Sometimes there is too little peristalsis, which can slow the passage of undigested material through the colon and cause constipation.
Motility disorders such as Hirschsprung's disease and psuedo-obstruction may cause blockages by retarding peristalsis, the intestinal muscle contractions that move food and waste.
If the case is not a medical emergency, homeopaths and practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine can recommend therapies that may help to reinstate peristalsis.
By contrast, non-mechanical obstruction, called ileus, occurs because the rhythmic contractions that move material through the bowel (called peristalsis) stop.
Handling the bowel during abdominal surgery can also cause peristalsis to stop, so people who have had abdominal surgery are more likely to experience ileus.
Normally, the colon is quiet during most of that period except after meals, when its muscles contract in a series of wavelike movements called peristalsis.
Internally strychnine acts as a bitter, increasing the secretion of gastric juice and the intestinal peristalsis, being a direct stimulant to the muscular coat; in this manner it has a purgative action.
These are paralysed by atropine, and intestinal peristalsis is consequently made more active, the muscles being released from nervous control.
It has in addition a markedly depressing action upon the respiratory centre, it lessens all the secretions except the sweat, and diminishes bowel peristalsis and the size of the pupil.
The large number of vegetable substances used as purgatives owe their action to an irritating effect upon the mucous membrane and the neuro-muscular apparatus of the bowel, whereby the secretions and peristalsis are more or less increased, as the result of which diarrhoea ensues.