Wellness and the 2nd Brain
Wellness refers to a state of balance of all the components that creates a life of quality. These components are interdependent and influence each other. Only when they are in equilibrium we could live a life of quality and enjoy wholesome wellness.
There are many categorizations of components that contribute to wellness. I usually group them into three main headings:-
Mental or emotional health
Physical health is best described as presence or absence of illnesses. It basically reflects our day to day assessment of our physical functionality. Though this aspects is almost always equated wellness, this alone does not contribute to wholesome wellness.
This relates to our moods, stress management, sleep, our interactions with others, our ability to cope with the daily stressors, our attitude and our self-esteem. Spiritual health comes under this too.
Refers to the environment that we interact with. Social environment, working environment, studying environment, our family environment, the food that we eat, the air that we breathe, the toxin we are exposed to, the pollution in our surrounding and so on.
As you can see from above, all aspect of wellness are sort of interrelated. Malfunctioning in one aspect can affect the other and they can form a vicious cycle affecting health.
There are various factors that can influence these components. Internally, within our body there is one system that can independently affect all the three components of wellness. That system is none other than what Dr.Michael D. Gershon aptly nicknamed as “The second Brain”, what we Drs refer to as the gastrointestinal system or simply called THE GUT
The gut shares similarity with our brain in the sense that it also has its own nerve bundles and neuro transmitters (nerve messengers) hence it functions like a second brain, in fact the gut has more nervous connections compared to that of the spine and peripheral nervous system. However the second brain does not get involved in thought process, memory and rationalizing rather the gut’s nervous system (enteric nervous system) is meant to handle food digestion, nutrient absorption, waste elimination, mood management, mental health, skin health, immunity any many more aspect of health. Now with enough evidence it can be proved this amazing system can influence the entire wellness cascade.
So how does the gut influence our wellness?
The gut not only handles food but also manages our immunity. Immunity refers to the body’s ability to fight of invading, disease causing pathogens.
A healthy gut acts as a barrier to invading bacteria, fungi, toxins and all other pathogens. An unhealthy gut also termed as leaky gut , allow seepage of toxins into the blood stream leading to many autoimmune diseases like allergies, arthritis, acne,chronic fatigue syndrome and many more
There is potent army of immune cells called Gut associated lymphoid tissue that halts pathological organism invasion at early stages itself.
The gut is the site of diverse microbiota that lives in symbiosis with the host that is us. These microbiotas are important for breakdown of complex food, production of certain essential vitamins and keeping the bad microbes at bay. When this flora is altered there are many physical symptoms arises like gastritis, reflux (heartburn). Irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhoea, malabsorption, weight loss and the list goes on
SIBO or small intestinal bacterial over growth, where the small intestine is overloaded with bacteria that hampers the natural function of the small intestine in nutrition absorption had shown to be linked many physical disease state
2. Mental/Emotional Health
-Association of emotion and mood with the gut is not new. There are many timesthat we have associated emotions with gut. When we have aninstinct we call it “gut feeling”, when there isan unpleasant incident or accident that is horrible we call it “gut wrenching”, when we are anxious we say we have “butterfly in the tummy” and so on. We now have clinical evidence to show the same. Serotonin is a mood controlling neurotransmitter, initially believed to be exclusive to the brain. Now it is proven 95% of receptors of serotonin are concentrated in the gut, and plays avital role in influencing moods and emotions.
- IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is shown to have a strong link with stress and depression. Constipation and diarrhoea can be caused by and can in turn cause various mood disturbances.
3. Environmental Health
-How we respond to the continuous stimulus of work, toxins and pollution in the environment has strong link with the health of our gut.
-A diseased gut can be poor at handling these toxins and further damage the health
-The gut health also has very high influence in our self-esteem which influence a great deal how we react and interact
-Poor gut health can cause skin problems, hair problems and nail problems, 3 out 4 factors that decides our appearance. A compromised appearance can bring our self-esteem down, affect our attitude , how we respond to the environment around us and thus jeopardise the environmental health aspect.
There are many more examples that can link this fantastic system to our overall wellness. So how do we manage gut issues?
The doctor will then do a complete assessment to diagnose and manage accordingly. Management includes - Removing the trigger , Correcting the condition, Reinforcing the gut health and treating the associated conditions (Skin, Hair etc) What you can do to take care of your 2nd Brain
Include adequate fibre in your diet.
Avoid sugary food and refined carbohydrates.
Correcting the condition
Reinforcing the gut health
Treating the associated conditions (e.g. skin, hair etc.)
Find out your food allergies and intolerance and avoid them.
Detox as needed
How Argan Oil helps me in my practice
Re-establishing Gut health take time. Argan oil helps me manage most of the external manifestations of a gut issue like acne, skin problems, psoriasis, hair problems and nails faster, while waiting for the body to take control again. Argan oil with its potent anti-inflammatory powers and rich anti-oxidants like vitamin E and PUFA (omega 3, 6, 9) give the patients hope to hold on and go on while the internal recovery takes place. As we attend to the external factors, the wellness of the patients is gradually improves over time. As I said before wellness does just mean absence of diseases but a state of balance between physical, mental and environmental factors. Dr Mugilarasi MBBS (JIPMER), MRCP (UK), Dip in Nutritional Therapy Occupational Health Doctor (DOSH)