If you're familiar with holistic medicine, you may have already heard the opinion that your gut is considered a second brain. It's true that your stomach doesn't have brain waves—and isn't making decisions for you—but it positively can influence your overall wellbeing. When illness arises, many who practice holistic medicine look at the gut for answers.
Neurons in the Stomach
Do you ever get "butterflies" in your stomach? Do you ever "feel" like your gut is telling you something? We've all heard the saying, "listen to your gut,"—but why? Thanks to the massive system of neurons that line your stomach and digestive system, the gut performs its duties without needing any help from the brain. It can feel, move, and work all on its own. Thus, it's considered a second brain.
But the gut is responsible for more than just processing food, or making you feel nauseated when nervous. A lot of receptors travel from the gut to the brain, and not the other way around. Therefore, the nerves in your stomach can influence your state of mind more than you think.
Illness Related to the Gut
So when patients complain about specific illnesses, doctors of holistic medicine perk up and consider the gut as a potential culprit. Often, these trigger illnesses are emotional and associated with the brain. For example, when patients describe symptoms of anxiety and depression, it can relate to gastrointestinal issues connected with the gut.
You'd be surprised at how issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can lead to emotional distress. Many doctors once thought that anxiety and depression lead to IBS. It's now known, however, that those emotional issues tend to be the symptoms rather than the cause. When your gut is irritated, it sends signals to your brain and central nervous system. As a result, you may experience shifts in your mood.
Gut to Brain Communication
Another common issue linked to gut health is something called "brain fog," which can cause feelings of confusion, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, and fatigue. Many patients think they're dealing with mental distress when, in fact, it's most likely their gut communicating to the brain.
And because of this link between the gut and the mind, many doctors who practice holistic medicine will look to gastrointestinal issues first. If you're dealing with mood swings or emotional distress, don't jump to the conclusion that you're suffering from anxiety or depression. First, consider that it may be your gut "talking" to your brain.
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