Your brain controls your body through the central nervous system (CNS). But you have another system of controls known as the enteric nervous system (ENS). Its health is so essential to your overall well-being and function that the ENS is sometimes referred to as a second brain.
The ENS is composed of 100 million nerve cells located in two thin layers that line your entire digestive system. In other words, the ENS starts in your throat and ends in your rectum.
Although — as far as we know — your second brain doesn’t create thoughts or inspire ideas, it does communicate constantly with your main brain.
The ENS controls all aspects of digestion, from the release of enzymes that help break down food to the flow of blood that aids in nutrient absorption. The ENS also influences how you feel.
At Natural Health Specialists, our holistic medicine specialist, Christopher J. Fischer, ND, helps you achieve optimal health. That’s why he considers the health of your gut when diagnosing and treating any condition or complaint.
Do you know how to keep your gut healthy? Find out below, and learn why it’s so important, too.
If your gut brain isn’t healthy, your other brain may not feel well, either. In fact, when the ENS is in distress, the signals it sends to your brain results in symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
In the past, researchers believed that mental health issues triggered problems in the gut, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While they were correct about the connection between the two brains, we now see that bowel issues may trigger emotional issues, as well as the other way around.
This constant communication between your two brains may explain why antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) help improve the symptoms of bowel distress. By soothing one brain, you soothe the other.
Healthy guts are filled with healthy bacteria. How much bacteria? About 10 to the 14th power’s worth — more than 10 times the number of cells the human body contains. You have about 1,000 species of bacteria in your gut. When they’re treated (and fed) well, they help your entire body thrive.
Good gut bacteria perform myriad functions, such as:
Plentiful good bacteria also strengthen the mucosal barrier that separates the inside of your intestines (and its fecal matter) from the rest of your body. When good gut bugs are replaced by bad ones due to dietary and other lifestyle choices, the results are unwanted conditions, including:
Research even suggests that imbalances in your gut bacteria affect how well your brain functions. A poor diet that doesn’t feed your good gut bugs may even play a role in cognitive decline.
What you eat determines how well your cells can build and rebuild themselves. It also determines the balance of good to bad bacteria in your gut, and so determines the health of your gut brain. This, in turn, affects that other, more well-known brain.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) and other westernized diets result in some truly sad statistics: Immigrants from countries where the diet emphasizes a variety of whole foods have a fourfold increased risk for obesity within 15 years of emigrating to the United States.
As more people around the globe indulge in the SAD — with its reliance on nutrient-poor fast foods — rates of Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic conditions have skyrocketed.
Many conditions that we now struggle to treat appear to start in the gut, due to the kinds of foods Americans eat and the kinds of bacteria those foods tend to nourish. Of course, the ideal is to feed the good bugs and banish the bad.
At Natural Health Specialists, we work with you to find a diet that works for both brains. We help you find the foods that feed your good gut bacteria but also are delicious and palatable enough to keep your (easily distracted) brain happy, too, as you build up a strong gut and strengthen both brains.
Do you want to learn more about how to feed your good bugs and eradicate the bad to achieve optimal gut (and brain and overall) health? Subscribe to our new client special today.
After your initial consultation and testing, you have monthly telehealth sessions to keep you on tracks as you keep the lines of communication humming and healthy between Brain 1 and Brain 2.
Although we’re based in East Northport, New York, Dr. Fischer sees all patients virtually. For an appointment, call us at 631-742-6697.