Introducing Eric, the brain in your gut

We all know that we have a brain in our heads – but did you know that we have a second brain? And that it’s located in our gut? It’s official name is the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) – but I think Eric is easier to remember, don’t you?

Eric the ENS has at least 100 million neurons, which is about the same as a cat’s brain – and you know how smart cats can be! This brain is not a mass, as the brain in our head: rather it is a sort of mesh, or network, located under the mucosal lining and between the muscular layers of the esophagus, the stomach and the small and large intestines, so it is several metres long.

Eric the ENS is connected to the brain in our head by the Vagus Nerve, that runs from the abdomen to the brain. But if the Vagus Nerve is cut, Eric the ENS continues to function quite happily, controlling and co-ordinating the process of digestion and all that goes with it. In fact, some 90% of all the signals that pass along that Vagus Nerve are messages from Eric to the brain, and not from the brain to Eric – so it could be said that, actually, Eric’s in charge!

Just think for a moment of all the common expressions we use – “I’m gutted”; “it’s a gut reaction” “I can’t stomach it any more”; “I’ve got butterflies in my stomach” – to mention a few. These are all linked to responses from Eric the ENS to our moods and emotions: in fact it is often Eric the ENS who tells the head brain how we are feeling!

What does Eric the ENS do? Quite a lot, actually –

  • it controls the mechanical blending of food in the stomach, and ensures that the pH balance is right at various sections of the system. When we digest food it goes through a process where it is first broken down by an alkaline mix and then by a special acid mix: it is important to keep the two separate and both working as they should.
  • it identifies bad bacteria that may have got into the system via the digestive system (eg in something you have eaten). If the sensors on the gut wall detect something that shouldn’t be there, substances such as histamine are released. This alerts Eric to one of several responses – diarrhea perhaps, or a message up the Vagus Nerve to the head brain, who will trigger vomiting: both designed to get the bad stuff out of the system.
  • it produces as much dopamine (the pleasure and reward molecule) as the head brain.
  • it produces lots of serotonin too. Serotonin is the “feel good” molecule that helps counter depression and regulates sleep. Serotonin that is produced in the ENS passes into the blood stream and helps to repair damaged cells and supports processes such as bone density.

Considerable research is being done on the links between Eric the ENS and not only moods and emotions but also physical conditions. For instance, stress triggers the gut to produce more ghrelin, a hormone that reduces anxiety levels – but it also stimulates feelings of hunger. Hence comfort eating at times of worry and stress – blame it on Ghrelin the Gremlin! And when we have had enough, then PYY comes to the rescue – that’s the chemical that sends the message to the head brain that says, “I’m full.” But that takes the slow route – it can take up to 20 minutes for the brain to get that “I’m full” message, which is why we should eat slowly. Not only does it give Eric and his team time to digest the food in a more efficient way, but it allows time for the PYY to send the full message at the appropriate time, rather than when Eric has been bombarded with a pile of food that has to be sorted through, analysed and sent to the relevant areas for processing!

So next time you have butterflies in your stomach, or you have a gut reaction to something – think of Eric!

If you would like to know more about Eric – or any other aspect of my blend of hypnotherapy, past life regression and soul retrieval work – get in touch.
Call me on 07597 020 512 or email me on:  judy@effective-hypnotherapy.co.uk . I’m always happy to have a chat, totally free and totally confidential.

I work from Vinings Natural Health Centre in Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

related content:  weight loss

ERIC – THE BRAIN IN THE GUT

I do a lot of work with people who are obese, who are holding onto excess weight.
That has lead me to do research in various areas, and one that fascinates me is the concept of the Brain in the Gut, the Second Brain as it is sometimes called. I shouldn’t really call it a concept, it has been clearly proven that the Enteric Nervous System (to give it its proper name) exists and is capable of “thinking”. I call this Enteric Nervous System ERIC for short – it’s much more user-friendly, don’t you think – and the way in which it affects us is really interesting.

You know for yourself that feeling of “butterflies in your stomach”, or that “gut reaction” or “feeling gutted”. They are all Eric at work! Whereas the brain in your head is a lump of grey matter that weighs some 3 pounds and has 100 billion brain cells, Eric lines the whole of the intestines and has more than 100 million brain cells (that’s about the same as a cat).

Eric is linked to the brain in the head by the Vagus nerve, and far more signals are sent from Eric to the brain in the head than the other way round, so Eric instigates more activity. If Eric senses something wrong with food or drink that has been taken into the system, it will spring into action, deciding whether to expel it onwards through the digestive system or back the way it came (or, in extreme cases, both!).

It is highly sensitive and will pick up signals that it then transmits to the brain in the head – hence the “butterflies” sensation before you actually realise that you are feeling nervous or excited; or the “gut reaction” before you analyse why you are feeling the way you do. Nor is it any coincidence that Eric covers the area of the Solar Plexus, where we give out and receive energy signals – logical, really, isn’t it?

Eric rules the digestive system and, therefore, is involved with all issues to do with that part of the body. In my work, it is not unusual for me to consult Eric as well as the client’s unconscious to gain a better understanding of what is really going on, and what needs to be done in order to resolve issues that are based in that area.

One of my (many) questions about bariatric surgery is just what effect it has on Eric. I am aware of the effectiveness of a surgical gastric band or, even more extreme, a gastric by-pass, but at what cost? First, the emotional root causes of holding on to weight have not been dealt with and secondly, what consideration has been given to Eric? Precious little. Like chopping down trees to make way for a road, and then wondering why there are more landslides (no tree roots to hold the earth in place), bariatric surgery achieves its goal – but there is always a price to pay, and by interfering with Eric’s normal function, it could be a very high price indeed.

If you would like to know more, get in touch. Call me on 07597 020 512 or email me on:  judy@effective-hypnotherapy.co.uk . I’m always happy to have a chat, totally free and totally confidential.

I work from Vinings Natural Health Centre in Haywards Heath, West Sussex.