You can cover a tennis court with my guts!
The digestive system is amazing and there still much we don’t know about it.
It’s our second brain and doesn’t need our first brain’s input. It has more than 100 million brain cells and has its own nervous system.
There is a nerve, known as the ‘vagus nerve’ and 90% of its fibres carry information from the guts to the brain. (This’ll probably explain why I most times, I rush to the toilet in the morning when I’m trying to have a relaxing brew!).
The gut influences emotions, the immune system and long term health.
Starting with our emotions; 95% of serotonin (neurotransmitter which affects our moods and other complex functions) is found in our gut. When our digestion is compromised, our bodies can underproduce it which could contribute to causing low mood and anxiety.
Serotonin also helps to stimulate contractions that push food through the gut. If we eat something that is either harmful or an allergen, it releases extra serotonin which increases the contractions to expel the harmful food; causing vomiting or diarrhoea. A low amount is associated with constipation.
A study has shown that different foods when introduced to the gut via feeding tubes, have been shown to change people’s moods. For example, fat increased feelings of happiness and pleasure because it appeared to trigger the release of dopamine.
Guts have 70% of our immune cells in the form of Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT). GALT and gut microbiome kill and expel pathogens.
Random gut facts
- There are opiate receptors in our guts! Gut is susceptible to addictions as the brain.
- Digestion starts in our mouths.
- About 9m long with 800-900 folds which laid out flat, would cover an entire tennis court.
- Contains 1.5kg to 2kg of bacteria; heavier than our brains.
- It self cleans. An hour after eating, the clean up starts with a powerful wave of peristalsis moving through the tubes. This moves along any undigested food.
- We have detergents in our guts! Made by the liver, these are known as ‘bile ducts’. Fats wouldn’t be digested or absorbed without them. They make fat mix well with water, then digestive enzymes break down the fat for absorption into the bloodstream.
- We produce about 2 pints of saliva every day.
- A study published this year has found that people with dementia showed differences in their gut microbiome, (Microorganisms that help to digest food), from people of similar ages without dementia. They had lower levels of a type of bacteria called ‘enterotype 1’ and a higher level of ‘enterotype 111’, than other people with healthier brains.
- Stomach growling, known as ‘borborygmic’, happens all the time but is louder when our stomachs are empty because there is no food to muffle it.
- We have hydrocholoric acid in our stomachs, yes, the same stuff that can be used to remove rust, clean metals and bricks! This acid is secreted by cells along the inner wall of the stomach and approximately 2 litres is produced each day. Despite the corrosiveness of this acid, our stomachs has a thick coating of mucus which is replaced every 2 weeks.
In part 2, I’ll write about how to look after our amazing guts.
mentalfloss.com, wildelicious.com, healthline.com, benenden.co.uk, healthclevelandclinic.org, theconsciouslife.com, bustle.com, livescience.com.