Meet Your Second Brain: It's in Your Gut


As we have discussed in many blog articles, our bodies are made up of more bacteria than actual cells, and these many trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms make up our microbiota, which is also known by many as microbiome. Everyone has their own ‘microbial community’ within them, and the makeup and balances within these communities vary for everyone.

 Over recent years, microbiome research has become a hot topic. It has also been determined that not only do the microbiome help with digestion, but they also affect our autoimmune and gastrointestinal systems and many brain disorders. A healthy gut is key to our overall health.

Our guts have their own neural networks called the enteric nervous system (ENS), which is a complex system, containing a mesh-like sheath of neurons that are made up of about 100 million nerves and found in the lining of the gut. This enteric nervous system (ENS) is often referred to as the “second brain.” It regulates the movement of food through the digestive system and communicates to the immune system.

Unfortunately, little is known about how this ENS system responds to areas, such as medications. But, it is known that the malfunctioning of this ENS nervous system is the cause of many different known gastro issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and incontinence. These are known as ‘functional gastrointestinal disorders,’ because they relate to the malfunctioning of the ENS gut nervous system, but the general GI tract may be functioning properly.



According to research news from Science Daily, Xiling Shen, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University, and his team have developed a system for observing the gut’s nervous system in mice. Further, the Duke University researchers have developed a system for recording electrical and optical activity, as well. This will allow them to be able to observe and record neural activity.

According to Dr. Shen, “This innovation will help us understand this ‘dark’ nervous system that we currently have completely no idea about.”

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