If you have a high regard for human intelligence, then it’s reasonable to assume that you probably have a relatively high estimation of the value of your brain.
There are not very many people would take a stand against the complete domination of the brain as one of our most useful organs to run the show.
Modern medicine often looks at the grey matter behind our eyes as a sort of “command central;” the originator of the instructions by which we live our lives. But there just happens to be another kind of intelligence that’s an equally powerful metabolic force. Scientists have revealed that rather than the one brain found in our head, we actually have two brains with the other one being located in our digestive tract.
Sometimes referred to as the “gut-brain,” it is much smarter than we may have ever imagined. And by putting this additional gut brain into action, it can work to change your metabolism and your life forever.
Scientifically known as the enteric nervous system (ENS), this gut brain resides beneath the mucosal lining and in between the muscular layers of our esophagus, the stomach, and both the small and large intestines. This enteric nervous system is a profuse and complicated network of neurons and neuro-chemicals that can sense and control events in many other parts of the body, including our head-brain.
To their amazement, when scientists were finally able to count the number of nerve cells in this gut-brain, they found over one hundred million neurons; that’s more than the number of nerve cells contained in the entire spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.
This discovery presupposes that there’s an enormous source of potentially untapped intelligence at our disposal.
In addition to the discovery of this extensive network of neurons in the gut, scientists and researchers also found the entire digestive tract to be lined with cells that produce and receive a complete variety of neuropeptides and neuro-chemicals.
These are the same substances that were previously thought to exist in the head-brain alone and include serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and glutamate. Ironically, over 90 percent of the body’s serotonin lies in the gut, as well as approximately 50 percent of the body’s dopamine.
Most of us have heard the estimates that we generally use only 10 percent (or less) of our brain’s capacity and this certainly applies to the use of our gut-brain’s potential as well.
Our gut-brain is, and has been an untapped source of wisdom, power and information and will remain so unless we acknowledge its capacity to function in conjunction with the head-brain. In the words of Emeran Mayer, professor of physiology, psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at U.C.L.A.; “The system is way too complicated to have evolved only to make sure things move out of your colon.”
But the fact remains that a great percentage of the enteric nervous system’s neural energy is used up in the elaborate daily chore of digestion and assimilation. Sadly, our gut’s intelligence has been so underused for so long, and now many suspect, even “dumbed-down” from decades of junk food and processed foods, (plus the exposure to an ever increasing toxic world).
This increases the burden of the process of breaking down food, the absorption of nutrients, and the elimination of waste, all of which require chemical conversion, mechanical mixing along with peristalsis (rhythmic muscle contractions) to insure that everything keeps moving on down the line.
Fortunately there are measures that we can take to free up the gut-brain’s power and wisdom and assist it in the digestion/assimilation/elimination process.
A number of factors, including poor diet, medication, illness, stress and aging, can deplete levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut, compromising its ability to do the job it was designed to do. That’s why it is important to incorporate a good, high-quality probiotic supplement into your daily diet. Probiotic bacterial cultures are intended to assist the body’s naturally occurring gut flora (an ecology of microbes) to re-establish themselves. They are sometimes recommended by doctors and, more frequently, by nutritionists, following a fast or cleanse, after a course of antibiotics, or as part of the treatment for a host gut related conditions, including Candidiasis (an infection caused by a yeast-like fungus called Candida).
Digestive enzymes can aid in the digestive process, but only in the short term, since reliable sources suggest that the body can become dependent on digestive enzymes and stop producing its own, and therefore long term supplementation is considered risky and not generally advised.
Many people mistake the difference between probiotics and digestive enzymes, but they are quite different. Digestive enzymes are proteins and probiotics are living organisms. Probiotics are typically bacterial, enzymes, on the other hand, aren’t alive.
Summary: We can and should make a conscious decision to engage and even exercise our gut wisdom, but we need to tune in to this aspect of our physiology, we need to consult our gut, asking it for feedback and then assist it as we are able. When we begin to really notice our gut’s feelings we learn about its own special brand of intelligence, and its unique approaches to things; things that are realized via subtle sensations, including instinct and intuitions.
So now the question is; do you have the guts to listen to your gut?
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: HeyPaul Studios/Flickr
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