“Within the human gut lies a “second brain”: a vast network of neurons located along the intestinal lining. It’s called the enteric nervous system—enteric as in “pertaining to the gut”—and for years researchers assumed its sole province lay in regulation of the digestive process. Researchers now know that the enteric nervous system also relays and sends neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA, responds to emotions, and has a direct conduit to the brain via the vagus nerve.
The gut is not the site of higher-level cognition. The neurochemical processes responsible for writing emails, doing trigonometry, and reading this blog post occur solely in the brain. But though decision-making and conscious thought happen up top, the gut has a lot of input on how those thoughts and decisions develop. About 90% of traffic along the vagus flows from gut to brain, and it’s not all information about intestinal contractions. The second brain is likely the province of instinct, subconscious response, and emotion. In other words, gut feeling, gut instinct, butterflies in your stomach, and got the guts? aren’t just figures of speech. They hint at real physiological processes occurring along the gut-brain axis.
Emerging evidence is showing that our enteric nervous system, and the gut bacteria, probiotics, and prebiotics that comprise and affect it, have effects on how we think, feel, perform, and respond to the world around us.” writes Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple. (Read more here.)
Mark continues to list a variety of mental and emotional health challenges that have become increasingly common in our society. Each of them is then linked to research and evidence showing that manipulating the microbiome of the gut can drastically change factors and symptoms common to mental and emotional health challenges. Depression, anxiety, autism, cognitive flexibility, and reactivity are all sited in relation to gut health in his comprehensive article on the topic. It would now seem that the answer to many common mental health problems may now begin in healing the gut. Ready to balance the mind? Get started balancing the body. Schedule a Functional Physical with your doctor at Lake Pointe for a personalized protocol to heal the gut.