Almost as much, perhaps even as much, as our minds do.
We spend all our time working our brain and the rest of our body to boost our emotions, but we may be ignoring half the cause of problems. Isn’t it exciting to think that we can literally feel happier and emotionally stronger, even boost our immune system and overall health, just by taking better care of our gut?
If you’re feeling down, anxious, depressed, or just want a big old boost of happiness-inducing serotonin, it turns out your gut most likely has a huge influence over it all, as its proposed in this very entertaining Huffington Post article.
The little friends in your second brain
You’ve probably heard of our friends the ‘good bacteria’ battling it out against the ‘bad bacteria’ in our digestive tract – our second brain. Well, the state of these micro flora and how well the good bacteria are doing determines a whole host of health-related factors.
For example, good bacteria decides how well the toxic by-products of your digestion are neutralized and whether harmful pathogenic bacteria or other substances are prevented or allowed to grow. And it determines how much hormone production there is and many other factors that affect the health of your immune system.
Did you know you have two nervous systems too?
That’s right. You have two nervous systems – one is the central nervous system we all know and love, which is in your brain and spinal cord. But you also have the ‘enteric’ nervous system, which is in your gastrointestinal tract – your gut.
Through this whole system your brain and gut are connected and the bacteria in your gut sends messages to the brain through the nervous system. These messages affect your mood, and you know the surprising part?
Your gut sends your brain more messages than the other way around. Your gut sends instructions on how to make you feel all day long. And since we can influence those messages, it’s something we should pay attention to, wouldn’t you agree?
Happiness, anxiety and depression
You have neurons in your gut, which is another reason we call it the second brain. And these neurons produce neurotransmitters like serotonin – the primary chemical responsible for your feelings of well-being and happiness. We all know that, right?
But here’s another surprise. Serotonin is found in larger quantities in the gut than in the brain. So let’s influence our primary serotonin-producing environment in our gut and make more of it!
You may have experienced stomach pains or irritable bowel syndrome during times of great anxiety. There’s clearly a strong relationship between anxiety and the health of our gut.
There is even a strong line of scientific work proposing that certain probiotics can affect levels of proinflammatory cytokines and tryptophan in the gut, which have been implicated in depression.
“OK, I get it! So how do I start improving my gut?!” I hear you ask.
Well, that’s the next stage of my investigation. And don’t worry, I’ll share my findings with you as I go.
Perhaps you already have some ideas.
Share them with us!