The Bowel, Our Second Brain
In order to understand the close relationship between our brain and the intestine, we need to make a brief reconnaissance of the components and functions of our brain’s nervous system.
Assuming that the nervous system is the most complicated in the entire human body, for which only 50% of its mechanisms are understood; this already indicates the great importance of ensuring correct nutritional habits, in order to maintain a balance between the environment and our frantic day to day regime.
The nervous system, apart from being complex, in fact represents a system which is the first to expire, because neurons are unable to regenerate. The nervous system with its physicochemical functions, where neurons take charge of establishing correct homeostasis, must therefore be well communicated and understand the information that they receive, in order to control bodily functions. Likewise, it also plays a psychiatric-psychological role, where the protagonists consist of thoughts, emotions and perceptions.
Once its role has been made clear, we will continue to assess the importance of this homeostasis. The brain is a network of neurons, and communication between these occurs by nerve impulses. The specific message that is transmitted between these depends on neurotransmitters. The most important of these are:
- Dopamine: is the starter motor
- Serotonin: is what keeps us happy; improving our mood and dissipating sadness
- Acetylcholine: keeps the brain alert; improving memory and mental alertness
- Adrenaline: results from stress
- Noradrenaline: is the accelerator
- Gaba: counteracts the stimulating effect of neurotransmitters
Neurons, like all cells in our body, depend on an optimal supply of nutrients in order to function correctly. Adequate nutrition must be based on micronutrients such as trace elements, vitamins and minerals, progressing to include macronutrients such as simple sugars and organic and unrefined complexes and essential fatty acids such as omega 3, 7, 9.
In the space between the neurons, known as the synapses, nutrients such as B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium also participate, helping to maintain correct communication between them, so that in this way, the message is correctly transmitted from one to the other.
When we lose this balance, we become ill. If our neurons are not well nourished, diseases such as depression, anxiety, nervousness, stress… among others, may result.
- Fábrica de neurotransmisores = Neurotransmitter factory
- Neurotransmisor = Neurotransmitter
- Neurona = Neuron
- Dendritas = Dendrites
- Sinapsis = Synapse
- Elementos constituyentes de los aminoácidos = Constituent elements of amino acids
- Lugar receptor de neurotransmisores = Location of neurotransmitter receptor
One of the most important limiting concepts in human science is the idea that the mind and the body are separated. So to continue with this concept is a significant error, as we must view these integrally; psychology+anatomy+physiology.
When you are suffering low morale or are nervous, stressed or anxious, have you never asked yourself, whether this is because you are not properly nourished? Of course this is so, ¾ parts of the mood hormone is recognised to be serotonin. 50% of the starter motor of our body is dopamine and both are secreted in the intestine. Thus, there is an evident close relationship between our brain and intestine. Correspondingly, we can affirm that the intestine is our second brain.
Neurotransmitters are classified as proteins.
For our body to manufacture these substances, we need to ingest the AMINO-ACIDS that will provide chains of proteins, as part of our diet.
Tryptophan ———– SEROTONINE melatonin
- Fenilalanina = Phenylalanene
- Tirosina = Tyrosine
- Dopamina = Dopamine
- Triptofano, Metionina, Fenilalanina, Treonina, Valina, Leucina, Isoleucina, Lisina = Tryptophan, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Valine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Lysine
- Cisteina, Tirosina, Glicina, Serina, Taurina, Carnitina, Acido aspártico = Cysteine, Tyrosine, Glycine, Serine, Taurine, Carnitine, Aspartic acid
- Glutatión, Tiroxina, Glutamina, Acido glutamico, Asparragina = Glutathione, Thyroxine, Glutamine, Glutamic acid, Asparagine
- Triptamina, Serotonina, Noradrenalina, GABA = Triptamine, Serotonin, Noradrenaline, GABA
- Melatonina, Adrenalina = Melatonin, Adrenaline
- Aminoácidos esenciales = Essential amino acids
- Aminoácido = Amino acid
- Neurotransmisor = Neurotransmitter
Foods rich in these amino acids include milk, chicken, turkey, fruit, such as bananas and kiwi, dried fruit, chick peas, cheese and eggs. Dark organic chocolate with at least 70% cocoa; also rich in magnesium would also be a good choice.
Serotonin also acts as an internal body clock, which in turn determines our sleep and wake cycles. If we do not take care of this neurotransmitter, apart from being low in spirits, we will find it hard to sleep.
We have discussed the importance of optimum brain nutrition, but for communication with our intestine we also have to ensure a healthy intestinal ambit.
The main protagonists are probiotics. These will participate in promoting good intestinal flora. We must populate our intestine with the following microorganisms: lactobacillus acidophillus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, B. longum, B. breve or B. lactis. Dairy products are foods in which we can easily find these microorganisms. Examples would be yogurts fermented with streptococcus thermophilus bulgaricus or milk fermented with L. acidophillus. However, members of society have become increasingly intolerant and sensitive to dairy products. The intestine and its mucosa has been damaged, and this irritation can eventually cause inflammations such as rhinitis, sinusitis, arthritis, osteoarthritis … likewise many more immune problems and new complaints are currently emerging. With that said; the best option would be to replace dairy products with foods such as kefir water or kombutcha, which act as great probiotics. Notably, any dietary change you may wish to make should always be informed and guided by a professional specialist to avoid nutritional deficiencies that might lead to other possible diseases
Water and fiber as nutrients will complete the optimal balance for a healthy intestine
Equally, we should take care to nourish a certain bacteria, found in our intestine, known as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii that flourishes when combined with a starch of resistance. Below is a list of food sources:
- Bananas that are not totally ripe: 1 medium banana contains 4.7 g
- Oat flakes: ¼ cup raw contains 4.4 g
- Deep-frozen peas: 1 cup cooked peas contains 4.0 g
- White beans: ½ cup cooked beans contains 3.7g
- Lentils: ½ cup cooked lentils contains 2.5g
- Noodles: 1 cup chilled noodles contains 1.9 g
- Cooked, chilled potatoes: 1 medium potato contains 0.6-0.8 g
If I do not take care of my intestine and it is unhealthy, I will continue with intestinal problems such as constipation, bloating, diarrhoea, inflammations of different type, a generally depressed defensive system, possible alterations in the skin, mood swings or more serious illnesses … and nor will I be happy; it will be hard for me to wake up.
If today’s doctors do not become tomorrow’s nutritionists, they will become tomorrow’s doctors.
Alexis Carrel (1873-1944)
Carlota Portella Santillana
Diploma in Dietetics and Human Nutrition
Bachelor in Food Technology
Graduated Chef from Hofmann Hospitality School