Have you ever wondered why we have this saying: trust your gut? We don’t say, “Trust your liver.” Or, “Trust your spleen…” It turns our we have such a complex and developed neuron system in our “gut” that it’s been called our second brain.
“Technically known as the enteric nervous system, the second brain consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut, or alimentary canal, which measures about nine meters end to end from the esophagus to the anus. The second brain contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system, Gershon says.
This multitude of neurons in the enteric nervous system enables us to “feel” the inner world of our gut and its contents. Much of this neural firepower comes to bear in the elaborate daily grind of digestion. Breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and expelling of waste requires chemical processing, mechanical mixing and rhythmic muscle contractions that move everything on down the line.
Thus equipped with its own reflexes and senses, the second brain can control gut behavior independently of the brain, Gershon says. We likely evolved this intricate web of nerves to perform digestion and excretion “on site,” rather than remotely from our brains through the middleman of the spinal cord. “The brain in the head doesn’t need to get its hands dirty with the messy business of digestion, which is delegated to the brain in the gut,” Gershon says. He and other researchers explain, however, that the second brain’s complexity likely cannot be interpreted through this process alone.
‘The system is way too complicated to have evolved only to make sure things move out of your colon,’ says Emeran Mayer, professor of physiology, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.).”
Indeed. This system is extremely complex and evolved, and carries vital information about our healthy, safety and comfort. Practice being in tune with your body intelligence, with the sensations in your gut, and trust that those feelings are guiding you to make good decisions.
Read the full article from Scientific American: