As Olympians go for the gold in Vancouver, even the steeliest are likely to experience that familiar feeling of “butterflies” in the stomach. Underlying this sensation is an often-overlooked network of neurons lining our guts that is so extensive some scientists have nicknamed it our “second brain”. A deeper understanding of this mass of neural tissue, filled with important neurotransmitters, is revealing that it does much more than merely handle digestion or inflict the occasional nervous pang. The little brain in our innards, in connection with the big one in our skulls, partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body.
Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach or a gut wrenching experience? You know, that type of feeling that you get in your stomach when you are nervous or excited about something? As it turns out there is a scientific explanation as to why, the gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anxiety, anger, sadness, excitement can all trigger physical symptoms in the gut. There is a network of neurons that line our guts; it is so extensive that some scientists have even nicknamed it our second brain.
As it turns out, our gut does a whole lot more than handle digestion and cause feelings of nervousness, in connection with our brain; the gut partly determines our mental well-being and plays a key role in the development of diseases throughout the body. In turn, it has been concluded that a healthy gut helps in maintaining good mental and emotional health what …
Researchers in Ireland found that when the vagus nerve in mice was severed, they no longer saw the brain respond to changes to the beneficial bacteria in the rodents’ bowels. Scientists have also begun to study certain neurochemicals that they are finding to be produced by certain bacteria. The implication is this: that gut microbes can produce their own version of neurotransmitters, such as those found in the brain (i.e. dopamine, serotonin). This is another way that gut microbes might be communicating with the brain. Therefore, having a healthy gut means having a healthy mind.
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