Discover The Amazing World Of The Gut: How Our Digestive System Can Impact Mental Health And Well-Being
When it comes to embracing the complexity of our digestive system and building a strong body, sometimes it pays to “have some guts!” We think digestion might not be a topic for polite conversation but in reality, our gut is much more interesting than we give it credit for.
Our digestory organs are an amazing machine that can do unbelievable things.
Take a piece of cake, for example.
Its journey through your body and its ability to break down food molecules shows us the astonishing capabilities of our digestive system.
In the sections following this one, you will learn not only what lactose intolerance really is but also how depression can be healed in mice and even how microbes can affect our consciousness.
We have so much potential locked away inside of us if we just have the guts to unlock it – figuratively, as well as literally!
Now that you have an idea of what digestion is all about, get ready to discover and explore the mysteries hidden inside of your digestive system with an open mind.
Unlocking The Amazing Functionality Of Our Underrated Digestive System
The gut is a unique and impressive organ – nothing to be ashamed of!
Though we often don’t talk about the inner workings of our digestive system, it’s actually quite fascinating, and is definitely not something we should be embarrassed about.
Indeed, if more of us knew more about what goes on inside our guts when we consume food, it could be highly beneficial for us.
We know very little about the complex functions performed by the gut on a daily basis and yet it plays an important role in digestion.
It uses smooth muscle tissue so that once we swallow our food it can independently speed up or slow down its progress without even involving our conscious mind.
What’s more, it’s also home to up to 100 billion bacteria which account for a whopping 99 percent of all microorganisms living in our body.
These bacteria play a key role in keeping us healthy and digesting our food properly so they’re really nothing to be ashamed of!
All in all, although we may not discuss it because its slightly gross, the gut is an incredible organ that deserves more recognition than it gets—it’s definitely nothing to be embarrassed about!
The Unconscious, Yet Incredible Power Of The Gut: Tracing A Journey Through The Digestive System
The food’s journey through our bodies starts with our outer senses, such as sight and smell.
When we see something tasty, like the piece of cake in the bakery window, our salivary glands get going and kick-start production of gastric acid in our gut.
The brain might try to resist but the powerful gut instinct takes over!
Once you enter the shop, sniffing out the delicious treat also comes into play.
Tiny scent particles from the cake travel through the air and dissolve in your mucus membrane before arriving at your brain, further increasing your desire for it.
Then finally when you take a bite, your tongue and jaw go to action along with taste sensation involved.
After chewing, the tongue positions it right against the palatal area of the mouth to prepare for swallowing.
This is when soft palate and pharynx close off sinus passages enabling it to reach your esophagus and smooth muscles zone, finally unlocking its journey within your body.
Digesting Food Is An Automatic And Complex Process That Keeps Us Healthy And Nourished
When we eat a piece of cake, it starts its journey in the esophagus, where an undulatory motion helps move the food from one end to the other.
This work is done automatically and without any control from us; even while doing a handstand, the esophagus would still be pushing that piece of cake towards our stomach.
Once inside the stomach, this piece of cake will be processed for about two hours until it’s fully broken up into 0.2 millimeter pieces by gastric fluid – all without us having to think about it!
Plus, emotions can affect digestion too: when you’re stressed or anxious, your stomach contracts and you start losing your appetite.
Fortunately, when everything goes smoothly – that is, without stress and anxiety – the small piece of cake is pushed through a connection called the pylorus into the small intestine.
That’s when really important digestion starts happening; this is where our body extracts nutrients from our food!
All thanks to our amazing digestive system!
Digestion: How Our Small Intestine Digests Our Food, No Matter The Stress Or Anxiety
The real digestion of food and extraction of nutrients takes place in the small intestine.
Its walls are made up of tiny finger-like protrusions called intestinal villi that manipulate the food as it continues its journey through the small intestine.
These villi move along with rhythmic electric shocks, pushing the food forward for about an hour before it reaches the large intestine.
The small intestine is also responsible for absorbing digestive fluid containing vital nutrients, and tidying up any mess left behind.
Surprisingly, when you hear your gut growl, it is not a sign of hunger – it is actually your small intestine cleaning itself!
Eating in response to this sound might interfere with this process and cause adverse effects such as diarrhea.
This can be caused by stress and anxiety causing disruptions in our digestive system which processes around ten liters of fluid each day.
Depending on factors like stress, digestion can take between 10 hours – 100 hours from start to finish!
How Our Gut Plays A Role In Allergies And Intolerance
It’s long been assumed that allergies and lactose intolerance have their roots in the gut.
Recent research has shed some light onto how exactly this happens.
It appears that when proteins are digested, sometimes they don’t break down completely, leaving behind small pieces of protein.
When these get absorbed into the lymphatic system through lymph vessels in the small intestine, this triggers an immune response as if it was a dangerous nucleus.
If it keeps happening, our bodies will become increasingly sensitive to allergic reactions.
With lactose intolerance, this happens when the gastric fluid at an entry point called the papilla does not contain enough enzymes for breaking down lactose molecules.
This means that lactose enters the large intestine where it acts as a nutrient for gas-producing bacteria – resulting in flatulence, gas pains and diarrhea.
What’s more, 75 percent of us experience a genetic change with age that turns off production of enzymes necessary for breaking down lactose molecules.
Let Your Stomach Do Some Thinking: How Our Gut Influences Our Emotions
Surprise, surprise: the gut can influence our emotions and our brain!
We’re learning more and more about this incredible connection between the body’s enteric nervous system, also known as the intrinsic nervous system, and its amazing ability to work on its own.
The enteric nerve system is composed of around 500 million neurons – that’s only surpassed by the brain!
For a while now, neuroscience has been telling us a lot about how our brains influence our emotion.
But experimental studies with mice are finally giving us an answer to whether or not our gut influences these same emotions too; and yes, it does!
Mice that came from two categories – active/happy mice and inactive/depressed mice – showed tremendous improvement when given a special observed bacteria in order to support digestion.
These stressed-out mice had increased activity levels, reduced stress signals, and better performance on memory tests.
And if that isn’t enough proof, additional experimentation conducted on mice with their vagus nerves severed showed no signs of improvement upon receiving the bacteria treatment.
This all points to a strong connection between having a healthy digestive system and having generally healthier mental wellbeing.
Indeed it looks like we should be taking better care of both our brains AND our guts!
Our Vagus nerve serves as an important communicator between the two organs so maintaining it for optimal performance is essential for staying happy and healthy.
Who would’ve thought your gut could affect your brain like this?
The Amazing Power Of Microbes: Why A Healthy Gut Is Dependent On Tiny Organisms
The human gut is a world of its own.
It contains more than just its own nervous system; it also accounts for 80 percent of our immune system.
That’s why it’s so important to know about the vast array of microorganisms living in our gut – because it’s these helpful little critters that keep us healthy and strong!
Most of us probably don’t think about the fact that immediately after birth, microbes outnumber human cells by 9 to 1.
We are literally walking ecosystems carrying around millions of bacteria inside us!
And no matter how much a germaphobe may try to distance themselves from this reality, the truth is that we need these microbes to survive and be healthy.
The first three years of life are especially important when it comes to cultivating good microbes in our gut – particularly through the milk provided by mothers.
Not only does mother’s milk provide bifidobacteria which helps prevent weight gain, but it also contains essential bacteria that help break down the foods we eat into usable nutrition.
In an attempt to further understand microbial cultures and diets, scientists discovered enterotypes – unique bundles of bacterial families located in different people’s guts based on their diet choices.
Research suggests that there are three distinct types, each determined by long-term dietary patterns and Traditional Chinese Medicinal principles.
So now you know: your gut contains a rich and vital world of microbes playing essential roles in your overall health – from breaking down food sources better to boosting immunity levels!
The Mysterious Power Of Gut Flora: How Microbes In Our Bodies May Control Our Behavior
It seems that microbes in the gut can influence our consciousness.
The proof lies in the incredible number of microorganisms that inhabit our digestive tracts – as many as 100 trillion!
These are known collectively as the gut flora, and it appears they may have an intimate relationship with our brain.
For example, it’s possible that the bacteria in our guts can send messages directly to our brains via amino acids like tryptophan or tyrosine, which are able to pass through a protective layer around the brain and get converted into biochemicals like dopamine and serotonin.
Even abstaining from certain foods could potentially lead to a decrease in cravings for them, as some microbes are no longer attracted to them.
The case of Toxoplasma gondii is especially interesting: This microorganism is commonly found in cats but can also end up inside rats and humans.
Research has indicated that this adorable little parasite might actually be responsible for altering host behavior – often to deadly effects.
Humans infected with Toxoplasma gondii appear more prone to risky behavior and auto accidents according to a study done in the Czech Republic.
So while we still don’t fully understand how deep this connection goes, it’s clear that keeping your gut healthy will not only provide physical benefits but also mental ones!
From Disinfectant-Lead Opposition To Embracing The Benefits Of Bacteria In Our Gut
Instead of feeling disgusted by microbes and doing whatever it takes to get rid of them, we should be learning to integrate them into our lives.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, Nobel Prize-winning Russian immunologist Ilya Mechnikov showed us that certain microbes could be beneficial.
He noticed that Bulgarian farmers who lived long and healthy lives were fans of yogurt, which is high in lactic acid bacteria.
However, the discovery of penicillin and antibiotics changed our attitude towards bacteria, as people began to view them as a hindrance rather than a help.
We slowly became more aware of their benefits though when scientists tried to replicate mother’s milk for baby formulas – babies always ended up suffering from diarrhea because they were missing the vital bacteria found on a nursing mother’s nipple!
In recent years we’ve been embracing better health with probiotic and prebiotic products becoming popular in supermarkets.
Probiotics are good bacteria that can produce fatty acids that protect the stomach and immune system while prebiotics are fibrous foods that feed the good bacteria in our digestive tract.
Eating 30 grams of prebiotics per day has been recommended; however most people only consume half of this amount daily.
Microbes may seem disgusting at first look but when we learn how helpful these little critters can be if incorporated into our diet and lifestyle, they become an asset to our overall health instead!
Understanding How Our Gut Works From Conscience To Unconsciousness
At the end of its journey, the food goes through a complex interplay between conscious and unconscious functions – defecation.
As it enters the large intestine, any remaining water is reabsorbed and the feces is prepared for excretion.
It then reaches the rectum where both conscious control of our sphincter muscles and unconscious regulation via a secondary muscle come into play.
The internal sphincter muscle works automatically – it lets out a small amount of waste to set off signals in our nervous system telling us whether we need to go to the bathroom or not.
Based on this information, we are able to choose when to open our other sphincter muscle and go or release gas discreetly.
If we postpone too often going to the toilet, it can lead to constipation due to disruption of this delicate inner sphincter balance.
Hence, at the end of this long and fascinating process, everything depends on our conscious decision-making powers once again.
The Gut by Giulia Enders is a fantastic book on unlocking the secrets of our most fascinating organ.
The book dives into the complexity of the gut, giving us a detailed understanding of how our large intestine houses a wide variety of microorganisms that are essential to keeping us healthy and happy.
Enders encourages readers to make conscious food choices to influence these microorganisms for their own benefit.
For instance, eating prebiotic foods such as artichokes, asparagus, green banana, garlic, onions, parsnips, and whole wheat or rye can help give these bacteria what they need to thrive.
The takeaway message: take care of your gut by choosing nutrient-rich foods and helping your bacteria process what you eat each day.
Doing so will have a tremendous impact on your overall well-being!