second brain

Our Gut, the Second Brain

My son and I both share a trait that is quite surprisingly absent in the rest of the family. We get “hangry.” It means that when we get hungry, we get angry. Turns out a lot of the world’s population works that way.

Now why is it that way?

Our gut is lined up with so many neurons that scientists call it “the second brain.” And true to the phrase, the gut leaves a deep influence on our moods. When we think about it, we realize that we can feel ourselves deep within. Although not inside our brain, rather from within the pits of our stomach – that gut feeling.

So how does the second brain work?

The gut neuron network regulates the working of the gastrointestinal region which turns it into some sort of sentinel intelligence. It controls the food transit network, mucus production, acid secretion, and other known and unknown functions of the stomach.

In between all of this, the chemicals produced or not produced during these functions affect the body to generate what we call feelings. Many neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine and glutamate, reside within the gut.

As long as there is food in the stomach to carry on the regular biological functioning, we stay calm. The moment the system goes empty or it gets upset, we lose our peace. Just like how we lose our peace when we lose our job. And like when are not able to go on that vacation we were planning on. Or have not reached the expected number of likes to our FB post. Looks like the stomach reflects the brain, except in a different way.

So, it is no wonder that we get “hangry.” But why do we get angry in the first place?

What do you mean?!

The most interesting part of this learning is the question – why anger, and why not other feelings like sadness or fear or stuff like that? Why does the gut choose anger to let us know that we have to feed it?!

Let us take a look at anger and notice its pattern. We get angry when we, or someone else has been abused or when we think that an abuse has taken place. We also get angry when our work is disturbed. This, once again leads to the idea of abuse of personal space. So, we get angry when we think abuse. By leaving the stomach unattended to, we abuse it. And it makes sense for the sentinel intelligence to scream out in anger.

Have you noticed how young kids who are not used to identifying hunger, also begin to get cranky. Well, “hangry” people are just grown up kids.

What about the ones that don’t get hangry?

Remember I mentioned that the rest of my family does not get hangry. Well, the rest of my family is my husband, who does not get hangry. And here is why.

For the better part of his adult life, my husband has been a workaholic. There have been many times when he has just forgotten to eat his lunch or ended up eating something at an unearthly hour. Technically, my husband has habituated himself to ignore the cries of his stomach. As have the people who don’t get enough to eat. People who fall into this category don’t get hangry, because they have simply gotten used to ignoring the call of the gut.

What happens to them?

What does not happen to them is controlled digestive functioning, automatically resulting in gastrointestinal problems. And what happens to them is some sort of slow build of sorts that begins to take over as age cannot ignore the calls of the body anymore.

It obviously pays to do justice to the voice from the gut by eating the right food at the right time. For health is always the greatest wealth.

Here’s to hoping that everyone in the world will soon be able to attend the call from within!


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