Messing with your head
THE gut brain or second brain ... What could be weirder than the realisation that we have another completely separate brain and nervous system than the one originating in our heads?
We are familiar with the central nervous system which travels along our spine and into our brain. But the second brain is nine metres long, is embedded throughout the walls of our gut and is made of millions more nerve cells than those found in the spinal cord, it extends from our mouths to our anus, and guess what? Science recognises that it thinks and feels of its own accord plus sends this information to our head brain!
And it does get weirder. Scientists have been shocked to discover that 90% of the cells in the main nerve joining the gut brain to the head brain were carrying the bulk of information from the gut to the skull brain, not the other way around!
Does this mean the gut brain is the real boss running the show?
Emeran Mayer, professor of physiology, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, says a big part of our emotions are influenced by our gut and that in the coming years, psychiatry will expand to treat both head brain and gut brain.
"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," Prof Mayer said.
It does this partly because 95% of our happy hormone, serotonin, is manufactured in our gut, not our head.
This could further explain a few interesting connections; such as why, when we eat particular foods we feel happy or sad. And with our gut having a large role to play in the immune system, could this also explain the phenomena of boosting the immune system through cheerfulness, as we see in clown doctor therapy?
The brain in our gut is certainly a constantly engaging field of science, health and wellness.
You can see Honor talk on the Deeper Levels of Health this week and next at The Noosa and Cooroy Libraries, phone 075329 6555.