nmo-gut-health-journal

Gut Feeling: How Our Second Brain Changes Everything

December 13, 2015 Amy Bradney George

When it comes to topics of the brain, our thoughts often go straight to our head. But that’s not the only brain in the human body: our gut contains a network of neurons so intricate and involved in our lives that scientists have named it our “second brain”.

This second brain, or gut brain, is thought to be the first nervous system developed in vertebrates over 500 million years ago – some scientists even say it gave rise to the brains in our heads. Officially known as the enteric nervous system (ENS), it spans two layers of gut tissue and is a major part of our digestive functions – among other things.

Recent has show this second brain can act independently from the brain in our heads, and further studies have found it has an influence on everything from our food cravings and impulses to moods, decisions and ongoing wellbeing. That’s where our “gut instincts” actually come from. 

“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,” an article on the John Hopkins Medical website explains.

Research from the renowned medical centre has found that the health of our second brain is also closely linked to our emotional states, with poor gut health a likely contributor to anxiety and depression (and vice versa). This connection is why gut health is so important, and why more and more people are realising the value in being mindful of what we put into our bodies.

If our gut health is poor, or if the micro flora in our gut is less than optimal, it can affect both our body and our moods. In some cases, it could be mild – such as feeling slightly down or having a few small pimples – and in other cases it could be extreme. Think bloating, water retention, general anxiety, restlessness, irrational mood swings and weight fluctuations (among other things).

This relationship between our gut health and our wellbeing means that looking after our gut actually looks after all of us. It’s a way of ensuring our second brain can function to its best ability.

 

Top Tips For A Healthy Gut

There are all kinds of things you can do to keep your second brain happy, but the most important include:

  • Stay hydrated with plenty of water..
  • Strive for a balanced and varied diet that includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality proteins and healthy fats.
  • Boost your micro flora health through naturally probiotic-rich foods such as yoghurt, pickle, sauerkraut and kimchi (or take a high quality probiotic supplement).
  • Incorporate physical activity and stress relieving practises into your routine – such as walking, yoga and meditation – to get blood circulating and relax the muscles that could affect your digestion and the functioning of your second brain.

But perhaps the most important thing to do is actually just to listen to your gut. Try to take note of when it doesn’t feel so good, and see if there are common elements that you may need to be aware of.

For example, if you always find you feel bloated or get indigestion from certain foods or drinks, there may be ingredients that don’t agree with you. Or if you find yourself getting irritable when you haven’t eaten for a while, maybe you need to carry some healthy snacks with you to avoid becoming hangry.

While our second brain doesn’t think or act in the same way as the brain in our heads, it has a huge amount of power and responsibility in our daily life. So making sure we look after it with the right nutrients and support means we can lead healthier and happier lives in every way.

 




Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published