Ever feel butterflies in your stomach before a big event? Or get queasy when you know you’re done something wrong? That “gut feeling” results from an overlooked network of neurons that line your gut, and their relationship with the brain is both fascinating and complicated.
The digestive system has its own, local nervous system that is extremely complex, and handles the majority of digestion. It is called the Enteric Nervous System.
Sensory neurons receive information from sensory receptors and compile a list of information about the digestive tract, then send reports to the brain.
Motor neurons control gastrointestinal motility, secretion, and absorption. The enteric nervous system relays information to the muscles in the digestive tract.
Interneurons collect information from sensory neurons and relay that information to motor neurons.
The connection between the stomach and the brain is so strong that what you eat can have significant impact on your mood and behavior.
45% of people suffer from a form of food intolerance.
97% of people polled reported problems related to mood as primary symptom of food intolerance.
73% of people polled stated that their mood significantly improved after altering their diets.
90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut.
70% of the body’s immune system is concentrated is the gut.
Recent research also shows a frequent association between depression and gastrointestinal inflammation. Because of this, one of the most effective, and natural, ways of treating depression is through eliminating foods you are intolerant of, or sensitive to, from your diet.
With such a tight-knit relationship, it’s not a surprise that eating unhealthy could eventually cause damage to your brain as well. A diet high in simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats will cause more than just chubby gut.
It only takes 10 minutes after consumption of a cheeseburger or donut for the fatty food to impair the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Chronic consumption of foods high in sugar and fat cause suppression of the brain peptide BDNF (brain-deprived neurotrophic factor) which is involved in memory formation.
A fatty diet will cause the pancreas to spike insulin production while it tries to metabolize the junk food, leading to the brain to become insulin-resistant and causing permanent neural damage.
While healthy omega fatty acids support the flow of chemical signals between neurons, “bad” fats slow it down effecting cognitive behaviors.