A primal connection exists between our brain and our gut. We often talk about a “gut feeling” when we meet someone for the first time. We’re told to “trust our gut instinct” when making a difficult decision or that it’s “gut check time” when faced with a situation that tests our nerve and determination.
This mind-gut connection is not just metaphorical. Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback about how hungry we are, whether or not we’re experiencing stress, or if we’ve ingested a disease-causing microbe. This information superhighway is called the brain-gut axis and it provides constant updates on the state of affairs at your two ends.
The enteric nervous system is often referred to as our body’s second brain. There are hundreds of million of neurons connecting the brain to the enteric nervous system, the part of the nervous system that is tasked with controlling the gastrointestinal system.
The second brain informs our state of mind in many ways. A big part of our emotions are probably also influenced by the nerves in our gut. Butterflies in the stomach signaling in the gut are part of our physiological stress response for example. Although gastrointestinal turmoil can sour one’s moods, everyday emotional well-being may rely on messages from the brain below to the brain above.
The blossoming field of neurogastroenterology will likely offer some new insight into the workings of the second brain—and its impact on the body and mind.
How about LISTENING TO YOUR GUT TODAY? 😉