The Brain-Gut Connection
Have you ever wondered why people get butterflies in the stomach before a job interview or big performance? Or even why people vomit at the thought of something unpleasant or while under severe stress?
The reason for these common experiences is that your digestive tract and stomach in particular acts as a second brain. The human digestive tract contains over one million nerve cells… this is about the same amount of nerves found in the spinal chord! In fact, there are more never cells in your digestive system than there is in the entire peripheral nervous system.(1)
Your digestive brain and the brain in you skull are linked together via the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve “wanders” from the brain stem through the organs in the neck and thorax and finally terminates in the abdomen. This has been termed the “brain-gut” connection by Jordan Rubin, author of The Makers Diet. (5)
This second ‘abdominal brain’ is just as important as your ‘skull brain’. According to Dr. Michael Gershon, professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, describes the body’s second nervous system in his book The Second Brain:
“The brain is not the only place in the body that’s full of neurotransmitters. A hundred million neurotransmitters line the length of the gut, approximately the same number that is found in the brain… The brain in the bowel has got to work right or no one will have the luxury to think at all.” (4)
Your stomach literally thinks and, has the capacity to feel and express your emotions.
According to Paul Chek in Scientific Core Conditioning, the rectus abdominis is segmentally innervated by different 8 nerves. He continues to assert that due to the abundance of nerves that innervate the core / abdominal musculature, that it functions as if it has 8 brains.(2)
The reason for the abundance of nerve endings in the abdominal musculature is obvious… throughout our evolution, the hardships of developmental environment dictated that the abdominal musculature need be extremely strong as well as intelligent. It is the abdominal musculature that is responsible for: the stabilizing effect for the expression of limb movement, increasing intra-abdominal pressure to assist in forced expression, flexion, rotation, ipsilateral isometric contraction when stimulated unilaterally, transferred tension to create spinal stability via that thoraco-lumabr fascia (TCF), etc. So, my point is clear… your abs have a lot of jobs, so they’ve been given a lot of brains.
Abdominal Inhibition due to emotional disturbance
To reiterate… First, your digestive system acts as a second brain and contains the same amount of nerve cells as the spinal chord. Also, due to the abundance of neurotransmitters present in the stomach it has been observed, both clinically and experientially, that it is highly affected by the emotions that we produce.
Next, it has been established that the core musculature has “8 brains”. The muscles of the abdominal are highly evolved to withstand “primal man’s” need to survive and thrive in developmental environment via functional movement patterns necessary for hunting as well as building shelter.
Both the digestive system and the abdominal musculature are linked via the nervous system. One of the primary control centers of the nervous system, the brain, can make or break your efforts to flatten your abs and build a rock solid physique… and I am going to show you how.
Internal organs borrow their pain-sensitive nerve fibers from the muscular system. This means that when an organ feels pain, the brain cannot determine if it’s the muscle or the organ that hurts. The brain only knows which segment of the spine that the pain message came from. So, the brain then sends a message to that particular region of the spine and tells all of the muscles, tissue and organs in that region to behave as if they were in pain. (3)
When you are distressed, due to emotional disturbance from – financial insecurity, relationships, a job that you hate or spending an hour on the phone with your depressed middle aged auntie… your stomach, or second brain reacts. Some of the specific observed reactions by this organ to emotional pain include decreased or increased blood flow, “clenching”, and digestive inhibition.
While this is occurring, your abdominal musculature has just received the same message that the stomach has – “there is pain and we must react”. Your abdominal muscles, now perceiving pain, become inhibited and lose the capacity to contact to their fullest capacity. This is true in particular for the Transversus Abdominis, the muscle that activates the thoraco-lumabr fascia for low back stability and acts to keep your belly “drawn in”. (I’ve just shown you how mental/emotional distress causes low back pain as well.)
So, what does this mean for me?
Essentially, the point that I would like to make clear is that as a holistic entity your entire physiology is linked via control systems including the nervous system. You now understand why mental / emotional stability is essential for muscular strength and stability… especially as it relates to your abdominal.
If you have been trying, unsuccessfully, to improve your aesthetics through countless crunching sessions and dieting – I invite you to consider that you have been missing as much as 50% of your opportunity to have better health and visible strength. Ignoring or working against your body doesn’t work! And you will only look as good on the outside as you feel on the inside.
What can I do?
First, recognize that you are an integrated system of systems and that one part of your mind-body cannot experience trauma without it affecting several others.
Next, there are a total of 6 factors which I call you “The Primal Elements” that must be addressed in order for you to look and feel your God-given potential. I will elaborate on each of theses in a later article but for now I will list them: Your Thoughts, Breathing, Hydration, Nutrition / Food Quality, Exercise and, Biological Rhythms.(6)
Learn more about “The Primal Elements”: [http://www.Primal-Edge.com]
Addressing each of The Primal Elements on a daily basis will keep your organs, your nervous system and subsequently your musculo-skeketal system functioning optimally and allow for a flatter, stronger and better looking midsection.
1. Blakeslee, Sandra, “Complex and Hidden Brain in Gut Makes Stomachaches and Butterflies”, New York Times, January 23, 1996.
2. Chek, Paul, Scientific Core Conditioning (San Diego, CA: CHEK Institute Publications, 1998)
3. Chek, Paul, How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy (San Diego, CA: CHEK Institute Publications, 2004)
4. Dr. Michael Gershon, The Second Brain (New York: Haprer Collins, 1998).
5. Rubin, Jordan, The Makers Diet, (Lake Mary, Florida: Silhom, 2004).
6. Hulse, Elliott, Unleash Your Primal Edge (St. Petersburg, FL: Primal Edge Publications, 2006)