If someone asked you how many brains do you have, what would be your answer? Stupid question huh, of course I have one brain. Did you know that there are other nervous systems in our body known as the enteric nervous system (ENS) that is located in our belly. It has been as called the second brain. Have you ever heard the expression “I have a gut feeling.” Well that feeling may really come from that second brain. Interesting!
“The enteric nervous system in humans consists of some 500 million neurons, one two-hundredth of the number of neurons in the brain, five times as many as the one hundred million neurons in the human spinal cord, and about 2/3 as many as in the whole nervous system of a cat. The enteric nervous system is embedded in the lining of the gastrointestinal system, beginning in the esophagus and extending down to the anus.” (Wikipedia)
That is phenomenal. It takes an enormous amount of coordination and effort for the body to transform food into fuel. If this was left to your brain alone, then we would not be functioning for most of the day. This sounds like me after a heavy meal – non-functioning. The brain delegates the digestive task to the ENS, which is built into our digestive system.
Digestion requires a variety of very precise chemical mixtures produced at the right times and delivered to the right locations. The wall of the intestine is coated with specialized cells that act as chemical detectors that identify the food you eat. The data sent by these detectors tells the ENS what digestive enzymes are required to break the food down into particles that the body can absorb. Mind boggling but truly a wonder of creation.
Did you know that 70 – 80 percent of the lymphocyte cells (immune system defense) in your body is in your belly? The ENS also plays a role in the regulation of hormones that tell the brain when you should eat and how much you should eat. Even telling the brain when you are full or feel nauseous.
Did you also know that during stress the brain triggers the ENS to change the gut’s normal contractions. These are the muscle contractions needed to make the system function like a conveyor belt to move the waste through your intestines. Hmmm, beginning to make sense now why stress causes so many digestive issues. If you have not yet performed a liver, gallbladder and colon cleanse take a look at Body Cleansing 101.
Next time you eat a meal, pause and think about all the monitoring, data processing, coordination and communication that is about to take place in your digestive system.
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Did you Know?
Have you gone to the drug store and picked up a bottle of vitamin and it has written on the label ‘enteric coated‘. What does it mean? It is a tablet that is coated with a material to allow it to dissolve in the small intestine only and prevent dissolution in the acidic environment of the stomach. It also protects the stomach from irritating drugs (e.g. aspirin).