Gut Science

Your Second Brain

The Science Behind Your Second Brain

Your gut is not just a sophisticated food processor - it keeps your whole body running smoothly. It’s easy to take this guy for granted, but your gut is actually the part of your body that engages most with the outside world. It’s also home to the largest part of your immune system. Put simply, your gut is a big deal. So big in fact, it is known as the second brain.

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Listen to your gut

We’re all familiar with phrases like ‘gut instinct’ and ‘feeling gutted’, they’ve been part of our vocabulary for hundreds of years now. They describe a sensation that we can now explain through science – the direct physical connection and continuous communication between our gut and our brain.

The gut-brain axis

This scientifically proven link between the gut and the brain is known as the gut-brain axis. Your brain talks to all the organs in your body, including your gut, using a network of nerves that extend right throughout your body. But here’s the thing: the gut is the only organ in the body that talks back and also has its own nervous system – the enteric nervous system. This lets it perform and control some actions independently such as digesting the food we eat, without instruction from the brain. It’s why the gut is known as the host of the second brain – in fact it even has 200-600 million neurons of its own.

Gut talk

While the gut can do lots of things itself, it’s always in close connection with the brain. Unlike other organs, these two ‘communicate’ on a regular basis. One way they communicate is through chemicals called neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters can influence our emotions and are often referred to as the ‘feel good’ hormones. Many of these neurotransmitters are also produced by bacteria that live in the gut. In fact, 90% of the serotonin in our body is produced in the gut!

The Future

The gut-brain axis mechanism is still not fully understood, but scientists all around the world are continuing their research into the close relationship between the gut and the brain, or as it’s now called – the gut-brain axis.