How Can A Belly Massage Help My Constipated Child? Learn the "I Love You" Technique.

Written by:
Dr. Ashlea Lytle
January 9, 2021

I’ve been a physical therapist for over a decade and for the past five years have specialized in pelvic health physical therapy. During my time treating pelvic health conditions, what has intrigued me the most has been the positive impact I’ve been able to make with my patients struggling with bowel dysfunction and constipation. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, I have had more time to practice and critique my I Love You (ILU) massage technique on my 16-month old son, who has been dealing with constipation since he started eating solid foods. I have found there are a few things you really need to do when doing the ILU massage. But before we dive deep into the mechanics, how does the ILU massage technique work?


Constipation usually happens when your colon absorbs too much water and dries out your stool. This causes your stool to be harder, which slows down your stool transit time. ILU massage helps stimulate abdominal muscle contractions, helping speed up your stool transit time and facilitating a bowel movement. The name ILU came from the direction of movement you perform.


1. Before you begin the massage, you want to first stimulate the small intestine (SI). Place your index, middle and ring fingers 2-3 inches away from the belly button. Massage in a clockwise, small circular motion for 1-2 minutes, circulating around your belly button. 

2. Make sure you are pressing using a moderate pressure (about ½ to 1 inch in depth), and that your clockwise, circular motions are slow (about 1-2 seconds per rotation).  

3. After the SI is stimulated, you want to start with your “I” strokes. Start on the left side up by your rib cage and work your way down to the left hip bone. This is your descending colon. Repeat this 10 times.

4. After your 10 passes you will start the “L” strokes. Start on the right side of your rib cage slowly working your way to the left side and back down to the left hip bone. You are stimulating the transverse colon and the descending colon. Repeat this 10 times. 

5. After your 10 passes you will then complete the massage with the “U” strokes. Start on the right side by your hip bone, then work your way up to the right side of your rib cage, then over to the left side of your rib cage, and finally all the way back down to your left hip bone. You are stimulating the ascending, transverse, and descending colons. Repeat this 10 times.

This can be performed on children of all ages, as well as adults. It also can be done during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, but I would recommend getting clearance from your doctor or seeing a pelvic health therapist.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

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Dr. Ashlea Lytle

VP Mountain Region | Physical Therapist
Ashlea Lytle is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) who has been practicing for over a decade in the Denver area. She specializes in sports, general orthopedics, and pelvic health for adults and kids. She splits her time at Activcore in Castle Rock, CO (located inside Optimal Health Chiropractic) and at Activcore in Greenwood Village, CO (located inside Pilates Denver).
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