Did you know that we have a second brain as well i.e. Gut? Interesting! Does it mean the second brain works or functions like maintaining stress management? Does gut & brain are same or is there any connection between them? No one needs to be an expert in neuroscience to see that the brain and gut are connected. The brain and the gut communicate when, for example, intuition arises as a "gut feeling," "butterflies" in the stomach before giving a speech, stress-related stomach ulcers, binge eating in response to emotional responses, and so on.
The exact nature of the connection between the brain and the digestive system is still a mystery. However, new research suggests that the connection between the digestive system and the brain is among the most robust in the body. Keep reading on for a detailed understanding.
The Enteric Nervous System: The Body's Second Brain
There are so many nerve cells (neurons) lining the digestive system (the "second brain") that the number of neurons it contains is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions. Yet, despite having more nerve cells than the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system, this neuronal network—also known as the gut nervous system—is often disregarded.
Our secondary brain is even more compared to the brain within our brains than the sheer number of neurons suggests. The vast majority of the neural tissue in the human gastrointestinal tract produces over thirty different neurotransmitters, typically linked with the brain. The creation and storage of serotonin, also called the "happy chemical," which plays a crucial role in regulating mood and well-being, is included in this percentage at a whopping 95%.
Connection Between the Stomach and the Brain
How, exactly, do thoughts and stomach rumblings exchange messages? The vagus nerve is a highly interconnected network of neurons that runs from the brainstem to the gastrointestinal system, making it the longest cranial nerve in the human body. The vagus nerve acts as a two-way communication highway between the brain and the intestine, allowing instantaneous message exchange.
The vagus nerve isn't the only nerve that goes from the brain to the digestive system. Our stomachs are home to the billions of bacteria and germs that make up the gut microbiota and are commonly found in the intestines. It's estimated that there are 100,000 times as many microbes in your digestive tract as in humans.
The mucus layer lining the intestines is home to many of these microorganisms, putting them near the body's primary information-gathering mechanisms, the neurons, and immune cells. Microbes are also primed along the vagus nerve to tune in to the brain's stress, concern, or happiness signals.
The gut microbiome is made up of bacteria, and they do more than listen to us. The brain receives information from these cells as a result of modulated signals. For example, most of the vagus nerve's neurons send signals from the digestive tract to the brain rather than the other way around. The results of this study provide further evidence that the brain is significantly affected by signals from the digestive tract.
Brain Disorders: How Your Gut Affects Your Brain's Health
There is mounting evidence that the gut plays a role in brain health and disease, clarified by the two-way communication that occurs along the gut-brain axis. Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder are just a few neurological disorders related to gastrointestinal problems or changed gut microbiomes.
Recent studies on Parkinson's disease have revealed that malfunctioning gut microbiota is a diagnostic hallmark of the disease and that enteric nervous system degeneration precedes the onset of the disease's hallmark symptoms. Additionally, people with Alzheimer's disease have a drastically reduced level of bacteria in their gut microbiome, and an improper diet is commonly recognized as a risk factor for Alzheimer's.
Inflammation, a persistent sign of many neurological diseases, may have a role in this. Inflammation and immune system activation can result from a disruption in the balance of gut microbes. Over 70% of immune cells are located in the digestive tract, which is helpful in the event of consuming pathogenic bacteria but also means that a gut-immune response can unleash a significant inflammatory reaction throughout the body.
Second Brain And Mental Disorders
Given that inflammation is also a hallmark of mental disease, this may explain why there is a link between gut health and mental health. For example, a recent study found that many people with inflammatory bowel illnesses also had emotional distress.
The vagus nerve and the microbes in the digestive tract almost probably play roles. Evidence suggests that stimulating the vagus nerve can reduce inflammation and stress, and some studies have even shown that it may be beneficial as a drug-free antidepressant. And other probiotic bacteria, like Lactobacillus rhamnosus, can cause neurons to release GABA, which is known to have a calming effect on the body. The bacteria also trigger mood-related neuroplasticity in the gut.
Although it is clear that the gut performs many functions beyond digestion, scientists still have much to learn about the gut's impact on health. There is tremendous potential that bettering gut health can lead to advances in treating brain illnesses as our understanding of the gut-brain axis grows. How did you learn that you have a "second brain?" And that it is located in the digestive tract? This causes you to experience feelings like getting butterflies when you're nervous or excited and feeling sick when you're terrified or emotionally charged. The enteric nervous system is the second set of nerves in the body (ENS). Each ENS's two layers, or sub-regions, have over 100 million nerve cells. These cells line the gastrointestinal tract, from the esophagus to the rectum.
Many different organs in your intestinal tract work together to break down and eliminate the food you eat. Among the many parts of the digestive system are:
- Intestines, both small and large
That's why whenever we were put in a stressful position, like an interview or an exam, our stomachs would turn over, we'd get the shivers, and we'd throw up and have diarrhea. So the gut and the brain are involved in transmitting the signal.
The stomach has been recognized as a key player in overall health, but its effects on the body are still remaining unclear. Scientists' growing knowledge of the gut-brain axis suggests that improving gut health could lead to new treatment options for brain problems.
The digestive systems, gut bacteria, and brain all work together. Therefore, the coordination of this gut-gut microbiota-brain alliance is vital for the body's optimal functioning. The enteric nervous system acts independently of the CNS and closely with the brain.
The gut microbiota is an internal ecology that can affect our wellness. Diet has a direct effect on our gut microbiota. Because of this, a balanced diet helps a healthy microbial population grow and may protect against several chronic diseases. Therefore, your diet will affect your gut health.
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