If you’ve ever eaten that second turkey leg or that extra piece of pie and felt terrible, sluggish, and sleepy after doing so, you already know how powerful the gut-brain connection is. You may wonder, “Why did I just eat that, while consciously knowing how bad I might feel afterward?” How do these pesky cravings get triggered and what can we do about them? In Chinese culture or traditions, food is considered to be a mood-altering chemical. So what does this mean for us and how can we use knowledge about the brain-gut connection to live a better life?
The connection between the brain and the gut is so strong that a new field of science has developed called neurogastroenterology, where specialists are currently studying the correlation between mental health and gut health. In this new field, the gut is referred to as the “second brain”. The idea that our minds and our guts are more connected than we think comes from the holistic health industry that has been pioneering this idea for decades.
Dr. Michael D. Gershon says in his book “The Second Brain” that we have more nerve cells in our bowel than in our spine and our brain. He goes on to say that, “Since the enteric nervous system can function on its own, it must be considered possible that the brain in the bowel may also have its own psychoneuroses.” In other words, our gut can operate independently and on its own from the brain — running processes we may not be consciously aware of.
Are Probiotics Working?
If you are new to probiotics and would like to give them a try, be wary of something called the Herxheimer reaction. Beneficial bacteria may cause an inhibition or die-off of bad bacteria or fungi, which must exit the body via the feces or urine. With large numbers of toxins, these exit routes may become overcrowded and unable to accommodate the mass exit immediately. It is during this time that the individual may experience a Herxheimer reaction – temporary toxic or allergic symptoms such as bloating, gas and/or headaches. It is important to realize that these reactions are positive signs that the body is ridding itself of toxins and their toxic by-products. We suggest increasing the amount slowly to avoid bloating and/or gas.