How the gut-brain relationship works
According to the author of the book "The Prodigious Enzyme", Hiromi Shinya, many foods that are good for the intestine, are also good for our brain. For example, blue fish (such as mackerel and sardines), soybeans, fruits and vegetables of different colors, seaweed, rice, barley, etc.
Shinya states: “The intestines process nutrients for the brain. Food is absorbed from the intestines and nutrients are sent from there to the entire body. This is an important question when considering what is good for the brain, because those foods that are harmful to your intestines cannot be good for your brain. "
This is how drinks high in sugar, alcohol, tobacco and excessive consumption of foods of animal origin, cause adverse effects for the intestines and, also, for the brain. In his books, the author proposes treating the body as a unit, whose organs and systems are all interconnected, therefore, if one is affected, the other is also altered.
For his part, the neurologist David Perlmutter, in his book "Feed your Brain" maintains that what is currently happening in a person's intestine determines their risk of suffering from a neurological disorder. Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, as early as the 3rd century B.C. He stated that "all disease begins in the intestine."
In the 19th century, Nobel Prize-winning biologist Élie Mechnikov established a link between human longevity and the healthy balance of bacteria in our bodies, stating that "death begins in the colon." Let's go a little further to learn about this interaction.
THE INTESTINE-BRAIN AXIS
Until not many years ago it was believed that the brain was the one that, in an absolute way, exercised control over the rest of the organs and systems of the human body, including the intestines. Today, after numerous studies and investigations, it is known that the intestine has the same power, in such a way that it is considered as our “second brain” thanks to its numerous biochemical and cellular similarities.
How does the connection work?
Among the muscle layers that line the intestines, we find hundreds of neurons that make up what is known as the Enteric Nervous System (SNE), whose structure is identical to that of brain neurons and has the ability to release the same neurotransmitters, hormones, and chemical molecules.
The main difference is that this neural network is not capable of generating thoughts, so through it we cannot reason or make decisions. Still, studies show that our second brain is capable of perception, memory, and learning, as well as experiencing and reflecting emotions like fear.
This communication between the brain and the intestine occurs by complex mechanisms, many of which are still being studied. However, it is this complex connection that explains how emotions, an inadequate response to stress, or other neurological disturbances can affect intestinal function.
One of the best-known communication pathways is through the vagus nerve, which runs from the medulla oblongata of the brain to the cavities of the chest and abdomen and functions as an information channel from our digestive tract to our brain. and vice versa.
So much so, that the first to perceive our emotions, moods and stress is our intestine. For this reason, part of the approach to intestinal pathologies, such as the irritable colon, consists of the practice of relaxation techniques, meditation, conscious breathing, which help to alleviate stress and restore the much-needed balance.