Most people are surprised to learn that the brain tucked away inside their skull isn’t their only brain.
We all know about the brain in our heads. It’s where we learn new things, process complex thoughts, store memories and perform thousands of unconscious self-balancing activities each day. This brain is crucial for adaptation and survival.
But there’s another brain that’s equally important for survival. And this other brain works hand-in-hand with the brain in our head to keep us alive.
The name of this brain is the enteric nervous system, or more commonly, the “gut brain.”
Your gut brain and your head brain have much in common. For example, many of the same neurotransmitters (chemicals that affect nerve transmissions) that regulate thinking are also involved in digestion.
A good example of this is serotonin. People are familiar with this brain chemical because low levels of serotonin are associated with depression. It’s the target of an entire class of drugs called SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors).
Less known is the fact that between 90% and 95% of the body’s total serotonin comes from the digestive tract, not the brain. In the gut, serotonin regulates digestive motility (peristalsis) and decreases appetite.
Other “brain chemicals” involved in gut function include acetylcholine, dopamine, glutamate and norepinephrine.
Because of the similarities and interactions between our central nervous system and our gut brain, there is a strong connection between gut health and mental health.
For example, there is a clear link between depression and a wide variety of digestive disorders such as celiac disease, poor diet, food allergies, irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) and candida (yeast) overgrowth.
If you think about it, this makes sense. If we aren’t digesting and assimilating our food well, we don’t replenish the necessary nutrients for optimal health. This affects every part of our quality of life.
Even if you pay good attention to the quality of your food, you may still not getting the most from what you eat. Other factors can still interfere with getting nutrients from the food to your body.
These factors include the effects of medications, food allergies, stress, parasites, low enzymes or hydrochloric acid, low levels of healthy gut bacteria (acidophilus and other probiotics) and impaired mucosal barrier function (leaky gut).
Symptoms of this type of problem vary widely. Here are some of the most common:
- Intestinal gas
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Abdominal pain
- Acid reflux
- Pain or aches in joints
- Weight loss/ gain
- Brain fog
- Poor memory and attention
- Headaches/ migraines
- Skin problems such as rashes, eczema, and psoriasis
- Pins and needles
- Frequent urinary tract infections
Many other problems are a result of poor gut function as well. Depression, hormone problems, osteoporosis, heart disease and even some cancers result from digestive weakness.
The weakest link in your health automatically limits your ability to heal. This is true even if you are doing everything else to support your health. For many people, digestive health is their weakest link.
Fortunately, there are powerful natural ways to restore digestive health. First we determine the weakest links. Once we see where the problem lies, then we can easily address it by correcting the underlying problems behind it.
If you’d like more information on healing digestive disorders, please contact me by clicking here.
All the best to you for your health and happiness,
Hyperhealth Pro Database, In-Tele-Health, Hansville, WA, 2008.
Our Second Brain: The Stomach, Psychology Today Website
The Gut Brain Connection, Adrian Lopresti, Clinical Psychologist
The “Gut Brain” and Digestive Health, Kelly C. Heim, Ph.D.
The Enteric Nervous System: The Brain in the Gut, King’s Psychology Network