The completion of the Human Genome Project has ushered in many new disciplines in science & research. One of the many exciting discoveries is just how important our gut is in overall health & well being. Many are referring to the gut as our “second brain” because of how it feeds everything from our brains to our skin.
Enteric Neural Science is what I’m referring to here, this area of study has only come out in the last 10 years. Embedded in the wall of our gut lies a separate nervous system that is so complex it has been dubbed the second brain, the Enteric Nervous System. The focus here is how the environment of our intestines affects our nerves & messages going to our brains. Our gut produces a wide array of hormones & neurotransmitters, some of the same classes as those found in the brain. Of these neurotransmitters, the main four you might have heard of before are Serotonin, Dopamine, Acetylcholine & Gaba.
All but one of our neurotransmitters is made from amino acids from the proteins we consume. Some are made entirely by our bodies & some are converted by the biologic machinery we have.
This is why what we put into our bodies is so important. It’s our neurotransmitters that guide our brain function. So if our gut is out of balance we might be high strung at times or depressed. Being in a depressed state will affect the function of our intestines, which affects the production of nerve hormones; which affects brain function. You see how this can be problematic?
Every single cell in our body is connected to the neural tree, made up of the food we eat.
Instead of thinking about food as carbs, fats, proteins, sugars, or calories. We should think of it like information. The food we eat talks to our genes & it can either be inflammatory or health provoking. It can sustain & maintain excellent health over a life time.
We require all the macronutrients (protein, fat & carbs) to make all parts of neurotransmitters for proper function. So foods that have things like anti-nutrients or any kind of dietary neurotoxin like phytic-acid, lectins, excessive caffeine, nicotine, vitamin/mineral depletion & alcohol can all affect neurotransmitter production.
I know what your thinking, “alcohol”! Yes alcohol, but don’t worry there are ways to combat the toxic affects of alcohol, more on this later.
The more we learn the more apparent it becomes that our digestive system sends way more messages to our brain then our brain does to our digestive system. In fact, 95% of the bodies serotonin is produced & housed in the gut, not the brain. Serotonin is one of our neurotransmitters that’s responsible for our mood. If serotonin levels are low we can experience anxiety & depression. Low serotonin levels are also associated with decreased immune system function.
Since the discovery that problems with the Enteric Nervous System are implicated in all sorts of conditions means the second brain deserves a lot more recognition than it has had in the past.