How many times you’ve heard, “Trust your gut, never go against your gut?” And maybe because you should “listen” to your gut, some people are wondering, “Is the gut a second brain?”
Well, if so – who is sending the signals? And what do we know about the gut anyway?
When I asked my teacher about this in the second grade, she told me that there was a friendly bug that lived inside my gut. She called it “Lucky Lacto.”
I guess that “Lucky” bug I should listen to?
And if you can talk to your gut, what would you ask?
Well, I’ve got an idea!
Let’s make Lucky Lacto a character and see if we can have an interview.
What would you like to know?
What does he do, and why do you need him? Or how to be friendly with him, and what happens if that “bug” is under the weather?
So, it’s Lucky time!
1. What Is Gut Bacteria?
Ella: Well, Lucky, thank you for coming to our interview pit. I know you are very busy with your “gut” business.
First: to be correct, what is your name? Do you have brothers and sisters – I heard you have a big family, don’t you?
Lucky: “Lucky Lacto” is a nickname—Lucky for short—and my full name is “Lactobacillus.”
I have a HUGE family!
Do you know that you have more than 100 trillion microbes? (1)
They are my cousins who belong to hundreds of different strains. We might vary from person to person.
Some of my siblings are “Lactococcus” and “Lactobacillus Bifidus.” And we are the GOOD GUYS!
But there are others, not so good. Together they call us “gut flora,” “gut bacteria,” or “gut microbiome.” We are also so-called “resident microbes.” But it’s not the collection of us. It is also our genetic material and byproducts.
Ella: Where do you live?
Lucky: Everywhere in your gut. Have you heard of the gastrointestinal tract – GI for short? It is our permanent address.
Ella: What are parts of GI?
Lucky: GI is a long tube from the mouth down to your tushie. Stomach, small and large intestine, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder are all parts of the digestive system. (2)
Ella: Why they call you “Lucky?”
Lucky: Because I have been blessed to live in a friendly family and friendly environment. My master—a human—treats me right, nourishes me with the right food, lets me rest and doesn’t make me jump through the hoop when he is stressed.
So, I eat well, I rest well, and I have a lot of fun! And because of this, I do my best to keep him healthy.
2. The Gut and Brain Connection
Ella: What comes around goes around!
Since you and human work so well together, you probably can tell me why I hear an amazing question again and again, “Is the gut a second brain?”
Lucky: Yes, we are the second brain in a human body – it is the whole neural network in your gut working day and night. Just imagine that there are 100 million neurons there – more than in the spinal cord! They are spread throughout your digestive tract!
Do you remember how it feels when you have a “butterfly” in your stomach?
Ella: I played the cello, and when I was a kid I always(!) had a butterfly in my stomach before going on stage.
Lucky: Now you know why. It is a response when you are nervous or if there is something frightening – STRESS!
The difference is that “gut” per se doesn’t make you do anything directly.
We communicate with each other by sending the neuro signals as a reflection of everything that is going on. And where do you think those signals go?
Yes! We “talk” to your first brain, and this is how indirectly we affect your mood, how you feel, and maybe correct your behavior. That’s why they call the gut a second brain.
The brain also communicates with the gut through the nervous system so that they both “talk.”(3)
But! You, for example, do you always listen to your gut?
3. What Does the Gut Do?
Ella: Unbelievable! I didn’t know that. You communicate on a neuro level!
If you—the gut flora or gut microbiome—is so enormous and powerful, let’s cover the basics: what does the gut do actually and why do we need you?
Lucky: In a nutshell, we process the food—firm, and liquid—from start to finish. (4)
We don’t just “process” whatever! We work hand-in-hand with millions of immune cells, and if something doesn’t pass the “smell test,” they are ready to fight.
So, we deal with toxins and if need to – we correct your immune system. We also absorb nutrients so that you have all the essential elements and be healthy!
Ella: Heck of the resume!
Lucky: Guess what? There is more.
We are not along. As I have mentioned earlier, there are also the BAD GUYS. And we are here to protect you against foreign invaders—viruses, harmful microbes, and bacteria.
Your body should immediately respond to infection. Right?
Well, we are part of this process because we communicate with immune cells.
You are fortunate that we are very “territorial” and protect your intestines from foreign invasion. It is OUR HOME!
Of course, if you ask a question, “What does the gut do,” – it is logical that one type of bacteria doesn’t do everything. Each of us, as a part of your gut flora, have a specific job.
So, Ella, now my question is to you: knowing who we are and what we do, would you like to keep us happy?
Ella: You bet!
4. Chronic Gut Inflammation. Am I in Danger?
Ella: Back to the gut and immune system. I read that around 80% of all immune cells are in the gut. Is it true? (6)
Lucky: Yes! And your body badly needed. Why?
You, people, behave like monsters sometimes, or even worse–eating tons of sugar, processed, and high-fat food. Also, you overeat. Well, WE DON’T NEED IT!
You have unabsorbed carbs and protein fermenting in your colon. Yuck!
As for sugar–artificial sweeteners especially–they negatively affect your gut microbiome and can cause a tsunami of health problems. (7)
After that, we groan. Are you listening?
How about cramping, bloating, constipation, and what else we can add on a plate of your “gut” problems?
Are you paying attention now? But its only half of the problem.
Ella: Wow! What is another half?
Lucky: Since we talk about the immune system, can you remind me what is inflammation?
Ella: Protective reaction of the immune system?
Lucky: You are correct.
Inflammation is a good thing in a small dosage, but here it is a different story.
Imagine you eat lots of sugary stuff. Harmful bacteria thrive on sugar.
Well, they end up in your intestines and then, either through dietary fat or “loose” intestines walls, – in your bloodstream. In turn, this alerts the immune cells which are ready to “attack.”
What happens when it happens over and over?
You have UNRESOLVED INFLAMMATION – the inflammation on the top of another inflammation. Well, here you have it – possible SYSTEMATIC or CHRONIC INFMALATION.
Why might it be dangerous?
Because it might be a potential beginning of some chronic diseases.
Of course, the medical community still doesn’t understand fully how the gut flora affects your mood, behavior, regulates your immune system and affects inflammation. (8)
5. Repair Gut Bacteria With Right Food
Well, Lucky, it seems that if I don’t keep you and your siblings happy – I am in big trouble. What can I do?
Lucky: First, feed us the right food!
If you don’t, you might get an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut which continues triggering more inflammation.
Ella: it’s like a chain.
Lucky: I’d say better – it’s more like a dangerous nuclear chain reaction with unintended harmful consequences—weight disbalance, chronic fatigue, food allergies, unhealthy cravings and tons of other problems.
So, be wise and be careful.
Ella: I guess we must have a plan. Yes?
Lucky: Music to my ears!
Well, if you plan right, you never can go wrong. Let’s breeze through.
Since most humans have damaged gut flora, you should eat food to help us repair and grow.
What to choose?
- We love FIBER food—it makes everything moving! And if you want to keep us healthy, give us plenty of it – fruits, vegetables, and legumes. We also love buckwheat.
- How about foods with a high content of COLLAGEN, like a bone broth? We need amino acids.
- FERMENTED FOODS are also our friend – yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha have live probiotics, which will improve and support your gut health and possibly reduce inflammation. Good enough reason? (9)
- PREBIOTIC FOODS like garlic, onions, leeks, dandelion greens can be beneficial for good gut flora. (10)
- We love WATER—without it, food cannot move and you will have slow digestion! Keep hydrating!
- Slow down on sugary stuff. You know why – it kicks in the inflammation.
Also, when you put something in your mouth, remember that each of us has its job to do. So, be smart and choose VARIETY that there is something for everybody!
Cherish us and give us tender and loving care!
6. Lifestyle Changes for Healthy Gut
Ella: TLC… Great point. What else?
Lucky: I like it when you are exercising.
But I also like it when you are calm and have plenty of rest and sleep. Remember: your lifestyle options directly affect your gut. (11)
Did I forget enjoying life, smiling, and having fun?
Ella: Wow! So much to consider but common sense.
Lucky: Last thing – there will be a lot of trying. Please don’t act silly and don’t deviate. After all, it is YOUR BODY and YOUR HEALTH!
Ella: It is obvious now – GO WITH YOUR GUT!
Conclusion: Happy Gut – Happy You!
… Lucky left to continue its gut business.
My idea of a fun and informative interview came to fruition. I hope you liked it.
Well, are you lucky we have Lucky?
Please remember his advice: keep your gut happy and it will pay ten folds.
LOVE YOUR GUT!
If your gut is not well, you will feel it.
Lucky is very intelligent and communicates with his siblings–gut bacteria–and immune cells. Where do those neuro signals go?
Right to your brain!
Of course, more research is needed about how the gut-brain connection works. (12)
Directly your gut microbiome doesn’t make you do anything. Still, it affects your mood, behavior, and happiness.
So, eat right, cut daily sugary “pleasures,” drink plenty of water, have enough sleep, move and remember – you are not alone!
Would you rather have friends or enemies? Would you want a roaring gut or a happy gut?
And if you are still wondering, “Is the gut a second brain,” remember it next time you will hear, “You should listen to your gut.”
Happy Tuning in!
I invite you to enlighten us with your thoughts. Leave them below.
Founder of Detox Generation
Disclosure: The views and opinions expressed on this site are solely those of the author. All content, including text, images, and other formats, is for information purposes only. The author is not a medical professional, dietitian or integrative treatment specialist. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health specialists with any questions you may have.