Our gut , is it our firt brain?
Its never been more clearer the aphorism “we are what we eat”.
Not many people realize they have two brains. Yes, you read that
right. And your second brain may have more to do with your health that you
We tend to think of our cranial brain as the command center from which all
physiological functions stem. But there is another intelligence in your body
that you may not realize… and its importance to your health may be the key
you’re looking for when searching for the cause of chronic illness and even
mental health issues.
Yes, you have read right, what we know informally as “innards” is actually a
brain and its neurological function is extraordinarilly similar to that of our
cranial brain with which shares several similarities on biochemical and
cellular level. And aint just that, our cranial brain could not subsist without
our belly brain, but our belly brain actually could subsit without any problem
by its own.
Both are in constant communication, but aversely to what we would suppose,
it is actually our gut brain the one that sends more messages to the one
called first brain!
Our belly brain, known to scientists as the enteric nervous system, is
connected to our cranial brain by the vagus nerve. The same brainregulating chemicals found in your cranial brain have also been found in your
belly brain — including hormones and neurotransmitters. It’s estimated that
one hundred million neurotransmitters line the length of the gut,
approximately the same number found in the cranial brain. (Dr. Gershon,
Scientific American: Think Twice)
The vagus nerve -the tenth of the twelve pairs of cranial nerves- is a
fascinating nerve. It is known as the compassion’s nerve by the neurologist
Stephen W. Porges who set this curious nickname when he found out the
lovely nature of the nerve’s activity. Within all its functions, it is the one
that produces those hot waves that expand through our chest when we get
excited or something move us. The same waves that provoke that warmth
internally when we are hugged.
Recent investigations have made honor to its denomination and have
determined that the vagus nerve´s activation is related to elevated feelings
such as altruism, gratitude and compassion. Besides today it is known that its
stimulation can increase our cognitive skills, calms our mood and generates more
harmony balancing our behavior.
It is not strange at all that some authors refer to this compassion nerve as the
connection between body and spirit.
As said, the gut network goes through one hundred million of nerve cells (almost as
much as the spinal cord). The big difference is that this enteric nervous system is
not able to generate conscious thought and therefore neither reason, or make
decisions. Which means that the belly brain does feel, but it doesn’t think,
although it seems to “know” and “perceive” intuitively.
Vanguards invetigations are beginning to consider the hypothesis that the enteric
brain has the ability to experience-not just reflect-basic emotions such as fear, and
suffer their own neurotic disorders (chronic ulcers and ailments such as gastritis, for
It is more and more evident that the neural network that covers the entire digestive
tract goes far beyond the digestive function, which is inherently quite complex:
driving food through the entire digestive tube by peristaltic wave movements,
secrete digestive juices, digest food, absorb nutrients, transport this material to
the circulatory system, expel waste products, etc.
In the history of evolution it is known that the gut brain appeared before the cranial
It was actually the original brain. Primitive unicellular organisms appeared more
than three thousand five hundred million years ago and consisted of a mere
digestive tube, from which the enteric nervous system (SNE) would develop.
These organisms survived clinging to the rocks waiting for the food to pass by
casually. With the evolution of life on earth, these organisms would develop more
complex systems and the central nervous system (CNS) would appear.
In regard to embryonic development, the two brains have the same origin. The CNS
and SNE came from the neural crest, a population of migratory cells that appears in
the early stages of the process. Once they migrate, some of them will be part of
the central nervous system and others of the enteric nervous system.
For the sages of ancient Egypt, our bowels were considered as the organ of feelings,
understanding and intelligence while for oriental medicine, the belly area was our
authentic vital center -dan tien for China or hara in the Japanese martial arts
(point perfectly identified and located below the navel.) In that center are
integrated mind and body. It is an energetic center in which to concentrate the chi
(universal or cosmic energy), and with it, the personal power. It is an internal
compass loaded with wisdom.
In the Ebers agreement, one of the first medical agreements ever known
(approximately 1550 BC) the “frightened” heart appears directly associated to a bad
digestion, being Thoth, God of the health, source of inspiration for the practice of
the enemas that was applied as much to kings as to plebeians. Both in ancient
Egypt and in ancient India was considered the cleaning of the intestine of utmost
importance and more than a biological practice, it was considered an emotional and
even energetic cleansing: the heart hurt, overwhelmed and confused and to release
the harmful energy trapped to restore vitality.
In many texts of different mystical and religious backgrounds, the relationship
between body cleansing and purity of spirit are clearly discussed. And not only
about spiritual purity, also about the clarity of ideas.
From the oriental point of view, the secret of health and wellness- known as a state
of deep serenity and calm coupled with the correct integration of all organic
systems would reside in the capacity to connect with that vital center below the
navel. That is precisely the goal of disciplines such as Taichi or Chikung.
Also the point of acupuncture called Shen in the abdominal region is responsible for
distributing chi (ancestral energy) throughout the body. According to acupuncture,
The abdomen is a complex system of regulation and control. It is formed during the
embryonic phase and it is the mother system of the entire meridian´s system we
And as expressed by Dr. Camilla Rowlands: “It is modern man who has wrapped the
whole intestinal issue in a thick halo of taboo and indifference, if not disgust. I
suppose that it is part of that denaturalization that we suffer from having distanced
us so much from our essence and having let go of the hand of our mother nature.
But our mother always comes looking for us. And she finds us. “
In short, it seems that what we are, is a matter of viscera which opens us to a
fascinating and incredible alternative in the battle against psychiatric, neurological
and autoimmune diseases.
Marisia Jiménez N. D.
Based on Camilla Rowlands’ book