Our Guts Have a Brain Too!

Did you know that our guts have the second largest collection of neurons in our body? Our brains come in first, and are guts are second. Meaning, there are in fact more neurons in our guts than our spinal cord! Scientists coined the term the “second brain” for this collection of nerve endings which gives some truth to that sensation of having “butterflies in the stomach” when we are nervous.

When we are stressed, anxious, or worried, we activate our “fight or flight” response in our sympathetic nervous systems. When we were cave men, this process helped us escape from predators and was intended to be short-lived. The “fight or flight” response shuts down blood flow to our guts to divert more blood flow to our hearts, lungs, and muscles to help us escape a hungry tiger or bear. Now, in modern society, we rarely have an actual predator to run away from and have chronically high stress. These persistently high stress levels cause us to remain in an activated “fight or flight” response for weeks, months, and possibly even years!

Having so much overdrive of our sympathetic nervous system keeps our parasympathetic nervous system turned off or functioning suboptimally. This aspect of our nervous system is responsible for rest and digestion. When our parasympathetic nervous system is activated, our bodies relax, blood flow to our guts increases, and we are prepared to adequately digest nutrients, knowing that there is no “tiger” waiting to attack us. In our fast paced society, it is becoming more critical for us to take steps to quiet our sympathetic nervous system (our “fight or flight” response) and stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system (our “rest and digest” response).

Want to learn more about natural ways to activate our “rest and digest” abilities and to optimize digestion? Join me for an informative session, “Put a Stop on Stress so you can Rest and Digest” on Thursday, September 20th, from 7-8pm at Goodness Me, 176 Locke Street, Hamilton. Visit http://drlisatabrizind.wordpress.com/events/ for more details.

To read more about the “second brain” phenomenon, visit http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=gut-second-brain