Donít blame the brain, it may be gut

If you thought that your brain controls all your decisions, think again. Recent research suggests that gut feeling controls how we feel, what we choose to eat, etc.

All of us give in to temptation and consume unhealthy food, even when fully aware of its harmful effects. It is obvious that knowing about the harmful effects alone is not enough to control eating habits.

This 'second brain' in our gut consists of about 100 million neurons. It controls many aspects of eating. Among these are mood-regulating hormones, several neurotransmitters including serotonin, appetite regulating hormones including ghrelin, neuropeptide Y and digestion controlling neurotransmitters. This could have far-reaching implications in management of body weight, mood, immunity and digestive disorders like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

In other words, gut feeling determines our mental state. The 'second brain' however, is not the seat of any conscious thoughts or decision-making.

While it is well known that the brain sends signals to the rest of the body, it seems that gut feelings go to the brain. Equipped with its own reflexes and senses, the 'second brain' can control digestion and gut behaviour.

A large part of our emotions are probably influenced by nerves or the 'second brain'. Our gut feelings and butterflies in the stomach literally root from the gut. The 'second brain' informs the state of one's mind to the brain in obscure ways. Scientists have learnt that 95 per cent serotonin secreted by the body is found in the bowels. Serotonin levels in the body are linked to several diseases. Too much serotonin causes symptoms that can range from mild shivering or diarrhoea to severe symptoms like muscle rigidity, fever or seizures. It is no wonder that conventional treatment involving altering serotonin levels provokes gastro-intestinal issues as a side-effect. Irritable bowel syndrome, one of the most common digestive disorders, arising in part from too much serotonin in our intestines, could perhaps be regarded as the mental illness of the 'second brain'. This information may be useful in regulating our emotional well-being, treatment of stress and depression. Ultimately, this could lead to modifying your eating behaviour through the gut.

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