal and promote optimal digestion by prepping the gastrointestinal tract for its next job. Researchers observed the MMC to be an important mechanism controlling bacterial growth in the upper small bowel in rats.5 Promoting an optimal environment for healthy colonies of bacteria to flourish where they are supposed to while preventing over-colonization where they are not supposed to is extremely valuable. While there is so much about the MMC that we have yet to learn about, the idea that it likely aids in the checks and balances of our internal microbial world is exciting.

As mentioned, the MMC does its work in a fasting state. When food is eaten, the MMC stops. It is interrupted by feeding.6 Snacking or eating six meals a day is at conflict with our design. It doesn’t matter whether it’s nuts, carrot sticks, fruit, or Cheetos. The advice of five hours between meals with no food in between allows the housekeeper to do its thing. Variability does exist with how long food is processed. How much was eaten, composition of the meal, and mental state for example, are factors that affect transit time, meaning some meals may be processed quicker. For the average meals however, five hours is a good rule of thumb.

Deficiencies in the MMC have been associated with conditions such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), gastroparesis, excess gas.7People with SIBO and IBS, who experience bloating, gas, and mal-digestion, have been observed to have higher rates of depressed or non-functional MMC.8Could this be at least in part what was alluded to by Ellen White’s description of digestive organs becoming “enfeebled”, “destruction of their healthful tone”, needing “a chance to rest”?

God’s word encourages us to “Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life (Proverbs 4:13 NKJV). “Hold tight to good advice; don’t relax your grip. Guard it well – your life is at stake!” (Message). Yes, we would be smart to ask the question, What’d she say? For when we do, we will find, like Galileo, that true wisdom does not go out of date.

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1.White, Ellen G., Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 173.

2.Ibid., p. 179.

3.Ibid.

4.Ibid., p. 181

5.Nieuwenhuijs, V. B., Verheem, A., van Duijvenbode-Beumer, H., Visser, M. R., Verhoef, J., Gooszen, H. G., & Akkermans, L. M. (1998). The role of interdigestive small bowel motility in the regulation of gut microflora, bacterial overgrowth, and bacterial translocation in rats. Annals of surgery, 228(2), 188–193.

6.Deloose, E., Janssen, P., Depoortere, I., & Tack, J. (2012). The migrating motor complex: control mechanisms and its role in health and disease. Nature reviews. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 9(5), 271–285.

7.Ibid.

8.Pimentel, M., Soffer, E. E., Chow, E. J., Kong, Y., & Lin, H. C. (2002). Lower frequency of MMC is found in IBS subjects with abnormal lactulose breath test, suggesting bacterial overgrowth. Digestive diseases and sciences, 47(12), 2639–2643.