Gut Feeling – Our 2nd Brain

We hear a lot today about the importance of good gut health. Why is that and why has it become such a focus? Well, according to a paper done last year by UC Davis, Dept of Internal Medicine, approximately 70 million people in the US have digestive issues. So it is not a surprise to keep hearing the recommendations that include:
Take probiotics and eat fermented foods. … 
Eat prebiotic fiber. … 
Eat less sugar and sweeteners. … 
Reduce stress. … 
Avoid taking antibiotics unnecessarily. … 
Exercise regularly. … 
Get enough sleep.
Use different cleaning products…
Avoid smoking…
Eat a vegetarian diet…

So what exactly is gut health? Gut health describes the function and balance of bacteria of the many parts of the gastrointestinal tract. Ideally, organs such as the esophagus, stomach and intestines all work together to allow us to eat and digest food without discomfort.

Gut health refers to the physical state and physiologic function of the many parts of the gastrointestinal tract. All food is ultimately broken down in the gut to a simple form that can enter the bloodstream and be delivered as nutrients throughout our bodies. This is only possible with a healthy digestive system. A healthy gut contains healthy bacteria and immune cells that ward off infectious agents like bacteria, viruses and fungi. However, did you know that a healthy gut also communicates with the brain through nerves and hormones, which helps maintain general health and well-being.

I thought for a moment and realized that without a healthy gut, one can not be truly happy, feel good, be upbeat, ready to take on the world and deal with everything going on. Especially during what we have all been experiencing the last 6 months. No wonder Illness and disease is so widespread and people are on edge, angry and not very kind to each other.

Fueling, nourishing ourselves properly and reducing stress need to be high on everyone’s priority list. Unfortunately, with so many upsets and stresses, too many of us have turned to snacking, drinking, and eating fast food to find comfort. However what then happens is stomach upset which impacts our mental state of being. There is no calmness within or without, no balance, no peace of mind.

So what happens next? We then get more confused, are anxious, are frustrated and feel out of control. Now is not the time to binge or totally disregard what we know is better for us. It is the time to reset and properly recharge ourselves.  For we need clear thinking and feeling to best handle what life throws our way. And we want thrive in the new reality of our world. Therefore we need to tap into our 2nd brain – our gut!

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. Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this “brain in your gut” is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think. Scientists call this little brain the enteric nervous system (ENS). And it’s not so little. The ENS is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract.

Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the John Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, whose research on the enteric nervous system has garnered international attention states “The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and for the with our big brain – with profound results.” Our two brains “talk” to each other, so therapies that help one may help the other,” Pasricha says. “In a way, gastroenterologists (doctors who specialize in digestive conditions) are like counselors looking for ways to soothe the second brain.”

The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with any type of digestive issue. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” Pasricha says. Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.

So as you reach for that cookie, muffin, ice cream, or drink, pause. Ask yourself whether you really want it or need it. For me, I reach for the nut butters, the avocado dark chocolate dessert that I make and love, the cherries and fruit, and the raw nuts. And even though I can talk myself into validating my choices as they are healthy choices, I may not always be hungry, but feeling anxious or distressed. I really want to feel calmer and feed my soul. Time to breathe, meditate, practice yoga, listen to music, or watch a performance to recharge.

By making the right choices, I feed and fuel my body, mind and especially my gut. I then know that the conditions are best for my 2 brains to communicate in the best possible way with each other providing me with optimum solutions and answers I need.

Some examples of feelings and sensations your gut provides when it is feeling good or not so good:

Positive and affirming gut instincts are often accompanied by:
A sense of warmth
Ability to breathe more easily
Sharp clarity of hearing or vision
A wave of goose bumps, tingles or “fluttery” sensations
Relaxation in the gut and shoulders

Negative or warning instincts are often accompanied by:
Icy cold hands and feet; an overall chill
Twinging or clenching pain in gut or chest
Nausea or acid stomach
A sense of being on “high alert”
Fatigue or loss of energy
Onset of headache

It is your choice. Develop the habits and patterns that provide you with the optimum conditions to think and feel your very best.

With Light and Love,
I have a really good gut feeling about this!

4 Comments on “Gut Feeling – Our 2nd Brain

  1. Great read! I have never thought of it the other way around. The guy triggering my emotional state 🧐. Very interesting and profound. I have noticed since I changed my diet to mostly plant based I have less anxiety and irritability 🥳

    Love and light 💟

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