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The Neuroscience of the Gut and Your Greater Purpose

March 27, 2019 Joe Mechlinski

The Neuroscience of the Gut and Your Greater Purpose

The bears have stopped chasing us through the wilderness, yet we live in an environment that requires an ability to cope with a much higher level of stress. 

We’re taxing not only our physical muscles but also our emotional, mental, and spiritual ones. 

We rely on the gut to manage these greater levels of anxiety. 

Ninety-five percent of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that keeps our mood balanced and our thinking clear, is produced in the gut. In addition, 100 million neurons sit in the walls of our gut, which is more than in the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. 

Nestled in the center of the gut is 90 percent of our immune system, the part of our body that keeps us healthy. 

The American Gut Project focuses on researching fecal matter to gain a greater understanding of the connection between the microbiome and health. Anyone can send them a sample of their feces, and they will test it for ailments and diseases. The goal is that in the future doctors will be able to look at someone’s fecal matter and tell whether the person has cancer, is in need of a certain vitamin, or is dehydrated.

The gut is connected to the other intelligence centers in the body. Information is relayed from the gut brain to the head brain via the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body. For the most part, this connection is one-sided, with almost all of the information going from the gut to the head. During sleep, it’s the gut brain that processes information. When people talk about getting butterflies before a speech, they are talking about cortisol secreting from the adrenal glands. 

This is the stress hormone, and 70 percent of our body’s cortisol is secreted from this location. The head brain is processing the situation, but it’s the gut brain that’s taking on the primary role of responding. More people are becoming aware of the gut's function in guiding our actions. And when we listen to our guts, to control anxiety, to lead us toward a higher purpose, we are more engaged. And we seek work that engages us on a deeper level. 

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