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Nutrition: Your Second Brain

gut second brain

After being here at Hilton Head Health for a little over a year, I have witnessed numerous guests accomplish things they may have never thought possible.  Victories such as fighting through the 15 degree incline in treading class, pushing through a 60 second plank, or trying TRX for the first time.  The body is pretty incredible—it continues to show up.

So where am I going with this… from a nutrition standpoint, your body does things for you that we don’t see day-to-day.  Amazing things that we can take for granted.  In particular, more research is coming out about our gut health and its impact on our overall wellbeing.  Scientists and researchers are starting to call your stomach, gut and the digestive system the “second brain.”  How cool is that??  Our stomach and intestines can’t make decisions for us, yet alone have a basic understanding of what is going on in our lives, but it does make a connection to brain we have located in our skull.   What researchers know so far…

  1. According to the chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, there are some 100 million neurons located in the second brain—this is more than in either the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system.  The second brain consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut, or alimentary canal, which measures about nine meters end to end from the esophagus to you know where if you just think about it…
  2. The gastrointestinal system is what helps you break down you food, mix your food, breakdown your food even more, absorb the nutrients (including water) you need and eliminate any waste products from your bodies.  Of course you don’t physically see this going on, but those neurons lining the digestive system are in close contact (via vagus nerve) with the brain in your skull—influencing your emotional state, mood, and well-being.
  3.  The enteric nervous system, including the second brain, uses more than 30 neurotransmitters—just like the brain.  In fact 95% of the body’s serotonin is found in the bowels…it is no wonder certain anti-depressants can cause gastrointestinal issues.  Also, the director of UCLA’s Center for Neurobiology of Stress refers to your second brain as the “internal face that reflexively reflects your state of mind.”  Interestingly, 90% of those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome also suffer from mental-health problems.

Watch this recent news CBS broadcast focusing on gut bacteria

HEALTHY bacterium helps digest your food as well as using your food for its own fuel to help keep your immune system in check.  However, the bacterium that lines your gut needs fiber rich foods—processed foods and alcohol can actually kill the good stuff.  Another reason to get a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and nuts…

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