A brain in the gut your intestines also think for you

The function of the digestive system is similar to that of brain activity in the head. It warns us of dangers, defends us and helps us make decisions. How to take care of it so that it fulfills its function?

We have more than 100 million neurons distributed throughout the digestive system, more than in the entire spinal cord, although where they are really concentrated is in the small intestine.

Despite the striking of the figure, science believed that its only function was to control the digestion of food and has paid little attention to it. Only in recent years has it been found that there is a constant exchange of messages between the central nervous system, of which the brain is a part, and this second neural network, which is why in medicine we already speak of a second brain.

The digestive system is an important emotional processing and decision center. How many times have we felt “butterflies in the belly” or bad news has caused us “a turn in the stomach.” Language has always been clear about the close relationship between our mind and the digestive system.

Why else does a problem make us run to the bathroom or a delicious meal fills us with happiness?

It is the place from which you can discern what is dangerous from what is not. Our intestinal nervous and immune systems are responsible for recognizing the difference and selecting the appropriate response, which they then transmit to the upper brain. These “gut reactions” influence everything we do and can help us gauge the situation well.


The digestive system shares origin with the brain, to which it is closely linked.

In the early stages of our embryological development, in the area where the head will eventually develop, two cavities are formed. However, one of them will evolve “down”, giving rise to the different parts of the intestine.

In the embryological digestive tract, at least four parts with different evolutionary functions and destinies are distinguished that originate from that common branch attached to the central nervous system.


The neurons that innervate the digestive tract form a brain of their own.

It receives and sends impulses autonomously, memorizes and remembers lived experiences and responds by vibrating immediately with the chords of the central nervous system. His “notes” are the changes of rhythm in the face of an exam or his disorganization in the face of a vital change.

He is a specialist in responding to emotions, and reacts at the same time as the central nervous system.


The digestive system produces and uses the same neurotransmitters as the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, neuropeptides. There are more than thirty molecules that transmit information, similar or identical to those found in the central nervous system.

stressful situation impacts our upper brain and, through these molecules, reaches the digestive system, where it will produce responses. Emotions of worry, fear, or anguish immediately resonate throughout the digestive tract in the form of pain, bowel movements, or vomiting. It is the physical way of expressing news or events that we cannot swallow, digest or evacuate.

We are learning that for the treatment of any case of depression or anxiety, we must begin by fine-tuning the digestive system, regulating intestinal transit and repopulating the bacterial flora it contains.


The digestive tract is a rich and complex ecosystem that houses a huge amount of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites – beneficial if they are within normal parameters.

The functions of this authentic additional organ are essential for the digestion and absorption of nutrients and for intestinal health, but also cardiovascular health, the immune state, asthma or obesity, as well as the sense of humor, the emotional state and the mental health.

Changes in the microbiota, the term used to refer to the millions of bacteria that colonize our body, also lead to changes in the nervous system. Memory problems or anxiety, for example, depend in part on its composition.

In turn, stress and emotions can upset it. There are intestinal diseases that have effects on the brain. For example, infection by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria causes gastric inflammation, but also depression and migraine.


Knowing that we have a brain in our guts is an invitation to connect with it. Our intuition resides there and its contribution in making great decisions is well known. The irrational thing would be not to listen to her.

People who are used to making decisions, such as managers and businessmen, are able to complete the information of the upper brain with that of the digestive brain, seat of this internal reserve of unconscious knowledge.

It turns out that the old advice of “don”t be swayed by your emotions” leads to the wrong decision. If we do not balance it with the gut brain, the decision remains lame. The main reason is that the intellect basically seeks comfortable acts.

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