Scientists today believe that the gut functions as a second brain. But this does not necessarily mean that it will help you study for a test or get a better position at work, your gut can influence the chemistry of your mood, emotions, immune system and long-term health.

10 facts about the intelligence of the gut that you did not know

Research even suggests that the gut can “learn” new tricks through conditioning. These powerful connections are part of an emerging field of science called neurogastroenterology, designed to study the gut-brain link. Here are 10 facts you didn’t know about the intelligence of your intestines .

1. The intestine is the only organ in the system that can carry out its functions without the supervision of the brain.

You could think of your gut as a rebel against authority; it doesn’t wait for your brain’s impulses to do the important work of digestion. It is not necessary as the intestine acts as its own “brain”. No other organ, even the “almighty” heart, can compare with this ability.

2. There are more than 100 million brain cells in your gut

The power of your gut to think for itself is no surprise; There are millions of brain cells, or neurons, in its long ducts (9 meters of intestines, from the esophagus to the anus). And there are more neurons than those found in the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system.

3. The intestine has its own nervous system

The enteric nervous system , is the control mechanism of digestion and elimination, is the sovereign of your intestine and works on its own. Some scientists see it as part of the central nervous system, while others consider it to be unique to the intestine. It probably evolved to give the gut the order to continue.

4. The gut sends emotional signals to the brain, suggesting that we “feel” first with our intestines

There is a large visceral nerve, embedded in the intestine, the vagus nerve . Research has revealed that up to 90% of its fibers carry information from the gut to the brain, rather than the other way around. In other words, the brain interprets signals from the gut as emotions. So sometimes you really have to trust your intestines.

5. Gastrointestinal conditions can be seen as the “mental illness” of the intestine

95 percent of your body’s serotonin , that wonderful mood molecule that serves as an antidepressant like Prozac in your body, can be found in the gut. Think about it. It’s no wonder diet, medications, and antibiotics can wreak havoc on your mood.

6. A healthy gut can protect your bones

In a study of the serotonin-gut relationship, scientists discovered an unexpected link between the gut and bones. Inhibiting the release of serotonin in the gut had counteracted the reduction in bone density from osteoporosis .

7. New research shows links between autism and fewer strains of bacteria in the gut

In nine out of 10 cases, autistic people share gut imbalances such as leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and fewer strains of “good” bacteria. Research is looking for possible treatments for some of the behavioral disorders of autism by balancing bacteria in the gut, although many warn that these treatments cannot produce a “cure” for autism.

8. Food affects your mood

There are different foods that, when introduced into the intestine through feeding tubes, have been shown to cause a change in the person’s moods, without their being aware of what they were “eating”. Fat, for example, increased feelings of happiness and pleasure (not surprising, right?) That seem to trigger the release of dopamine, the brain’s natural opiate. Also, the consumption of carbohydrates stimulated the release of serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter.

9. Your gut is your best friend in cold and flu season

Your gut not only has many of the brain cells, but it is also home to most of the immune cells – 70 percent – and these come in the form of gut-associated lymphoid tissue, or TLAI, which plays a huge role in defense, killing and expelling foreign invaders of disease. TLAI and your gut microbiome, which are the trillions of bacteria that live as a vast microbial universe in your gut, work hard to help you get rid of what ails you the most. It is all the more reason to be careful with the use of antibiotics , since they kill the good bacteria along with the bad ones.

10. Your gut can become addicted to opiates, just like your brain

Opiate receptors are found within your intestines, which are also found in the brain. The gut is just as susceptible to addiction as the brain and can, in fact, contribute to the intense difficulty some addicts have in kicking the habit.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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