13 Facts About Your Gut 

People talk about their gut feeling all the time, but you may not realise how much thinking the gut actually does. It’s considered a second brain by some scientists. While your gut can’t help you pass your exams or score that promotion, it can influence the chemistry that controls your emotions, mood, immune system, and long-term overall health. Research suggests the gut is able to “learn” through conditioning. These connections between the gut and the brain are part of an emerging scientific field called “neurogastroenterology”, which looks into the gut-brain link. Here are some important facts you should know about your gut.

1. Your Gut Doesn’t Need Your Brain – The Gut our Second Brain

Human brain

You may think of your gut as rebelling against authority. It gets to work on digestion without waiting for any input from the brain. It doesn’t need them because it is essentially able to think for itself and act on its own. It’s the only organ in your body capable of doing such a thing. Even the heart relies on the brain to be told what to do.

2.  There are Over 100 Million Brain Cells in the Gut 

It’s hardly surprising that the gut has the power of independent thought; after all, it contains millions of neurons across its 9 meters of intestines between your esophagus and anus. This is more neurons than is found in the peripheral nervous system or spinal cord. 

3. Guts Have their own Nervous System 

Neurons and nervous system

Digestion and elimination in the body is controlled by the enteric nervous system, which is the ruler of your gut. This enteric nervous system is able to function all by itself. Some scientists consider it to be part of the overall central nervous system, while others consider it to be an entirely separate entity. It’s likely that this system evolved as it did so that the brain can go when the impulse to use the bathroom strikes. This makes sense when you consider infants who have brand-new brains and likely wouldn’t be able to wait for the brain to approve of what is happening in their guts. 

4. There’s an Information Highway Between the Gut and Brain – Gut Brain Connection

The gut has a big visceral nerve embedded into it, known as the Vagus nerve. Research has shown that 90% of the fibers in the vagus nerve carry information from your gut to the brain, instead of the other way around. To put it simply, the brain interprets signals from the gut as emotions. That’s why you should listen to your gut. Your brain is! 

5. Most of Your Serotonin is Found in the Gut 

Around 95% of the serotonin in your body, the so-called “happy hormone” that antidepressants are powered by, is found in the gut. It’s hardly surprising that things like diet and medication can have such a drastic impact on your mood. 

6. A Healthy Gut can Lead to Healthy Bones 

A study into the relationship between serotonin and the gut discovered that there was also a link between the gut and bone health. Inhibiting the release of serotonin from the gut counteracted the bone-density reduction caused by osteoporosis in mice. The research has gone into studies on new drugs for tackling osteoporosis.  Research Shows

7. There Could be a connection Between Reduced Gut Bacteria and Autism – Gut Bacteria and Autism

In up to 9 out of 10 cases, it was shown that autistic people have common gut imbalances including; irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, and fewer strains of positive “good” bacteria in their gut. Research done on mice is looking into possibly treating behavioral disorders like autism by balancing gut microbes, but experts warn that such a treatment will not lead to a “cure” for autism. 

8. Food Can Affect Mood – Food and Mood connection

Different foods have been shown to affect moods when consumed, often without the person realizing what it was they were eating. “Fat” has been shown to increase feelings of pleasure and happiness, which is hardly a surprise, as it appeared to trigger the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a happy chemical produced by the body that works like an opiate. Consuming carbohydrates has been shown to stimulate the release of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that leaves you feeling good. 

9. Your Gut Gets You Through the Cold and Flu Season 

Your gut houses more than just brain cells. It’s also where around 70% of all of your immune cells can be found, where they are stored as gut-associated lymphoid tissue (or GALT). GALT plays a major part in getting rid of pathogens that make you sick. GALT work with the microbiome in your gut – the trillions of bacteria that live in the gut like an ecosystem – to get rid of whatever it is that’s ailing you. This is all the more reason to be careful when using antibiotics. They get rid of bad bacteria, sure, but they have no discrimination and can eliminate the good bacteria too. 

10. Your Gut Could Become Addicted to Opiates 

If you’re worried about opiates then you want to spare a thought for your gut. There are opiate receptors inside there, the same kind found in the brain. Your gut is just as susceptible to addiction as your brain is, and it can contribute to the difficulty that addicts can have kicking their habit. 

11. Your Microbiome is Found in your Intestines – Gut Microbiome

Enterobacteriaceae Bacteria Family

The microbiome contains all manner of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoans. It may also be used to house worm parasites. In a way, humans are constantly infected with something or another, but some of these infections can be positive things. 

12. Your Intestines are Long Enough to Cover Two Tennis Courts 

Tennis Court Closeup
intestines can cover 2 tennis courts

Your intestines take up a surprising amount of room inside your body. The surface area of your intestines, if they were to be laid out flat, would cover the size of two tennis courts. Your small intestine alone is around 20 feet long, while the large intestine is around 5 feet long. Remember that they are named after their size, not their length! Hence the “small” one being much longer than the “large” one. 

13. Transferring Bacteria Between Guts can Transfer Diseases, or Possibly Cure Them 

Studies in mice have shown that transferring the microbes from an obese mouse to a thin one could transfer obesity to the thin mouse. However, transferring microbes from a healthy person to a sick one is a powerful treatment for certain intestinal infections. Research is being conducted on how diseases are affected by the microbiome, with diseases such as Parkinson’s, autism, and multiple sclerosis being looked into. 

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