The Brain in Your Belly


Millions of neurons inhabit your enteric nervous system (ENS) . These neurons govern the function of your gastrointestinal system. Like brain neurons, they have their own team of “personal assistants” called glial cells and they use similar neurotransmitters. Because your ENS contains 90 per cent of your serotonin and 50 per cent of your dopamine (far more than in your brain) along with extensive neural circuits capable of local, autonomous function, it is sometimes called your “second brain.”

When you experience emotional trauma, your brain neurons share their anxiety and tension with your ENS neurons, which often results in gastrointestinal symptoms. In turn, when they communicate their upset back up to your brain, those neurons can feel even worse and may set up a reinforcing circle of sympathetic discomfort, manifesting in symptoms such as headaches and an upset stomach that just won’t go away.

Is there any good news? Absolutely. You can deal with much of this tension by developing effective stress management strategies. This will raise your level of emotional intelligence, giving you a positive mindset. And this together with positive self-talk will help you to calm down both brains—the one in your head and the one in your belly.

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