So, you’ve had a tough day, you stomp home, head into the kitchen, stuff your face in the biscuit tin and you’ve eaten the entire contents within five minutes. You then get into a worse mood as you feel guilty and the whole cycle restarts. Say hello to your second brain, in your gut.

I did some research into this so-called ‘second brain’ and, as it turns out, there is a bucket full of science behind it. So, scientists discovered that there is a third unconscious system in your body; the enteric nervous system (ENS). This has has been nicknamed as a ‘second brain’ as, while it talks to the brain, it is so complex that it is also able to act individually and impact behaviour. It is composed of an estimated 500 million neutrons which, to put into context, is about five times as many as there is there is in a rat. It is also around 9 metres long and could be blamed for your stress-related sugar and fast food cravings.

The ENS has long been known to control digestion. But does it do more than that? The answer is heading more and more towards a yes! Now the ENS seems to play a significant role in our physical and mental well-being. In order to be all-over healthy, we must cater for our physical and mental selves, so should we start listening to our gut?

It has been made very clear that the ENS plays a vital role in food digestion. Eating can potentially be dangerous, and like the skin, the ENS helps the gut to ward off possible invaders. It also helps keep the environment inside the gut at the correct pH and chemical composition needed for digestive enzymes to do their job.

We listen to our stomach when we are hungry, so why don’t we take more notice of the times when our guts make us reach for that chocolate bar?

Your gut contains beneficial bacteria or probiotics, however these can be destroyed by antibiotics, steroids, sugar, stress or stomach illnesses. If these probiotics in your intestines aren’t stable, it can have an negative effect on your central nervous system, thus increasing anxiety and stress. The bacteria in your gut is influenced by what you eat, your genes, age, stress levels and even your geographical location. This healthy bacteria is necessary for your body and, depending on what you put into your body, they can influence your behaviour, mood and stress.

In order to stimulate the growth of gut bacteria eat foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts which are high in fibre, as well as fermented foods like apple cider vinegar or yoghurt. Think of these as your gut-healthy foods. They are amazing because they can relieve anxiety and reduce cortisol to help you pay attention to positive information. While many researchers believed that better digestive health was lead by decreased stress, it is now being discovered that stabilising your gut’s processes can also reduce stress.


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