Did You Know Your Stomach is Actually a Second Brain?
Do you ever find yourself getting tense about an upcoming exam? Maybe you notice a little anxiety in the pit of your stomach with a big review popping up at work. All of these emotions you're feeling in your gut can indeed affect the way you poop. However, that nervous feeling in your stomach is more than just a hunch; your gut is actually a second brain—getting very important information to and from your first brain.
This gut "brain" is anything but small and is made up of 100 million nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal tract from your esophagus down to your bum.
It turns out that what's happening in your gut could actually be affecting what's going on in your brain. "If you've ever 'gone with your gut' to make a decision or 'felt butterflies in your stomach' when nervous, you're likely getting signals from an unexpected source: your second brain." Jay Pasricha, M.D. John Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology. This "brain" is anything but small and is made up of 100 million nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal tract from your esophagus to your bum. Scientists have dubbed this the enteric nervous system (ENS).
The health of your gut can be greatly impacted by your mental health.
It's been said that your ENS may actually be the trigger of big emotional shifts. It may not be able to read a book or think of a clever Instagram caption, but this "belly brain" can control your digestion. From the moment you swallow your food to the release of enzymes that break down the foods, your ENS steers this ship.
In turn, the health of your gut can be greatly impacted by your mental health. It has recently become clear that the brain and gut work simultaneously when it comes to our emotions and psychosocial factors. So, when your brain is telling you that something isn't right your stomach has an uneasy reaction; this can often induce a speedy number two. Mindful writer, Jennifer Wolkin says "psychological factors (your brain) can literally impact upon physical factors (in your gut) like the movement and contraction of the GI tract causing inflammation, pain, and other bowel symptoms." Thus giving "gut feeling" a new and literal meaning.
Gut feelings are very much a real thing, as explained by Suzy Batiz, Founder and CEO of Poo~Pourri. "They are part of a scientifically validated process that involves a conversation between our two brains processing data and stimuli." She goes on to discuss the relationship between the mouth and the butt, referred to as the brain-gut axis. "While your mouth hole is busy eating and talking to people in the outside world, your butthole and intestines are busy talking to the microbiome that lives inside you."
Everything from Parkinson's disease and depression to obesity and IBS have been attributed to damaged gut flora.
The microbiome is constantly evolving to keep our bodies safe, healthy and most importantly happy! "This microbiome not only helps us digest our food and fight off viruses, but if the microbiome is destroyed, our bodies and lives would literally fall apart. Everything from Parkinson's disease and depression to obesity and IBS have been attributed to damaged gut flora." (Suzy Batiz)
Humans are incredible, and our bodies are made of the most remarkable tools. We not only come equipped with an impressive brain, but we are quickly learning that the body has another way to keep our systems and thoughts in check. Now, the next time your gut is trying to tell you something, don’t treat it like that one friend who always gives you unsolicited, unwanted advice. LISTEN to your gut! It knows its shit.