Why Scientists Call the Gut the Second Brain

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By: Krystle Crossman

Do you sometimes get pains in your stomach or have digestive problems for no reason at all? This could be a sign that there is something else going on. Doctors are now calling your stomach the “second brain” because so often digestive problems develop in tandem with mental health issues. This statistic is making doctors think and even making them change diagnosis and treatment plans.

If you were ever to look at your insides underneath a microscope you would be surprised and awed by what you saw. Millions upon millions of hot dog-shaped bacteria called microbiota are in your digestive tissues. They begin growing when you are born and continue to multiply through your life. This network of microbiota is called a microbiome. All in all it weighs around three pounds. Scientists are now finding that there are other organs and parts of the body other than the digestive tract that have these microbiomes as well.

While many different kinds of bacteria are bad and can cause infections, the microbiota are actually essential to your body. They take the nutrients from the foods that you eat and put them into your body, they kill off germs, and they regulate the development of your tissues. The bacteria are not left unsupervised however. The enteric nervous system keeps them in check. The microbiomes combined with the enteric nervous system are the reason that doctors are calling your stomach the “second brain”.

Your stomach produces more hormones than anywhere else in the body so when you are having digestive problems you may tend to become stress easily. It goes both ways however. If you are stressed out or have something else going on in your brain, it can affect digestion. A study showed that 90% of women who had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also had a mental health issue of some kind.

These microbiomes are not well-equipped to handle junk food when you eat it and can cause the mental issues and physical symptoms. Eating right and getting outside and exercising can help them along.

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