The Gut Brain

February 15, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Posted in Health, Nature, Science | 2 Comments

Scientists have come to view the Enteric nervous system (ENS) of the gastrointestinal tract as something of a second brain, the “gut brain”. Unlike other arms of the nervous system, it is capable of local autonomous function, and thus it’s own decision-making ability. It is however much more limited in scope than our actual brain.

However, it can have a profound effect on our cognitive functions – something we have all experienced if we get over-hungry or indigestion.

More fascinating still though is that the gut system is not a simple chemical digestion factory but “more like a super-complex ecosystem containing trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms.” “such microbiota, specifically within the gut, can greatly influence many physiological parameters, including cognitive functions, such as learning, memory and decision making processes.

Here we review evidence on the ability of the gut microbiota to communicate with the brain and thus modulate behavior, and also elaborate on the ethological and cultural strategies of human and non-human primates to select, transfer and eliminate microorganisms…

While some bacteria we work to control, there are a number of kinds we live with which are vital to our well-being and ability to digest some foods. We have trillions of cells in the body but actually carry a lot more bacteria. Though invisible to the eye, there are so many that it’s suggested they add between 2 and 9 lb to our body weight.

On the cellular level, we are not “a person”, we are a vast community. Add in the microbes and we are an entire ecosystem of life, broadly working for mutual enrichment. Take a city the size of London. Now add in 500,000 more of them. The population under your skin is much larger.
David

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  1. This is fascinating stuff, David! I love this: “On the cellular level, we are not “a person”, we are a vast community” No wonder I can’t convince them all at the same time that “we” don’t want that piece of chocolate!

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  2. (laughs) You’re right, Anne. Some cells are not so happy with our diet. But other cells love it. Sometimes, we have to do a little training and shift some habits so they experience better options. Then better choices become easier.

    But our anti-fat culture has seen the rise of sugar to replace fat for flavour, leading to more fat rather than less. We end up having to culture different psychological, dietary, and physical habits to counter whats surrounds us. Not to mention culturing changes in that inner community that favour health. 2 whole communities askew!

    Thanks for commenting.

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